Stress Management For Dummies book cover

Stress Management For Dummies

By: Allen Elkin Published: 05-20-2013

Tired of letting stress have a negative impact on your life? Easy.

It's impossible to get through life without encountering stress. And unfortunately, most of us learn the incorrect ways to cope with it. Thankfully, Stress Management For Dummies gives you trusted, time-tested guidance on teaching your body and mind to properly cope with stress while keeping your sanity intact.

Whether it's love, work, family, or something else that has you in the red zone, this updated edition of Stress Management For Dummies will help you identify the stress triggers in your life and cut them down to size — all without losing your cool.

  • Shows you how to use stress in a positive, motivational way instead of letting it negatively affect your life
  • Teaches you to retrain your body and mind to react positively to stress
  • Helps you overcome common stresses faced in modern life

If you want to manage stress and get back to living a normal life, Stress Management For Dummies has you covered.

Articles From Stress Management For Dummies

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96 results
96 results
Stress Management For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 04-12-2022

Identifying the symptoms of stress is an important first step to reducing tension in your life. Once you identify the signs of stress, use your imagination and the proven tool of progressive muscle relaxation to put your mind and body at ease.

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Cope with Stress by Having a Talk with Yourself

Video / Updated 04-01-2022

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, having a simple dialog with yourself can de-escalate the situation, take away your anxiety and stress, and help you cope. You can teach yourself to talk through your stress, put things into perspective, and empower yourself to deal with just about any stressor. Download this audio script along with the companion script " Guided Muscle Relaxation"

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How Faith Helps You Cope with Stress

Article / Updated 12-29-2021

Having a belief in something greater than your immediate experience can be a powerful force in helping you create inner peace and cope with the stress in your life. We live in a universe that is both mystifying and, at times, overwhelming. We attempt to give meaning and purpose to our all-too-brief lives. Faith in something bigger, something cosmic, can help some people come to grips with the unknown and perhaps unknowable. No one right way exists for finding a sense of spiritual connectedness. For many, this belief may take the form of a belief in God and involvement in a traditional religious system of beliefs. However, your spirituality may take a different form. It may be a belief in a more global, more vaguely articulated higher power or higher purpose. Or it may take the form of a belief in such values as the human spirit, the human community, or nature. How your faith can help you reduce stress Whatever form your spiritual beliefs take, growing evidence shows that faith can be a powerful stress buffer, enhancing your ability to cope with life’s more serious stresses. Faith can help you cope with illness, and it may even help you live longer. The reasons why faith helps are both direct and indirect: Faith can provide meaning and purpose. Having a deeply felt belief system can help you cope with many of the perplexing and distressing questions that surround the meaning of existence. Why are you here? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What happens when you die? Faith can strengthen stress-effective values. Virtually all religions promote the values of love and kindness and condemn stress-producing feelings such as anger, hostility, and aggression. Faith can provide hope and acceptance. It encourages a sense of optimism and hopefulness that things will work out for the best. Faith also helps you accept what doesn’t work out and what you can’t control. Faith unites you with others. It can create a sense of community that often brings people together in a mutually supportive way. Having others to be with and share with can lower your stress. Belonging to a religious organization can put you into contact with others in the wider community who are less fortunate in some way, which allows you to play a helping role. Faith can calm you. It often involves prayer and contemplation, which, like meditation and other forms of bodily relaxation, can result in a range of physical changes that reduce stress. The power of prayer for reducing stress Herbert Benson, MD, of the Benson-Henry Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, is a pioneer in the field of faith, relaxation, and stress reduction. He has studied the role of prayer and its effects on stress. Benson found that by having individuals include words or sentences with religious meaning in their programs of meditative relaxation, the levels of relaxation they attained were significantly higher than in those who didn’t include religious content. The content could be as simple as a word or phrase taken from a traditional prayer (the Lord’s Prayer, for example) or a word from a spiritual text (such as shalom, meaning “peace,” or echad, meaning “one”). Research about the power of belief A number of studies now document the importance of faith in strengthening one’s coping ability. Just take a look at these: A recent National Institute of Mental Health study, for example, found that people who consider religious beliefs to be a central element in their lives experience lower amounts of depression than does a control group. In another study, researchers in Evans County, Georgia, looked at the stress-reducing effects of regular churchgoers when compared with non-churchgoers. They found that blood pressure measurements were significantly lower for the committed churchgoers. In a different study, in Washington County, Maryland, researchers found that those who attend church on a routine basis are much less likely to die of heart attacks than are infrequent churchgoers. (Researchers made sure the results had nothing to do with smoking, drinking, and other variables that may have clouded the results.) In a study conducted in Israel, researchers compared the health of secular and orthodox Israelis and found that the less-religious or non-religious group had a risk of heart attack that was four times higher than their religious counterparts. Also, the non-religious group had higher levels of cholesterol than did the more religious group.

