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"Set boundaries on stress so that it doesn't overstay its welcome."

Every job comes with its stressful moments. Your challenge is to make sure those moments don't drag on too long. To set boundaries on stress:

Separate past, present and future. It's normal to feel stress about the current situation, especially if it's difficult or unpleasant. But if you're dwelling on past events and still harboring anxiety about them-or you're overcome with dread about a task or meeting that's scheduled for next week-then you put yourself in a weaker state to handle what's facing you right now.

--Draw a "stress box." On a piece of paper, summarize the source of your stress in a few words. Then draw a box that encloses the words you've just written. Give yourself a minute or two to feel anxious about the issue; then take a thick felt-tip marker and draw a big red X through the box. This is your visual signal to stop worrying.
--Stress can be good in small doses. Think of the pangs of nervous energy you feel when you're about to give a speech. That shows you're alert, excited and ready to perform at your best.
--When you feel "keyed up," agitated or overwhelmed, embrace that sensation rather than resist it. Treat it as a short-term positive-a phase that you must pass through on your way to deliver peak performance.

At the same time that you welcome the stress, decide how long it will stay with you. Example: If your boss unexpectedly rejects your report and asks you to redo it, say to yourself, "I'll shift into stress mode for two minutes to deal with what's going on here. Then I'll move on, stress-free."

It's True. With some people, stress hormones remain elevated instead of returning to normal levels. This may occur in people with a history of depression. If you set boundaries on stress but it still lingers even after you make every effort to shut it down, see your physician.

Tip A: If you're alone, smile or pump your fist triumphantly as short-term stress sets in.
If you're not alone and you want to appear outwardly calm, tell yourself, "It's great to feel stress now." This reinforces your eagerness to welcome stress as a positive, and it gives you the confidence and control to ride it out and let it go quickly. This is a bit of "reverse psychology" , but it really works.

Tip B: Identify and avoid "stress triggers."
Stress doesn't occur in a vacuum. Something---or someone---acts as a stimulus, and you react. These are triggers. By recognizing the triggers that cause stress, you can take steps to avoid or manage them in the future. Common stress triggers include meeting with a difficult customer or coworker, worrying about personal problems and facing too much work in too little time. To turn off stress triggers, follow this two-step process:

--Turn back the clock. When you first notice that you're stressed, ask yourself, "What happened to me in the last 10 minutes?" Review what you were thinking or doing just before the stress set in. Try to isolate the thought or action that unleashed your stress.
--Deactivate the trigger. Devise a strategy to respond to the trigger so that it no longer induces stress. Example: If you were thinking about your child's daycare just before a wave of stress enveloped you, reduce your daycare worries by scheduling a series of random audits to convince yourself of the high quality of care you have chosen.

Some stress triggers are very powerful and are not "do it alone" problems. These include death of a spouse or close relative, divorce or marital separation, suffering a serious injury or illness and facing termination or disciplinary action at work. Most people need support for these types of stress crises. You are NOT "a weak person" because you need more support or help to manage stress. If the same stress trigger repeatedly surfaces in your life you may need professional help stopping the most persistent triggers with more effective techniques.

Tip C: Get up and move around to shake off stress.
Sitting for long, uninterrupted periods can cause stress to build up. The same goes if you rush from one demanding task to another without time in between to stretch and relax.

-Workers who answer phones all day---or who constantly take customer orders or make sales calls---may not realize that these relentless activities take a toll on the body and mind. Even if you pride yourself on multitasking (i.e., handling two or more tasks at once), trying to do too much can exhaust you.

--The human body wasn't designed for sitting for hours at a time. It's important to stand, stretch and physically reenergize yourself throughout the day. This provides renewed vitality and increases your stamina, alertness and positive attitude.
--At least once an hour, take two minutes to complete this waist-bend exercise:
--While standing up straight, slowly bend forward at the waist so that your back curls down as you reach with your arms towards your toes. Bend your knees slightly the whole time.
--Stop and hold the stretch when you feel some mild tension in your hamstrings. You need not touch your toes.
--Relax your lower back and neck as you continue to bend at the waist and reach down. Don't rock back and forth.

Standing and stretching at least once an hour is particularly crucial in today's high-tech workplace where you can sit for hours. Along with the sedentary nature of many jobs, stress can arise from deadline pressures, project demands and noise from coworkers in cramped cubicles. Before a waist bend, loosen your belt one hole and undo your first button if you're wearing tight pants.

TIP D: Consume healthy snacks to combat stress.
In many cases, it's wise to listen to your body and do what it tells you. But when it comes to managing stress, your body can fool you!
When you're anxious, it's common to crave caffeine, nicotine, refined sugar, white flour, and salt. You may think indulging these cravings will bring temporary relief, but in fact you'll wind up placing even more stress on your system. Example: Cookies, donuts and soft drinks deplete B-complex vitamins, which you need to fight off stress. Resist your cravings for sweets or salty snacks. Instead, prepare healthy alternatives and bring them to work. Examples:

--A bag of peeled carrots;
--Nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt mixed with pure maple syrup;
--Whole-grain, low-salt crackers; and
--Fresh fruits.

The availability of over-the-counter vitamins and minerals has soared in recent years, leading to rapid growth in bottled supplements. Some people make up for their poor eating habits by loading up on supplements, but that's misguided. It's fine to take one multivitamin a day, but check with your doctor if you want to experiment with more supplements. Increase your resilience to stress by snacking on potassium-rich foods. Examples include bananas, apples, oranges, carrots and tomatoes. As a bonus, fresh fruits and vegetables give you a natural burst of energy.


Addictions and Substance Abuse are negative coping habits and should be avoided or treated if out of control or becomes dysfunctional to the quality of life and relationships.

Negative coping methods can be seen as readily available pacifiers, which people tend to reach for rather than seeking more direct means of resolving their difficulties and undesirable stressful situations. Pacifiers are not always unhealthy if used in moderation. An occasional glass of wine to relax in the evening or at dinner, or a snack break from work or chores has seldom done harm to anyone (unless they have an exceptional predisposition for addiction). It is only when pacifiers are used in excess that they become harmful and hazardous to our health. At which point they become crutches that we lean on to tide us over until the desirable situation takes care of itself.

Positive active coping skills and how to use them effectively in managing stress is most desirable. Using positive methods, when mastered, will alleviate or minimize the stress that leads to the use of negative active coping habits. If you find that you make excessive use of negative active coping habits, it is suggested that you learn and develope positive habits that will replace negative ones that are harmful and hazardous to your health.

(More detailed PSM-info on Addictions and Substance Abuse)

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