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Use Cues as a Habit for Relieving Stress

Managing your stress is a little like managing your weight. In the beginning, you’re enthusiastic and, with much gusto and determination, you start dropping those pounds. Weeks (or maybe only days) later, your enthusiasm begins to wane. You’re even gaining back any weight you may have lost.

In life, sometimes you need a little reminding. You need someone or something to nudge you to do things. In your younger days, your parents probably filled this role. (And what a fine job they did!)

These days, however, you may find that you have to do your own reminding. Using stress cues is one way you can remind yourself to use your new stress-management tools. All you have to do is use your stress prompts and stress cues.

The idea here is to use naturally and frequently occurring behaviors — your prompts and cues — as reminders. The sight of your front door reminds you that you need to take out your keys. Getting into a car triggers you to fasten your seatbelt.

These behaviors are automatic. You don’t have to think about them much. The same principle can help you build in ways of managing your stress. Whenever you’re presented with a prompt or cue, follow it up by doing an instant de-stresser exercise — deep breathe, meditate, use some imagery or rapid relaxation, and so on.

Here are some common stress prompts and cues to get you started:

  • Ending a phone call

  • Looking at your watch

  • Shutting your office door

  • Stopping at a stop sign

  • Listening to your telephone messages

  • Turning off your computer

  • Turning off your TV

  • Turning off a light

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