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How can I manage a stressful situation?

Celeste Robb-Nicholson
Internal Medicine
Here are some stress-reducing suggestions from Dr. Herbert Benson, president of the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital:

When you've got one minute. Place your hand just beneath your navel so you can feel the gentle rise and fall of your belly as you breathe. Breathe in slowly. Pause for a count of three. Breathe out. Pause for a count of three. Continue to breathe deeply for one minute, pausing for a count of three after each inhalation and exhalation.

If you have two minutes. Count down slowly from 10 to zero. With each number, take one complete breath, inhaling and exhaling. For example, breathe in deeply saying "10" to yourself. Breathe out slowly. On your next breath, say "nine," and so on. If you feel lightheaded, count down more slowly to space your breaths further apart. When you reach zero, you should feel more relaxed. If not, go through the exercise again.

When you've got three minutes. While sitting down, take a break from whatever you're doing and check your body for tension. Relax your facial muscles and allow your jaw to fall open slightly. Let your shoulders drop. Let your arms fall to your sides. Allow your hands to loosen so that there are spaces between your fingers. Uncross your legs or ankles. Feel your thighs sink into your chair, letting your legs fall comfortably apart. Feel your shins and calves become heavier and your feet grow roots into the floor. Now breathe in slowly and breathe out slowly.

Dr. Benson offers two other tools for stress reduction -- the worry box and the gratitude journal. The first is a repository for concerns that are beyond your power to influence -- the safety of your children or grandchildren, the direction of the stock market,global warming.. Write each worry on a slip of paper, put it in the box, and forget about it for at least a week. The second is a ritual -- reflecting on the positive experiences and encounters of the day. If you jot them down in a journal, even in the darkest of nights, you'll eventually have an encyclopedia of appreciation for your circumstances.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.