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Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Holidays


Take control of stress before it takes control of you

Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Woman with hands on head, looking stressed outThe holiday season is officially in full swing. Life seems to get even busier than usual this time of year. There are ways to relieve and to take control of stress before it takes control of you.

The signs of stress vary from person to person. Some may feel fatigue, head/chest/back pain, diarrhea or constipation or change of appetite. For some, irritability, a noticeably negative attitude or an anxious feeling may be a signal of stress. Identifying one’s own signs of stress is the first step toward stress relief.

The next step is learning ways to relieve stress as it arises. One method of stress relief is relaxation. Take a deep breath. Take another one. By filling the lungs with air, blood is oxygenated and the body is rejuvenated.

Another relaxation technique is called mindfulness. Lynn Rossy of the TE Atkins University of Missouri Wellness Program uses the acronym S.T.O.P to help explain what mindfulness means. It stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe the situation and Proceed. “After following those few steps, you’ve stopped long enough that you might not continue to do something you’ll regret,” Rossy says. You can download guided mindfulness exercises from Lynn Rossy's Mindfulness Practice Center website. They are as short as 3 minutes and as long as 30 minutes.

Physical activity is another way to release the tension of stress. Try stretching. Whenever the tension is felt in the muscles, even a little stretch at the computer, at the kitchen table or in the car can help make the situation a bit easier to handle. Aerobic activity is yet another option. For relief of just a little stress, a walk around the block, office or living room can revitalize and give a new perspective on a task. If stress levels are higher, perhaps more strenuous activity is called for. Running the stairs, cleaning house or some other high-impact activity might do the trick.

Learn to recognize your symptoms and manage them before stress becomes overwhelming. Find techniques that work for you, use them and live a less stressful existence.


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Last update: Wednesday, December 11, 2013