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​BE: 10 SIMPLE STEPS TO DESTRESS

It’s a stressful world these days. The news is filled with stories about natural disasters, economic woes, and global conflict. Top it off with any number of personal stressors including problems at work, illness, money trouble, traffic jams, or any other number of challenges and it’s clear that stress affects us all.

It probably goes without saying, but stress can be bad for your health, physically and emotionally. Many well-respected studies link stress to heart disease and stroke—the #1 and #3 causes of death in the United States. Stress is also blamed in plenty of other health problems including depression, anxiety, chronic lower respiratory diseases, asthma flare-ups, rheumatoid arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems.

Stress isn’t all bad. When you’re in danger, stress can actually help you. When faced with a threat, your body (your sympathetic nervous system, to be exact) goes into action with a stress response and prepares the body for fight or flight. It’s an automatic and fast reflex that was encoded in you for survival. Thanks to the stress response, your body will have the sudden adrenaline rush you need to jump out of the path of a speeding car or flee a burning house.

But when your stress response is activated repeatedly, your body experiences unnecessary wear and tear—such as increased blood pressure—that can damage your health. That’s why it’s important to learn to calm your mind and body when the danger has passed or when your mind catches up to your body and realizes there really wasn’t any danger to begin with.

Even if you only have a few minutes to spare, trying just a few of these stress-busting suggestions can help you de-stress your day.

1. Frequently late? Work on your time management skills. Consider what’s most important (including time for yourself) and get rid of unnecessary tasks. Map out your day and set aside time for tackling different tasks, like answering emails or answering phone calls. If you tend to overestimate your travel time, be sure to always give yourself an extra 15 minutes or so to get to where you’re going. If you’re usually late because you drag your heels, think about why. Are you worried about what will happen when you get to work or a social event? If so, come up with strategies for addressing those specific issues.

2. Often angry or irritated? Think about what makes you angry. Are you making problems bigger than they really are? Do you jump to conclusions before you get all the facts? Do you think with your heart instead of your brain (emotional reasoning instead of rational)? Once you know what triggers your reactions, take the time to stop, breathe, think, and choose a different response.

3. Not sure of your ability to do something? Don’t try to go it alone. If your problem is at work, talk to a co-worker or supportive boss. If it’s a problem in your personal life, reach out to a trusted friend or family member and ask for their advice. Other resources that can help you learn and do more include CDs or podcasts, books, or even classes. You can even find more information about how to stress less and relax more with these suggestions.

4. Overextended? Let’s face it, people lead hectic lives these days. After a busy day, you come home to unwashed laundry, dirty dishes, and household clutter. Find ways to manage time-consuming household tasks by enlisting family members. Learn to deal with a little dust or unfolded laundry—at least once in a while. Unless you’re expecting company or your house is going to be featured in a magazine, consider what is truly essential let everything else take a backseat.

5. Not enough time for stress relief? Make a commitment to yourself to pare down your schedule. Start off with one week so you can squeeze in time for a little relaxation every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Slowing down to enjoy a little time for you is an excellent method of stress relief.

6. Feeling tense? Try a massage, a hot bath, or a long slow walk. Or, the opposite can work too. Practically any exercise—a brisk walk, quick run, or sprint up and down the stairs—will reduce tension. Done regularly, exercise and relaxation techniques can actually prevent tension.

7. Feeling pessimistic? Remind yourself of the value of learned optimism. Living a more joyful life may lead to better health. Simple things like renting funny movies and reading amusing books can create positive, happy feelings. Create a mental list of reasons you have to be grateful.

8. Fighting with others? Instead of arguing, say what you need or what’s upsetting you directly. Don’t say things like “you always” or “you never” zingers, but instead use “I” statements. Say, things like “I feel _____ when you _____.” “I would really appreciate it if you could _____.” “I need some help setting priorities—what needs to be done?” This can make the person you’re fighting with feel less like your pointing the finger at them and less likely to be defensive.

9. Feeling burned out? Focus on taking care of yourself. Carve out time to relax or enjoy your favorite hobby. Take care of your body by eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep. Take care of your emotional well-being by spending time with friends having fun.

10. Feeling lonely? Connect with others. Even little connections—a brief conversation in line at the grocery store, a quick chat with a neighbor, a coffee break with a colleague—can help increase your sense of belonging. You can also volunteer, attend a religious activity, or take part in community functions. Call a friend or relative you miss. Take an interesting class. The world is a kinder, more wonderful place when you share it with your friend and neighbors.

Need some helping de-stressing? Here are few resources to help you learn how to relax:

Relax, Relax Toolkit – This toolkit contains several sections that focus on different forms of relaxation from guided imagery and meditation exercises, to deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation techniques. http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcphc/health-promotion/psychological-emotional-wellbeing/relax-relax/pages/index.html

Manage Stress Workbook – This workbook from the Veteran’s Administration will guide you through managing your stress from setting goals, identifying stressors, and specific activities to de-stress. http://www.prevention.va.gov/MPT/2013/docs/ManageStressWorkbook_Dec2013.pdf

Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC) Counseling and Assistance Program – Your local Navy FFSC has several programs that can help you take control of the things that are stressing you out. Classes include, “Chillax! Secrets of Stress and Anger Management,” “Don’t Worry Be Positive,” “Effective Communication for Couples,” and much more. http://navylifesw.com/sandiego/families/ffsc/counseling-and-assistance/