Stressed Out? Try These Techniques
Sept. 15 -- Battling stress has become a top priority for many Americans who become frazzled as they try to balance a million responsibilities at once.
Plagued by rising health-care costs and increasing absenteeism due to stress, companies, health clubs and health-care providers all over the country are offering different methods to help people relax and take it easy.
While there are a number of different ways to alleviate stress, most boil down to two approaches, says Dr. Bruce Rabin, medical director of the Healthy Lifestyles Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
One approach is to increase an individual's ability to cope with stress by raising his or her physical tolerance to it. That can be done through exercise or physical activity that activates the same physiological responses that stress does (such as a higher heart rate and breathing rate), making the person better able to tolerate stress, says Rabin.
The other option, which has been steadily gaining popularity in recent years, is to decrease a person's perception of stress by training the mind to think about the stressful event in a different way. This can be done through techniques such as guided visualization or meditation, and is recommended by organizations such as the Mind/Body Medical Institute, a Chestnut Hill, Mass.-based nonprofit organization dedicated to the study of mind/body interactions.
"What we're looking at is getting people to understand some of the negative thoughts and behaviors that are impacting their lives and getting them to make changes," says Marilyn Wilcher, senior vice president at the institute.
Here are some brief descriptions of some widely used methods that have become popular for combating stress in recent years:
Guided Imagery: This technique involves sitting and listening to a tape or an instructor walk you through a guided relaxation exercise. The instruction often includes imagining yourself in a calm environment or a relaxing, faraway place.