Ten Sure-fire Methods for Reducing Stress (<i>cont'd</i>)
- Modify your responses: While some research shows that our stress response is, in part, shaped by our early childhood experiences, experts also say that we can learn to modify our reactions to make stressful events less so. Such cognitive-behavioral therapy can be done with the help of a mental health professional in identifying your stress triggers or simply by remembering the simple prayer used by many 12-step programs: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
- Learn biofeedback: Even if you can't control the stress in your life, there are ways you can control your response to it. One method is to learn biofeedback. Biofeedback is a simple method in which electrodes are attached to your skin to record changes in body temperature, heart rate or brain waves in response to specific stimuli. These changes are converted into electronic sounds that change in pitch or frequency. With biofeedback, you can learn to control what would otherwise be involuntary reactions, and thereby "short-circuit" your stress response.
- Practice daily meditation: The goal in meditation is to quiet the mind by focusing your attention on a repeated sound, called a mantra, or image, without distraction, in order to enter a deeply relaxed state. Regular meditation practice can ease stress by helping you diffuse your triggers and allowing your body to relax. By clearing the mind, you are forced to "let go" of stressful events. If you notice mental distractions creeping back in, simply return to your mantra or image. One form of meditation called transcendental meditation, was first studied by Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School and written about in his book, "The Relaxation Response" (William Morrow and Company, 1975). Noting the method's ability to reduce stress, transcendental meditation was also described in the American Heart Association's journal, Stroke (March 2000), as an effective treatment of chronic high blood pressure. Experts suggest practicing meditation for at least 20 minutes once or twice a day, but you can enjoy mini-meditations throughout the day, whenever you feel stress getting a grip on you.
- Massage: Massage therapy has been shown in several studies to be an effective remedy for daily stress. Research among various groups of people who face a lot of daily stress, such as caregivers for the chronically ill, hospital workers and teachers, all conclude that a little massage therapy goes a long way toward relieving stress. One recent study from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire on patients undergoing bone-marrow transplants found that patients' stress test scores were significantly lower after receiving massage over the course of their treatment. Another study from the Department of Psychology at Toronto Hospital in Ontario Canada on a group of nurses showed that massage treatments not only relieved workplace stress, but improved overall mood as well.