Stress Management For Dummies, 2nd Edition
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.
Part I: Getting Started with Stress Management 7
Chapter 1: Stressed Out? Welcome to the Club! 9
Chapter 2: Stress Explained (In Surprisingly Few Pages) 23
Chapter 3: Getting Started: Gathering Your Tools 35
Part II: Mastering the Basics 49
Chapter 4: Relaxing Your Body 51
Chapter 5: Quieting Your Mind 73
Chapter 6: Cultivating Mindfulness 97
Chapter 7: Stress-Reducing Organizational Skills 117
Chapter 8: Finding More Time 139
Chapter 9: Eating, Exercising, and Getting Your Zzzs 161
Part III: The Secrets of Stress-Effective Thinking 185
Chapter 10: Understanding How Your Thinking Stresses You Out 187
Chapter 11: Stress-Resilient Values, Goals, and Attitudes 211
Part IV: Managing Your Stress in Real Life 231
Chapter 12: Overcoming Your Anger 233
Chapter 13: Worrying Less 249
Chapter 14: Reducing Interpersonal Stress 271
Chapter 15: De-Stress at Work (And Still Keep Your Job) 295
Chapter 16: Maintaining a Stress-Resilient Lifestyle 315
Part V: The Part of Tens 337
Chapter 17: Ten Habits of Highly Effective Stress Managers 339
Chapter 18: Ten Events That Trigger Stress 343
Allen Elkin, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and the director of The Stress Management & Counseling Center in New York City. Nationally known for his expertise in the field of stress and emotional disorders, he has appeared frequently on Today, Good Morning America, and Good Day New York.
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Benjamin Franklin once said that “…in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well Ben, most Americans have a third item to add to your list: stress. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re one of the millions of people who are stressed in every aspect of their lives: at work, at home, in relationships, financially, and even by the “little” things like traffic jams and rude cashiers.
Unfortunately, the stress epidemic sweeping our country is not only widespread; it’s also on the rise: According to the American Psychological Association, 77 percent of Americans say that they “regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress,” 73 percent have experienced psychological symptoms, and 48 percent feel that “their stress has increased over the past five years.
Take a deep breath. No matter what’s causing you to be overstressed, the popular For Dummies® series is here to help you face your stressors and get them under control.
“It’s impossible to get through life without encountering stress, and unfortunately, most people don’t learn the correct ways to cope with it,” says Allen Elkin, PhD, author of Stress Management For Dummies®, 2nd Edition(Wiley, May 2013, ISBN: 978-1-118-52392-6, $22.99). “That’s why symptoms ranging from feeling tired, irritable, and worried to experiencing muscle tension, indigestion, a lowered immune system, and even heart disease are so common.”
In his book, Elkin gives readers guidance on how to identify stress triggers, make them more manageable, cope with unpleasant side effects and symptoms…and even use unavoidable stress in a positive, motivational way.
“The good news is, managing your stress isn’t a magical process,” Elkin assures. “It’s all about mastering new behaviors and finding new ways of looking at yourself and your world. If you’re committed, you can retrain how your body and mind react to all types of stressors. You’re more in control than you may think you are.”
Here, Elkin shares the top ten habits of highly effective stress managers:
Knowing how to relax. In order to banish stress (or at least keep it at bay), you need to know how to let go of tension, relax your body, and quiet your mind. Keep in mind that there is no one right way to relax—some people prefer meditation or focused breathing, while others gravitate toward a more active approach, with techniques such as progressive muscle relaxation.
Eating right and exercising often. You may not like hearing that your unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle might be impacting your ability to handle stress—but it’s true. Your body needs a balanced, healthy diet to maximize your ability to cope. This means giving your body the right nutrients that supply you with adequate reserves of vitamins, minerals, and other essential elements. And don’t forget the liquids. Your body needs to be adequately hydrated in order to operate optimally.
“And don’t forget about exercise, which can reduce stress, help you to relax, and make you feel happy!” reminds Elkin. “Engage in some form of physical activity regularly—at least twice a week and, when possible, more often. Your exercise regime doesn’t have to be fancy or over-done. Walking whenever you can is one of the more overlooked forms of exercise out there. If you belong to a health club or gym, even better. The secret of exercise is building it into your life by scheduling it.”
Getting enough sleep. Everyone knows what it’s like to wake up tired, drained, and grumpy after a bad night’s sleep. Your body and mind just aren’t prepared to tackle stress, and as a result, problems and irritants seem even more overwhelming than usual. Keep in mind that while individual needs vary, most people do well on seven or eight hours per night, so make a reasonable bedtime a priority.
