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September 19, 2009

Be aware of stress to manage it

BY CHRISTY STRAWSER
SPECIAL TO THE FREE PRESS

Sandra Finkel has heard all the excuses for racing through life.

But she doesn’t buy them.

Finkel, who holds a master’s degree in public health and works as the manager of stress management services for the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center, said one simple lesson can benefit nearly everyone: If you can’t control it, don’t get upset about it.

“Shift focus, and be aware of how you’re reacting,” Finkel said. “Discern whether it is something within your control. That defuses a lot of stress.”

So, the first step toward conquering stress is awareness. Here are more tips:

Set up a schedule. Create one that includes everything you need to do, but doesn’t leave time for anything unproductive. Include work, family time, whatever would lead to a more fulfilling life.

Make it easier by putting weekly errands into one or two blocks of time and turning off the BlackBerry and television during set hours.

“A lot of superficial, time-wasting stuff doesn’t have room when your schedule is full of things you want to do,” Finkel said.

Learn to say no. Make no excuses for being selfish with your time. Saying no to requests to organize a fund-raiser or bake five dozen cupcakes may seem selfish, but could pay off for your health.

“Stress has been shown to increase a lot of risk factors, cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation in the arteries, belly fat,” Finkel said. “What do people do behaviorally when they’re stressed? They overeat, drink or smoke.”

Quiet time. Diana Fletcher, a Pittsburgh author and life coach, advises that people spend 15 minutes a day sitting quietly.

“The problem is that we never stop,” Fletcher said. “We are always so busy trying to keep up with this crazy world — but we just can’t.”

Be in the moment. Feeling scattered in different directions is one of the major reasons people feel stressed, so decide to focus on what’s in front of you. Finkel recommends meditation as a way to learn to live in the moment, which requires sitting still for a few moments and clearing your mind.

Focusing on the present is an especially good tip for the legions of metro Detroiters who are out of work, Finkel said.

She said a recent study showed people experience more stress if they’re working and worried about losing their job than after they’ve been laid off, which means uncertainty is a bigger stress inducer than joblessness.

Exercise. When you feel overwhelmed, remember exercise is a wonderful stress reliever. Walking, riding a bike, swimming, dancing to the radio or skipping rope, even for just 15 minutes, releases feel-good endorphins.

“It gives energy, it doesn’t sap it,” Finkel said.

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simple, but effective strategies for getting through life in the university

One thought on “www.freep.com | Printer-friendly article page

  1. Simplicity. I love that. Quiet time? Yes, but if only I could turn my brain off for 15 minutes of quiet time! Learning to say "no" is one of those things I’ve come to realize as I get older. It’s tough, but your time matters most to you and nobody else…probably could have worded that differently but I made my point regardless!Ahh….grad school is TOUGH!!! But I love every minute of it…

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