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Stress Relief: How to Relax

Updated on May 18, 2008
Image rights: Shnnn's Photostream.
Image rights: Shnnn's Photostream.


Do you take on more than you can handle?

  1. Are you always concerned about multi-tasking and good time management?
  2. Do delays or unexpected schedule disruptions through make you upset?
  3. Do you ask for help or think you are the only one who can get the job done right?
  4. Are you frequently critical towards others?
  5. Do you feel guilty when you are unproductive and take time for yourself?
  6. Do you constantly check the clock or your watch?
  7. Are you constantly trying to improve and better yourself?

If you answered yes to more than 2-3 of these questions, stress relief is definitely something that will help you. Stress may not seem like it is effecting you, but it has very real effects on your body and your well-being. Even if you don't feel stressed at the current moment, learning how to relax is a life-long skill you can use when stress arises.


First of all, there are good kinds of stress and bad. If you want to learn how to relax, I'm not going to waste your time hearing about good stress. No one needs relief from that.

Stress is defined as a state of great anxiety, strain, or pressure--real or perceived.


According to the experts, these are some of the most stressful experiences:

  1. Death of a spouse
  2. Divorce
  3. Marital separation
  4. Jail term
  5. Death of a close family member
  6. Major injury or illness
  7. Marriage
  8. Being terminated from your job
  9. Marital reconciliation
  10. Retirement
  11. Change in health of a family member
  12. Pregnancy
  13. Sex difficulties
  14. Gaining a new family member
  15. Business re-adjustment
  16. Change in financial situation
  17. Death of a close friend
  18. Changing jobs
  19. Arguing more with your spouse
  20. Having a mortgage over $40,000


The physical impacts of stress can be numerous, wide-spread, and devastating:

  • Back pain
  • Insomnia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Menstrual cycle stops or is irregular
  • Infertility
  • Heart disease
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Headaches
  • Emotional disorders
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Colds
  • Other infections
  • Skin problems (rashes, itching)


The first and foremost thing you need to know about stress relief is that it is worthless to try to avoid stress. Of course, you can always reduce stress, which is recommended. Ultimately, however, your best tactic to relieve stress is to adjust the way you react to and process it.

Remember this important tip--YOU ALWAYS HAVE A CHOICE! You can say no. You can decline. You can say, "Now isn't a good time for me." You can ask someone else to take care of it. In the second part of this article, I will discuss some of the principles of detachment to help you put this concept into action.


One way you can better react to stress is with affirmations and visualizations.

Affirmations are easy and free! Just tell yourself reassuring statements over and over in your head. For example, you might think, "I'm never going to finish on time." When you catch yourself thinking this, counter it by telling yourself at least three times, "I have all the time I need. I am an efficient worker."

Then accompany these affirmations with a visualization in your head of successfully completing the task on time. See the details of you putting the finishing touches on, then peacefully looking at your finished product with pride. The more vivid details the better.

As for Psychology, learn about your emotions, how they work, and how to direct them more effectively. For a good place to start, I suggest this interesting self-help psychology interview.

Image rights: mariaboismain's photostream.
Image rights: mariaboismain's photostream.


Another broad-based stress relief tip is to start out with a good foundation everyday. If you have or are experiencing any of the top 20 stressful life events, chances are your sleep is off.

Like I mentioned earlier, even if you don't have problems sleeping right now, having these trouble-shooting tips is valuable knowledge. Chances are, at one time or another, you will experience sleep disruptions.


  • Don't nap during the day.
  • Limit caffeine and alcohol.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Expose yourself to bright light/sun light soon after you wake up.
  • Exercise early in the day.