“Basic sleep ‘hygiene’ can really help when it comes to getting quality rest,” comments Elkin. “Try to get to bed at a consistent time, leaving you enough hours of sleep before you hear your alarm. Before bed, don’t get over-stimulated by exercise or an argument with your partner or spouse. Keep the room dark and cool. Stay away from large meals just before bedtime. Avoid stimulants like smoking or caffeinated drinks. And reserve the bedroom for sleep (and sex!) if at all feasible.”
Not worrying about the unimportant stuff. Many—if not most—of life’s stressors are relatively inconsequential. But putting things into perspective is often much easier said than done. Elkin recommends asking yourself, “On a scale of one to ten, how would I rate the relative importance of my stressor?”
Remember that eights, nines, and tens are the “biggies”: major life problems such as serious illness, the loss of a loved one, a major financial loss, and so on. Your fours, fives, sixes, and sevens are problems of moderate importance: a lost wallet, a broken-down car, or a broken water heater. Your ones, twos, and threes are your minor worries or stressors: you forget your wallet, your watch battery dies, or you get a bad haircut.
Not getting angry often. Anger is a stress emotion that affects your mood, your patience, your ability to effectively relate to others, and even your physical health. That’s why knowing how to avoid becoming angry and losing your temper is a skill well worth mastering. Learning how to control the expression of your anger (which can often make a bad situation worse, thus creating more stress) can also spare you a lot of grief and regret.
“Much of your anger comes from various forms of distorted thinking,” explains Elkin. “You may have unrealistic expectations of others (and of yourself!) that trigger anger when they aren’t met. Your anger may arise from low frustration tolerance, where you exaggerate your inability to cope with discomfort. You may be ‘catastrophizing and awfulizing’ or creating some ‘can’t-stand-it-itis.’”
Being organized. A cluttered and disorganized life leads to a stressed life. (If you’re skeptical, just think about how frustrating it feels to get out the door ten minutes late in the morning because you couldn’t find some important papers or your keys!)
“Getting organized means developing effective organizational strategies and tools,” says Elkin. “For many, clutter is the prime culprit. For others, the lack of an organizational strategy becomes the roadblock; for example, wondering where, exactly, you stored a particular file. Fortunately, once you’ve identified what your organizational challenges are, you can overcome them with help from others and advice from books, articles, and these days, online instructional videos.”
Managing time efficiently. How aware are you of how you spend your time? How much of your day is productive, and how much time is spent doing nothing, procrastinating, or goofing off? While there’s nothing wrong with a little downtime, you do need to use your time wisely and be in control of your schedule if you want to minimize stress. No one likes the feeling of having a long to-do list and very little time in which to accomplish those tasks—especially because of poor time management!
Having a strong support system. Don’t neglect meaningful people in your life; after all, they can support you, provide a listening ear, make you laugh, distract you, and even offer solutions to life’s problems. For these reasons, says Elkin, spending time with your family, friends, and acquaintances is a very effective “stress buffer.”
“If you find that your social support system is a little thin, consider ways of meeting others like joining a book group, playing a sport, or hiking, walking, or biking in a local park,” he recommends. “Going online can make this process much easier. Your local church or synagogue can also bring you into contact with people who share your values and goals. And don’t rule out a volunteer experience; you can help others and meet new friends!”
Living according to one’s values. Examine your values and goals, assessing whether they truly represent who you are and where you want to go in life. Pursuing values that aren’t reflective of the kind of life you want can lead you to an unhappy and stressful place. Often, people cling to core values that they inherited from their parents, their peers, their religion, their teachers, the media, their employer, and more, and those adopted values cause them to behave, interact, eat, vote, believe, and live in ways that are unfulfilling.
“Ask yourself, ‘What do I want to get out of life, and what is truly important to me?’,” instructs Elkin. “What may have seemed worthwhile and important at one point may not be as valuable and meaningful to you now. The greater the congruence between your values and your goals, and between your decisions and actions, the lower your stress level will be.”
Having a good sense of humor. The old saying “laughter is the best medicine” has stuck around because it’s true! Whenever you can laugh at a frustrating situation (or even yourself,) you’re well on your way to putting stressors into perspective and not allowing them to infect your mindset. Plus, laughter and smiles—whatever their source—simply feel good and are a natural mood booster!
“Laugh at life’s little hassles and annoyances,” advises Elkin. “Don’t take yourself too seriously. And remember that bit of wisdom, ‘He who laughs, lasts.’”