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Express Gratitude and Reduce Stress

Article / Updated 08-13-2021

Research has shown that people who feel gratitude are happier, report more life satisfaction, and report less stress. Grateful people are less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, and neurotic. But it also appears that grateful people don’t live in a world of denial. They don’t ignore the negative parts of their lives. Psychologist Robert Emmons, a professor at the University of California, Davis, defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” Gratitude can mean different things to different people. In its simplest form, it can be saying thank you for a gift or service. For you it may mean feeling thankful when you dodge a bullet or get over something bad that happens to you. The word may take on a religious meaning, thanking a higher power for bestowing goodness and “counting your blessings.” For others it can mean feeling grateful when others are less well off than they are. (This may take a less commendable form when a person “compares downward,” identifying others who have less money, less success, less attractiveness, or less intelligence and feeling grateful to be better off.) The connection between gratitude and stress may not be immediately obvious. After all, why should I feel less distressed when I feel grateful for something? Here’s how it works: Gratitude allows you to detach from a stressful period and savor a positive memory or experience. This positive focus can create a positive sense of well-being. This can distract you from your worries and upsets. Remember that it’s hard to think of two things at the same time. Feeling gratitude probably means you’re feeling less stress. You can feel better about yourself. When you express gratitude, you recognize that people care about you and have done a lot for you. This can enhance your positive sense of self, reducing levels of negative, self-downing thinking. When the gratitude is aimed at others, you feel better about yourself because you’re recognizing and emotionally giving to others. Giving to others more often than not makes you feel better about who you are. Gratitude pulls you out of your negative mindset. Much of your stressful thinking is automatic. By focusing solely on your negative experiences, you can spiral downward. By expressing gratitude, you give your thinking a more positive target. You feel better; you feel less stress. Gratitude puts things into perspective. Gratitude provides you with a sense of balance that can help you avert feelings of hopelessness and despair that can play a major role in creating stress. Expressing gratitude to others can create and enhance relationships. You feel better about yourself, and others in turn feel better about you. The bonus is that you may get a thankful response of gratitude from the person to whom you express gratitude. Most often that can make your day and lower your stress.

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Reduce Stress by Making Lists

