Jun 25, 2013

    Stress-busting tips from Health Xchange

    ELIMINATING the biggest sources of stress and learning to manage the rest will help you have a positive outlook on life. With better stress management, things which seem overwhelming may soon become trivial.

    You will be healthier, happier and more energetic, and ready to face obstacles.

    Here are 16 stress-manage- ment tips from Ms Evelyn Boon, senior principal psychologist at the Department of Psychiatry at Singapore General Hospital.

    1. A good way to start for many people is to eliminate artificial stress reducers, like alcohol or smoking, which are detrimental to our health and beauty and only temporarily alleviate our stress symptoms without treating the cause.

    2. Eat a well-balanced diet which includes plenty of fruit and vegetables, as well as foods which are high in complex carbohydrates. An ideal diet also has moderate amounts of protein while remaining low in fat.

    3. Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine (coffee, black/red tea, soft drinks with caffeine, etc.) which could increase your anxiety and even cause palpitations. Don't drink coffee after 6pm.

    4. Exercise is one of the best ways to reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life. Walk or do whatever exercise you feel comfortable with. You may prefer to join a fitness club. Be sure to exercise regularly. Don't concern yourself with your family or work while you are working out; this is your time and don't let anyone or anything interfere.

    5. Go outdoors whenever possible. A little sunshine and activity can do you a world of good and enhance your outlook on life.

    6. Think positive. For each negative thought you have, try to counter it with something positive. Always look for that silver lining.

    7. Be a "kid" sometimes. Do what you enjoyed doing when you were a child. Draw, paint, dance, read, play music, even play with playdough. Express yourself without worrying about maintaining the image of who you are "supposed" to be. Just relax and enjoy yourself. We all have a little child in us and it's a good idea to allow that child within to come out and play from time to time.

    8. Set realistic goals for yourself. Don't set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. For example, if you are dieting, realise that you cannot lose 10kg in one month. Allow for sufficient time to reach your goals and acknowledge that occasional setbacks may occur. Avoid expectations altogether if you can; expectations and reality are often two entirely different things.

    9. Learn to manage your time well. Time management is essential when you have to juggle numerous projects or roles. Always give yourself sufficient time to accomplish your tasks.

    10. Learn that it is OK to say "no" occasionally. Very often, we feel we have to say "yes" to everyone, every time we are asked for help. Remember, you cannot be all things to all people. You must first meet your own needs before you can truly give others what they need.

    11. Make time for yourself. Put yourself on top of your priority list. Attend to your own needs first. Once they are met, you may find that you have more time for others. You may find more pleasure in helping others when you don't feel that you must always put others' needs before your own.

    12. When you are facing an unpleasant situation, take a deep breath and count to 10 before saying or doing anything. Taking a deliberate pause can have a calming effect, and allow you extra time to reassess the situation before taking possibly regrettable actions on impulse.

    13. Practise deep-breathing exercises. Imagine your stomach is a balloon, and inhale deeply and slowly, inflating that balloon. As you slowly exhale, think of the word "relax" and let it permeate your entire being, from your head to your feet. Let your stress be "released" from your feet.

    14. Pamper yourself. Book a massage or a spa treatment. Indulge your senses to better manage your stress.

    15. Aromatherapy can be of tremendous help. Try using five or six drops of lavender, bergamot, ylang-ylang or geranium essential oil in a warm bath or put two or three drops on a cloth and inhale from time to time during the day. You can also use a few drops on your pillow to help you to sleep better.

    16. Adopt good sleep habits. Make sure you go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day. Avoid very stimulating games and take a warm shower before bedtime to help you relax. Try to resolve arguments before bedtime. If possible, bring up issues only during the daytime.

    This article first appeared on the website of Health Xchange, an interactive health-and-lifestyle resource portal by SingHealth. Visit www.healthxchange.com.sg