By Guest Blogger Marisa Tomasic

In my twenty years as a private practice psychologist, I incorporated what I referred to as “stress management 101” into my work with every person I treated.  Addressing both immediate and longer-term stressors and offering ideas for managing them was an invaluable tool for me as clinician. People seeking counseling and therapy often feel that life, or certain aspects of it, has become derailed and beyond their control. Having a person leave my office, even at the first appointment, with something for their coping tool box was often priceless in restoring a better sense of control going forward.

One thing I discovered when approaching stress management was the importance of not framing it as “one more thing to do.” Neither did I want to convey the message that the person needed to “balance” his or her life in order to feel peace, a challenge way too daunting when already overwhelmed. It’s refreshing to realize that strategies for handling ordinary life stressors can be quite uncomplicated, not even remotely requiring a balancing act. In my quest for simple, non-clinical stress-busting strategies, I had an eye toward effortless ideas for taming the stress beast that are also backed up by science and that are easily accessible for everyday living.

We commonly hear about the benefits of meditation and prayer, deep breathing, and muscle relaxation in stress reduction. Sipping chamomile tea, listening to classical music, and spending time in a garden are other common and frequently suggested ideas for decompressing. Some lesser known but fascinating ways to ease tension that I added to my list of stress reducers include watching fish swim, doodling, eating dark chocolate, chewing gum or crunchy foods, and smelling eucalyptus, lavender, jasmine, or coffee. Each of these simple acts has the capacity to produce peaceful feelings while creating enjoyment.

When considering your own stress management, keep in mind these points:

~ DON’T create more stress by thinking that your routine needs to be formal, highly organized, or extensive.
~ DON’T wait to address your stress until it has you feeling out of control.
~ DON’T be overly concerned about “creating balance”—the important thing is that you have some tools that you can actually use.
~ DO include techniques that are simple and accessible.
~ DO incorporate your stress management plan into your daily, hourly, minute-by -minute routine.
~ DO consult with your physician, mental health provider, or addictions counselor with any questions or concerns about whether a particular stress reduction tool is right for you or would fit in with your treatment plan.

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