Article / Updated 06-18-2021

Making lists in order to relieve some of your stress might seem so obvious and so last century, yet lists can be one of your better time-management tools. Try working with three lists: A master to-do list. This list is your source list, detailing all of the tasks and involvements that you want to accomplish. This is your primary list. A will-do-today list. This list details how you want to spend your time today. A will-do-later list. This list enables you to schedule tasks in the coming days or weeks. All of these lists work together, providing you with a comprehensive time-management plan. Below are some suggestions and ideas to keep in mind as you put your daily lists together. Remember, not every idea works equally well for everybody. Give each suggestion some thought and give it a fair try. Ultimately you’ll put together your own unique time-management ideas that best match your style and personality. Don’t overdo it. Don’t make your to-do list so long that it becomes unwieldy. Watch the number of tasks you stick on that list. Don’t schedule the “guaranteed to happen” stuff. Don’t include tasks you know for certain you’ll be doing. These tasks happen without my prompting and don’t require any special motivation or pre-planning. These are usually not time wasters. Again, come up with a daily plan that works best for you. Do the important tasks first. Starting a new year, a new week, or even a new day often fills us with resolve. We begin our days with a higher level of motivation and determination. It probably makes sense to schedule the tougher, less desirable tasks first thing in your day. Pick a more difficult high-priority task first. Commit to staying with that task long enough to finish it or make a significant amount of progress. Be flexible with priorities. When you write down your daily tasks, don’t feel compelled to fill your day with all Level 1 items (the most difficult tasks). Don’t be compulsive. Plan your day knowing yourself and what will work best for you. For some, doing a challenging, difficult task first thing makes sense; for others, later in the day might work better. You can mix it up a bit, juggling the difficult tasks with the easier ones. Identify your best work times. You may be a morning person. You may be a night owl. The hours right after lunch may be your least-effective working hours. Try to match your more-difficult, higher-priority tasks with your more-productive working times. Save easier tasks for times when you feel less motivated. Don’t over-commit. Recognize that you may be less efficient than you expect to be. Be realistic. Be reasonable. If you do it all and have time to do more, that’s great. Break bigger tasks into smaller pieces. If you’re intimidated by the time it may take to do a major or complex task, break it up into smaller pieces and focus on one piece. It’s hard to start a task that seems overwhelming. Create smaller chunks. For example: Clean up the house → Clean the kitchen Write the chapter → Write the outline Pay all the bills → Pay the high-priority bills Schedule breaks. Recognize that a break between tasks can give you a breather and even act as a reward for your impressive effort. These few minutes can be used to catch up on email, make some social calls, text a friend — whatever. You can also take a quick walk, do some stretches, or do a relaxation exercise. Do the “quickies” quickly. During breaks or other down times, you may be able to knock off some easy tasks fairly quickly. Just do it. Anything that you’ve given a “Q” ranking (meaning it can be done in less than five minutes), do right away. Get it off your list. Group similar tasks together. Save yourself a great deal of time by doing similar tasks at the same time. Grouping tasks is much more efficient and much less stressful. You can, for example: Pay all your bills at the same time. Designate a time to go through the bills, write the checks, address the envelopes, and mail them. Combine your errands. Rather than running to the store for every little item, group errands together. Keep a “Things We Need or Will Need Soon” list in a handy place and refer to your list before you dash out for that single item. Put a list on the fridge. An even simpler way to keep track of regularly needed items is to photocopy a master list and stick it on the fridge. Check off a needed item when you notice you’re running low. When you’ve checked off a bunch of items on the list, head to the store. Indicate outcome. When something is completed, either cross it off your list or make a “done” comment in your outcome column. If you don’t get around to starting or finishing something, make a note about when you plan to complete the task. Update your master list. What you don’t accomplish by the end of the day should be reassessed the next day. It stays on your master list until it’s done or you deem it unimportant. Use the 80/20 rule. Apply the Pareto principle (named after well-known economist Vilfredo Pareto), also known as the 80/20 rule, to your time-management analysis. Simply put, it posits: Of the things you must accomplish, doing 20 percent of the most-valued tasks will provide you with 80 percent of the satisfaction you may have gotten by doing them all. In other words, skipping your lower-priority items doesn’t really cost you a whole lot in the long run. Don’t get fixated on those less-valued, less-productive activities. Ask yourself, “Would it really be so awful if I didn’t do this task?”

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Reduce Stress and Anxiety: A Guided Relaxation Exercise

Video / Updated 07-20-2020

With practice, you can teach yourself to relax on command by exercising various breathing techniques, tensing and relaxing targeted muscles, and by using imagery and suggestion. Follow this guided relaxation, preferably in a quiet place, and you'll feel the stress leaving your body. Download this audio script along with the companion script, "Coping with a Stressful Situation."

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De-Stress during Your Workday

Article / Updated 07-09-2019

One of the secrets of effective stress management at work is finding ways to incorporate a variety of stress-reduction techniques into your workday. By using these methods on a regular basis you can catch your stress early — before it has a chance to turn into something painful or worrisome. Take a look at these surefire strategies to help you nip that stress in the bud: Cut muscle tension off at the pass A day at work is usually a day filled with problems, pressures, and demands, with little time to think about your newfound relaxation skills. Your stress builds, and much of that stress takes the form of tension in your muscles. Drain that tension before it becomes more of a problem. This may include trying some relaxed breathing, rapid relaxation, differential relaxation, meditation, imagery, or one of the many other relaxation techniques. Some potential relaxation opportunities include the following: When you finish a phone call When someone leaves your office and closes the door When you find yourself in a boring meeting Walk for stress relief Get up and walk away from your desk — get some coffee or water, or make copies. Walk around a lot, and at lunch be sure to get out of the office and take a quick stroll. Stand up when you’re on the telephone — or, at least some of the time you’re on the phone. Walk around. This gives your body a chance to use different sets of muscles and interrupts any buildup of tension.

