Sunday, May 2, 2004

[ HOW TO... ]


Manage stress

Our bodies experience "wear and tear" every day as we adjust to life's demands. Whether we are seeking a new job, grieving over the death of a loved one, welcoming a new addition to the family or simply overworking, the stress involved can become a destructive and debilitating force when not handled properly. You can't prevent stressors from coming, but the key to addressing it is to stay on top of things.

It may be difficult to balance a busy schedule, but it is not impossible. Stress can be caused by circumstances beyond our control or from procrastination or over-extending, according to Ruth Wong of Organization Plus.

"Most people have too much to do ... and too little time," she said.

Stress is even apparent in children. "Parents are filling their schedules too full," added Wong.

"Good stress," such as working toward a new job or entering a new relationship, can compel us to act and pursue our dreams. But under negative circumstances, stress can lead to health problems, including headaches, stomach- aches, high blood pressure, ulcers, rashes, insomnia and even heart disease and stroke.

Stress results from failure to adequately cope with stressors. Stressors can range from bumper-to-bumper traffic to unrealistic deadlines or a negative relationship. Managing time and learning to say "no" to too many demands are a good start toward easing unnecessary tension.

The key is to identify the cause of stress and take the time to think things through, Wong explained. She suggests creating a "one-page" master to-do list.

"Identify what needs to be done ... create a road map."

The list provides an account "in black and white" of what may be causing the stress. The top three priorities should also be noted.

"We need a plan ... otherwise people get stressed out when they are in limbo. A plan allows a person to be in more control of a situation," she added.

Also, learn to say no. Only agree to do things that you are passionate about ... don't do things half-heartedly, said Wong.

"You don't need a reason to say no. People get stressed out because they don't have a balance in their lives."

They need to learn what recharges their batteries and block out time for those activities.

Another suggestion is to "be in the moment." It's not healthy for the mind to be thinking about all of the things that need to be done, said Wong.

Sometimes, saying "no" may not an option.

"If the boss is piling on more work, ask a supervisor to prioritize the duties. More direction helps to reduce stress levels. Almost anything can be streamlined," said Wong. "Learn how to work smarter, not harder."

Those interested in receiving master to-do list or multi-project page forms can send a self-addressed, stamped No. 10 envelope to: Ruth Wong, 98-1155 Malualua St., Aiea, 96701

Sunny Massad, president and founder of the Hawaii Wellness Institute, teaches stress-management classes. She offers 10 simple ways to manage stress:

1. Pay attention to your attention. Notice where your muscles are tense and what messages you are telling yourself.

2. Release tension. Stretch your muscles throughout the day.

3. Take deep breaths as often as possible. Focus on the out breath as you relax the body and mind.

4. Stop yourself from worrying. Place your "to do" lists into calendars so you can see when you'll manage your tasks.

5. Take breaks. Even three minutes outside alone amidst nature's elements can rejuvenate you, if you bring your awareness to your senses.

6. Physical activity can improve your mood by increasing your "feel good" hormones. Use the stairs, not the elevator.

7. Take stretch breaks. You can stretch your shoulders and neck even while sitting down, or stand and touch your toes.

8. Sleep well. Make sure you get seven to eight hours of sleep each night.

9. Practice good nutrition and don't skip meals. You need quality fuel to run yourself as hard as you do.

10. Drink water. When you feel wilted, water will replenish your cells and rejuvenate you better than any other liquid.


Magazine fronts are full of cover lines promising the same things every month. You'd think all we care about is how to be rich, thin, unstressed and beautiful.

This week, we attempt to answer life's most perplexing questions, which will free us to pursue more serious thoughts.

Here comes the disclaimer: We do not promise that any of the methods and practices contained within this issue will work universally. They are guidelines. As always, when seeking answers and advice, consult experts who can analyze your particular situation and come up with a custom solution.


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