  • If you don't find your bed to be comfortable (too big, too hard, too small, too soft, etc.), then get a new bed.
  • Other than sex, use your bed only for sleep--even do your reading in another room.
  • Adjust the temperature and ventilation in your room so it suits you.
  • Turn your clock so it faces the wall. Bright lights can be disturbing as you try to fall asleep.
  • Make sure your room is tidy and your sheets are clean.
  • If you have problems with light interrupting your sleep (full moon, neighbor's porch light, etc), buy some "light blocking" curtains. They are available at Wal-Mart and are a little more expensive than other curtains. In a pinch, cover the inside of your windows with aluminum foil.


  • Make your daily schedule as consistent between the days as possible.
  • Have a few bites of one of these sleep-inducing foods before bed: turkey, milk, or peanut butter.
  • Follow the natural human bio-rhythm of sleeping by 10:00 pm and waking at 6:00 am.
  • Do nothing but relax after dinner--watch a movie, take a bath, do a hobby, listen to soothing music, take the dog for a walk, or write in a journal.
  • Try the natural sleep aid Melatonin if you haven't already done so. Melatonin is a hormone in our bodies that helps us sleep, and it is not habit-forming.
  • Stretch your muscles in various stretch positions for 10 minutes before bed. Do this on your bedroom floor with soft music or silence (no TV on in the background).

Image rights: ldcross' photostream.
Image rights: ldcross' photostream.


  • Run some bath water and add aromatherapy bath salts or bubbles. Starting getting into a relaxed state of mind.
  • Do not multi-task in the tub (by watching TV, talking on the phone, or reading).
  • Lights some candles, and dim the lights. Lean back into the tub and just take some long, slow, deep breaths. Now is a great time for positive affirmations and visualizations for tomorrow.
  • When you're ready to get out, let the water begin to drain but, instead of getting out, remain the tub until it is empty. Feel all your worries go down the drown with the bath water.


  • Put your phone on "do-not-disturb." And don't feel guilty about it!
  • During your morning and afternoon break, get out of the office and walk around the block or escape with a good book outside on a bench. If you don't usually take formal breaks, start!
  • If you work for a boss you hate or doing something you hate, consider something else--even if it means a pay cut.


In his ground-breaking book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the author Stephen Covey discusses time management. He says one of the main things that can "waste our time" is what he categorizes as "urgent and unimportant things." What does this mean?

First of all, Covey has four categories of things that effect our priorities:

  1. Urgent but Unimportant Things (doorbell ringing, oven beeping, phone ringing, etc.)
  2. Not Urgent or Important Things (re-organizing the sock drawer, cleaning the garage, etc.)
  3. Urgent and Important Things (getting to work on time, paying the bills, etc.)
  4. Not Urgent but Still Important Things (starting a retirement account, losing 10 pounds, etc.)

Covey says the two categories that can hurt our effectiveness are #1 and #4. Too much time is spent on urgent/unimportant things and not enough on important/non-urgent things.

If you find your day is spent dealing with a lot of "distractions" (or things in the #1 group), isolate yourself in order to get your work done. As I mentioned before, turn your phone off and don't check your e-mail. You will feel stress relief and relaxation by accomplishing your goals, which will put more gas in your tank for later--when you can return your messages.

Thanks to judepics' photostream for image rights.
Thanks to judepics' photostream for image rights.


One of the best stress relief tactics is to exercise! It increases your endorphins, and endorphins are hormones that relaxes us. There are a lot of quick, easy, affordable ways to give yourself an endorphin-boost. Try some of these easy "exercises:"

  • Sing to the radio in the car when you're stuck in traffic (or any old time)--singing can burn a lot of calories
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Park far away from the building instead of up close
  • Clean your house (vacuuming and mopping especially)
  • Don't forget to put on some music and sing while you're cleaning (dancing is allowed as well)
  • Do sit ups, push ups, or jumping jacks during commercials
  • Stretch (great during a break at work, during commercials, or right before bed)
  • Take your kids to the park and play with them


Please add your own comments, below, and tell us what else you believe is useful in stress reduction. What has worked for you the best? The sum of all our inputs is far greater than just mine! Thank you and good luck!





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