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10 Super-Stressful Jobs

Step by Step / Updated 03-27-2016

Some types of jobs trigger more stress than others. What follows is a list of ten jobs or work settings that are judged to be some of the most stressful. These particular jobs were chosen because of the degree of dangers or hazards involved, the demands of the job, the amount of control the person has over what he or she does, the levels of responsibility required, and the number of hours worked. Your own job may not be on the list, but as you go through the list, try to determine which of the stressors these other jobs face can also be found in your job.

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Thinking Errors Equal Self-Imposed Stress

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

Believe it or not, your own thinking actively plays a role in creating your stress. At the heart of this distorted thinking are thinking errors, mistakes or distortions in your thinking that can result in excessive stress. See if you fall prey to any of the following thinking errors and find out what you can do to fix them. Blaming When you commit the error of blaming, you distortedly blame life conditions or other people as the source of your negative feelings or situation. You may think your life wouldn't be as bad as it is now if your parents had sent you to a better school or that it's your fault that your life is so unhappy. Now, while there may be some truth in these assertions, the blame is too global and doesn't recognize the influence of other factors. By blaming someone else or some external situation, you fail to take any responsibility for your role in contributing to a possible negative outcome. This error can be a major source of anger and resentment. To correct this error, ask yourself if there might be other factors that could be contributing to the problem and not just the situation or the other person. And even if someone or something else is at fault, focus on what you could do to change or fix the situation or problem. Regret orientation This error has you focusing on all the things you didn't do in the past. It's the "shoulda" error: You shoulda married Helen when you had the chance; or you shoulda bought IBM stock when it was ten cents; or you shouldn't have said what you did! This isn't to say that most people don't harbor some regrets. They do. A healthy regret becomes a thinking error when you beat yourself up about it and hold onto that regret too tightly for too long. The antidote to a regret orientation is accepting what you've done and what has happened to you and then seeing if you can change the consequences. Inability to disconfirm This error prevents you from changing the way you think, despite new or additional information. For example, you feel that nobody really likes you. Someone points out that you do, in fact, have friends. You immediately reject that information for a variety of reasons: She only likes you because she grew up with you; or he likes you, but he doesn't know what you're really like. It's as if your mind is made up. Reactions like "You just don't understand" or "No, no. It's much more complicated than that!" may, at times, be reflective of this inability to disconfirm error. Ask yourself if perhaps your emotions are getting in the way and distorting your perceptions. Try to reframe the situation and see it in a more objective, realistic way. Discounting positives This error is a close cousin to the previous error. Here you minimize or trivialize any positive response to who you are or what you do. For example, when told that you look great, you believe and respond, "Oh, it's only the makeup!" Or, when you're doing a good job at work and being complimented, you respond, "It was luck," or "It wasn't hard at all. Anybody could have done it." Often this error reflects some aspects of low self-esteem, fearing that being seen positively isn't a reflection of who you really are, and that this positive recognition may create expectations of you in the future that you feel you may not be able to meet. To correct this error, step back and reframe your situation. Ask yourself if you are being too quick to minimize and discount your traits, abilities, and accomplishments.

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The Importance of Control and Demand on Job Stress

Article / Updated 03-26-2016

A worker in a high-stress job typically faces tough demands but has little control over how the work gets done. Workers in these jobs report significantly more fatigue and exhaustion, trouble getting up in the morning, depression, nervousness, anxiety, and insomnia or disturbed sleep than workers in lower-stress jobs. Jobs with low decision latitude tend to be relatively unskilled. Employees under these conditions don't have the authority to make decisions about their work or work environment (including input about job location, flexibility of work time, the ability to telecommute, and so on). They have little opportunity to learn new skills and problem-solve on the job. Jobs with high psychological demand typically have heavy workloads (too much to do) and not enough time to do the work, as well as the pressures, conflicts, and responsibilities of the job. Picture that "I Love Lucy" episode where Lucy and Ethel work at a conveyer belt trying (unsuccessfully) to pack chocolates into their boxes, even as the chocolates come down the belt at increasingly rapid rates. Bottom line: High demands + little control = stress. Not surprisingly, when workers who face high demands are given more control and/or reduced workloads, their stress is lower. For years now, Dr. Robert Karasek and his colleagues at UMass, Lowell, have been researching job stress from a scientific perspective, attempting to determine what causes it. They've found two major variables that strongly correlate with a job being stressful: Decision latitude, or how much control workers have over their jobs Psychological demand, or the pressures of the job This simple model illustrates the relationship between job demands, job control, and stress, as suggested by Karasek's findings:

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