Stress Less, Enjoy Life

If you don’t have at least some stress, you’re probably not living to your fullest. The good kind of stress accompanies the new challenges that keep you rolling forward in life. The wrong kind of stress, such as what comes from unrealistic expectations, can make your life a bumpy road full of physical and emotional health hazards.

External stresses might include traffic, dispatch problems, money troubles and family issues, some of which are beyond your control. While internal stress, such as worry and self-loathing, has more potential for self-control, it is more damaging.

“For individuals who really obsess and worry about things, the stress is always there, eating at them constantly, whereas external stress is usually temporary and sporadic,” says Wesley Sime, a stress physiology specialist at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Sime and others suggest tips for controlling stress:

TAKE SOME ACTION. “This might be getting more sleep or confronting a dispatcher,” Sime says. “But only a small percentage of stresses can be fixed that way.”

DO A REALITY CHECK. “It’s like kicking the tires and checking the oil; you need to see just how serious your problems are,” he says. “If it’s not a major problem, don’t get upset about it.”

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. Do things you enjoy and connect with others: Listen to good music, get on the CB and chat, go to a museum, get a hobby, or talk your problems through with a friend or relative.

CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES. This includes herbs, aromatherapy and relaxation techniques. These can be as simple as yoga-type stretches or taking a few minutes to enjoy the smell of freshly brewed coffee or to savor a small piece of chocolate.

GET SOME EXERCISE. If you can’t get a vigorous workout, at least go for a walk, even when you’re on the road. Moderate to high levels of exercise release seratonin in your system, which combats stress and lifts your mood.

Three years ago, part-time trucker Gene Watts of Hickory, N.C., suffered a heart attack, one of many diseases scientists have linked to stress. Watts’ doctor put him on a better diet and recommended light exercise. “I started walking, then I started trotting – now I’m up to five miles three nights a week,” Watts says. “My doctor says I’ve got the body of a 50-year-old, and I’m 74 years old.”

There are other ways, too, to fight stress, such as keeping a journal, reading books on the subject, collecting positive sayings or seeing a therapist. If you find yourself suffering from too much stress, find what best lets the steam out of your pressure cooker.


BREATH OF LIFE

One of the simplest and most immediate things you can do for stress relief is deep breathing, which increases your oxygen flow and stimulates vital organs. Here are two approaches:

  • Breathe deeply, while standing or lying down, so that your belly rises and falls with each breath. Count to five while holding and again while releasing.
  • As you breathe deeply while lying down, tighten and relax one part of your body at a time, from bottom to top (feet, ankles, calves etc.), or vice versa, especially working the neck, shoulders and face.

  • SIGNS OF STRESS

    PHYSICAL: Increased heart rate, high blood pressure, tight muscles, headaches, upset stomach, trouble sleeping, fatigue, shallow breathing, rashes and weak immunity to illness.

    EMOTIONAL: Irritability, panic attacks, anger, depression, restlessness, aggression, impatience, low self-esteem, carelessness and forgetfulness.

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