There are times in life when the demands we place upon ourselves are greater than we can manage. When we are under stress, it feels as though we have lost control of a situation. Stress manifests itself as a variety of behavioral and physical symptoms that are considered to be unpleasant and unwanted. We expect to have stress as a part of our lives, but long-term stress can lead to maladaptive behaviors. We must keep stressful situations in perspective and adjust how we react to them. One person might react more strongly to a situation than another person does, and therefore experience more or fewer symptoms of stress.

Examples of Short-Term Stressful Events:

An argument with a spouse, child or close friend.

Getting lost or stuck in traffic.

Car accident.

Late for work, an appointment, or an event.

An illness

Too many things to do and not enough time in the day.

Examples of Long-Term Stressful Events:

Death of a family member or close friend.

Move to a new city or a new house.

Chronic illness.

Taking care of someone with a chronic illness.

Change in job status.

Financial problems.

Change in marital status.

Symptoms of stress can be behavioral, like overeating or under eating, increased alcohol use, increased smoking, increased and suppressed anger, loss of concentration, difficulty in decision-making, tired all the time, and feeling out of control. The symptoms can also be physiological, like chest pain, anxiety, migraine, indigestion, nausea, heartburn, diarrhea, nervous twitches, muscle spasms, increased hair loss, poor circulation, and menstrual irregularity.

How can we decrease the symptoms and manage the stressors? First we can manage how we react to the stressors.

Time Out- Take time away from the stressful situation, from intrusive, repetitive thoughts that are disruptive to your concentration. Spend a few minutes focusing on clearing your mind and taking slow, deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Break down the components of the stressful situation, and put the pieces into perspective. Create a plan to address and solve each piece of the problem.

Talk to Someone- Often if the problem can be verbalized to a friend or a loved one, the situation can be seen in a different perspective. Even if the other person just listens, giving no feedback, talking about the stressor is helpful and symptoms can be alleviated.

Concentrative Meditation- This method of meditation intends for you to focus your attention on an object, like a water fountain, a flower, a tree, or your breath. When your attention strays to other thoughts, acknowledge those thoughts and then carefully re-focus your attention back on the object. Eventually, the mind clears and breathing slows down resulting in a more relaxed state.

Mindfulness Meditation- This method of meditation focuses on monitoring how you are feeling moment to moment.You do not focus on a particular object, rather you act as an impartial observer to whatever thoughts enter your mind. The intent is for you to be fully aware of your thoughts in the present moment.

Diet- Eating more complex carbohydrates allows the brain to make more Serotonin. Serotonin is linked to the stress-management system in our brain, helping us to feel more calm. Eating too many refined carbohydrates are what leads to a fluctuation in blood sugar levels in the body, leaving us with less energy and not feeling very calm. Consider adding foods with whole grains to your diet. Oats, vegetables, fruits and brown rice are all complex carbohydrates that will leave you feeling full of energy and ready to fight stress.

Exercise- All sorts of movement count as exercise. Walk up and down the steps in your home, walk to the mailbox, or walk around the office building at lunch. The point is to remove yourself from a stressful thought or situation so that you can approach it differently when you are ready.

Yoga is an alternative that many people enjoy due to its focus on achieving peacefulness. Yoga can help you relax and manage stress. The core components of yoga are:

Poses- A series of movements designed to increase flexibility and strength.

Breathing- Signifies vital energy. By controlling your breathing, you control your body and quiet your mind. Yoga can be practiced in a variety of settings. You can seek out a studio, utilize a video tape, or set up your own quiet space in your home or garden.Adding a relaxing accent, like a water fountain or music, often helps to keep you focused.

We know that stress in our lives can be productive as it can energize us to perform and be creative. We also know that in a prolonged, chronic state of stress, we begin to perform poorly, have difficulty making decisions and feel low on energy. Figuring out how to manage stress is the key to feeling healthy and balanced.

Author's Bio: 

Cecelia Brown is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in the area of mental health disorders and mental well-being. She has a special interest in stress relief strategies and environmentally-friendly products. Please visit her website: to find out more about solar water fountains.