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Avoiding stress

Many people do not act positively to reduce the stress in their lives until physical symptoms force them to consider how their lifestyle is affecting their well-being.
Learn to recognise when you are stressed and take steps to minimise stress and avoid additional stress.

Approaches to Relaxation
There many things you can do to help alleviate stress in your life.
By considering the approaches outlined below, you will be able to think about and experiment with what works best for you.

Which approaches are most effective in relieving both the causes and symptoms of your stress?

Medical Approaches

The symptoms of stress can sometimes be relieved by prescription of medication. 


Very often such drugs are prescribed to treat the immediate symptoms of stress or to help the sufferer get through a crisis. Medication will not necessarily address the causes of stress in the long term. Medication may also lead to dependence, if you think you need medication to help with your stress discuss your options carefully with your doctor or other healthcare provider.

Self-Help Techniques
Once learned, self-help relaxation techniques are particularly useful as they are available to the stressed individual whenever the need arises and allow one to gain control over feelings and anxieties. 

It is possible to find out about self-help relaxation techniques through relaxation classes, from trained therapists, through the Internet, audio-cassettes and books.  Information concerning these can be found in health centres and public libraries.  The following are some of the more familiar techniques available:
  • Creative Visualisation:  You are encouraged to imagine yourself lying in a cornfield, in a hammock by the sea, sitting in a deck chair, or anywhere you feel relaxed and to hear the sounds of the trees, wind and waves.  Being immersed in such an idyllic scene induces a state of relaxation and tension should drain away.
  • Quieting:  Aims to provide a way of diverting the mind from stressful thoughts by focusing on more relaxing emotions: for example, chanting, focusing on breathing, counting things such as instances of a particular colour.  The traditional ‘counting sheep’ when trying to fall asleep can be seen as a form of quieting.
  • Progressive Relaxation:  This involves tensing and then relaxing each part of the body in turn, working up through the whole body until completely relaxed. This technique takes about 20-30 minutes to complete and is very effective at bringing about physical relaxation. 
  • Tension Recognition:  One form of this therapy involves intentionally clenching groups of muscles in successive areas of the body, for example the hand, shoulders and stomach, concentrating on the tension, feeling it, and then relaxing.  The aim is to encourage the recognition of tension when it occurs and to voluntarily relax the muscles when they tense.  However, with the very highly stressed, this form of tension recognition could possibly lead to muscle cramps so a second version is preferred. 
    This alternative approach involves stretching rather than tensing the muscles and requires some knowledge of human musculature.  Successive muscles are stretched so that opposing muscles contract, and the process is then reversed.  The aim is to find the half-way point, where opponent muscles are balanced, and then to relax further.  Tension recognition methods are useful in situations where it is not easy to ‘switch off’ external events such as working at a desk or in meetings.
  • Breathing Exercises:  These can be used to help relax the entire body as tension leads to breathing too rapidly.  Such techniques teach the individual to breathe calmly and deeply and encourage awareness of bodily tension.

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