10 Solutions to Stress

I'm always interested in ways to reduce stress.

1. Lean on other people. Studies of both animals and humans show that social contact can help tone down the body's physical response to stress. It can even boost immunity. So cultivate a network of people you can turn to. Share what's bothering you with a friend and ask for some helpful advice. Avoid people who always need something without giving back or who are constantly moody or depressed.

2. De-clutter your world. Stop hoarding old magazines, and throw away those old receipts and tax returns you no longer need. Clutter-free surroundings will help prevent the frustration of not being able to find something you need, and give you the reassuring knowledge that everything's in its place.

3. Eliminate last-minute rushes. Leave the house 15 minutes early for appointments, set up a system for paying your bills (ask your bank about automatic bill paying), refill your prescriptions a week ahead of time, and stock up on birthday cards whenever you see ones you like. A little advance planning can spare you a lot of headaches.

Here's two neat resources:

Menu Planning Worksheet

Greeting Card Calendar

4. Keep your journal. Reflect on your day, your emotions, and your personal goals. Include everything that stresses you, so you can start to recognize patterns and take appropriate action. Writing is also a great way to relax and put things into perspective.

5. Get organized. Set aside a place for bills, paperwork, letters. Store items you use most often in accessible places. Spend five minutes straightening your office or main living area at the end of the day. Keep a long-range calendar and a short-range to-do list. Check off items as you finish them.

6. Get a massage. Massage not only relaxes tense muscles, it decreases the level of stress hormones in the bloodstream and stimulates the release of serotonin, a brain chemical associated with relaxation and a feeling of well-being. Studies show that massage can even lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

7. Chop your to-do list in half. Most of us set the bar too high. After you've written your to-do list, decide what's most important to you in the long run, then cut the list in half. If you can't eliminate certain tasks, try to have someone else do them. For instance, hire a neighborhood teenager to do the yard work, or skip cooking and order in.

8. Carve time for yourself. Give higher priority to your "relax and renewal" time. Include it in your schedule at least every other day. If you have to cut out an activity to make time for your hobby or a warm bath. Or spend some time alone reading or listening to music you love.

9. Avoid crowds. Schedule your commute to avoid traffic, go for lunch 15 minutes before the usual rush, make Thursday, not Saturday, your night out, shop for groceries on a weeknight, and order your clothes and prescription drugs through the mail.

10. Laugh a little. When you laugh, you send chemicals called endorphins to your brain that ease pain and enhance your feeling of well-being. Laughter also stimulates the heart, lungs, and muscles and boosts your resistance to infection. If you laugh for 20 seconds, your body gets the same amount of beneficial oxygen as it does in three minutes of aerobic exercise. Plus, it's nearly impossible to stay tense while you're laughing. Find cartoons, videos, TV shows, writers, and comics that make you laugh. Share jokes with friends over email.