Beating Stress: Strategies for the busy professional

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As busy professionals, most of us find ourselves experiencing stress daily. In order to work through stress, we must be able to differentiate between the types of stress that plague us. Did you know that there is such a thing as “good stress,” also known as “eustress”? Some examples of eustress include job promotion, vacation, marriage, birth of an infant, and purchase of a new home or car. Unfortunately, most of us experience “distress,” also known as “drama” in my book. Drama comes in all forms: divorce, commuting, death, demotion on the job, termination from a job or a demanding boss.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, data from multiple surveys suggest that one-fourth to one-third of the work force experiences high levels of stress at work. Econometric analyses show that health-care expenditures increased nearly 50 percent for workers over the last few years and nearly 200 percent of individuals surveyed reported both high levels of stress and depression. Stress can manifest itself in illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, stroke, sexual and reproductive dysfunction, gastrointestinal problems, pain, panic attacks, depression and substance abuse.
While many daily challenges in the workplace are beyond our control, we can learn how to minimize our physical reactions to stress. Here are some quick strategies to combat stress:

Diaphragmatic breathing. Diaph-ragmatic breathing can reduce your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. Just inhale through your nose by pushing out your belly and exhale through your mouth while focusing on the areas of tension in your body.

Journaling. Keep a journal to jot down both positive and negative events of the day in order to release some of the tension. Later, go back and review your notes. Look at the way you handled a particular situation and examine ways you could have managed it better or congratulate yourself on the victory, if warranted.

Exercise. Experts recommend engaging in some form of exercise for at least 20 minutes, three to four times a week.

Yoga. Yoga is a form of exercise that helps relax your physical, mental and emotional states. Check out Yoga for Busy People by Dawn Groves for some helpful tips.

Meditation. Nearly 5 million people practice what is known as transcendental meditation. One can practice in as little as 15 to 20 minutes in the morning and evening. Sit comfortably with your eyes closed. Gradually become calm and experience a state of restful alertness. Once the body becomes fully relaxed, the mind can transcend all mental activity in order to experience the simplest form of awareness, known as “transcendental consciousness.” Transcendental consciousness develops our creative potential while dissolving accumulated stress and fatigue through the deep rest gained during the practice.

Massage. Treat yourself to a full-body massage. Massages do wonders for the body. The cost can range from $85 to $150 for a full hour. I recommend Turning Heads Spa in Harlem (www.turningheadsdayspa.com).

Humor. A good old-fashioned laugh can help ease the strain of a busy day. Simply recall a funny situation and laugh out loud.

Prayer. Prayer is one of the best ways to rejuvenate the soul. It is one of the best remedies to reduce stress and anxiety.    

Kamille E. Wright is the former president of the New York Regional Chapter of the National Association of Health Services Executives. Web site: www.nahseny.org.