Every man and every woman has stress. It's how you deal with it that counts. You can help each other handle stress by being available to go for a walk together or by having a laugh together to break the tension. Here's a collection of good ideas to get you started.
1. Learn to recognize your signs of stress. One man I know says that when he catches himself snapping at his kids, he knows he's under stress. Irritability, losing your sense of humour and difficulty concentrating are all signs that stress has you in its grip.
Of course, physical signs such as a churning stomach are also good indicators.
2. Take a mini-break. Give yourself five minutes to go for a walk, do a few stretches, listen to a couple of songs on the CD player or have a cold drink. Learn to break the action for a few minutes every couple of hours.
3. Stick to your routine. How are you sleeping? Eating? When you're under stress, it's easy to skip meals or cut into sleep to finish a project. Don't do it. You can't be effective if you don't take care of your basic needs.
4. Deal with your time problems. We all have them. Some of us overschedule, others can't delegate or never allocate enough time to finish a task. Figure out what your time glitches are and solve them.
Get a calender agenda and use it. Make it automatic to ask, "Who else can help?" when you're in a time crunch. Decide how long a task should take and then add extra time to be sure.
5. Learn relaxation techniques like deep breathing, yoga and meditation.
6. Get physical. Physical activity is probably the best instant stress reliever. Walk around the shop floor. Take the kids for a walk in the park. A regular routine of exercise will also make you more resistant to stress reactions in the first place.
7. Laugh. It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but it works. Studies show it releases stress-relieving chemicals in the brain. Put a joke book in your desk drawer at work. Tape some "Seinfeld" reruns for emergencies. Diffuse a tense discussion with a silly crack.
8. Socialize. Call a friend and talk over what's bothering you. Chat with a neighbour. Play with your dog.
Page 1 of 2 – Find more stress-busting tips and discover how kava kava can help with stress on page 2.
9. Plan for pleasure. When you plan your day, schedule in time for the activities you enjoy – a half hour to read a novel, time to get out in your garden, a shopping break at lunch hour. When you do long-term planning, plan a vacation that you know you will enjoy. Make your pleasure as high a priority as your obligations.
10. Change your style. If you're argumentative, try avoiding arguments; if you're a "superwoman" type, start saying no; if you're a perfectionist, try aiming for "good enough" on occasion.
11. Throw away the crutches. If coping with stress means that you "need" a cigarette, a drink, a joint, yet another cup of coffee or a bowl of ice cream, then rethink your strategy. Using any of these crutches to relieve stress may give you short-term relief but you'll pay later. There's always the real danger of sliding into more serious substance abuse problems.
What about kava kava?
Kava kava is a traditional herbal tea from the islands of the South Pacific, where it's drunk to produce feelings of relaxation and a sense that all is right with the world. In North America it's sold as an anti-anxiety drug and relaxant. However, kava kava is not recommended if you are suffering from depression, and women who are pregnant or nursing should not use it.
Side-effects can include upset stomach and allergic reactions. Larger doses can cause intoxication and have been shown to cause skin rashes, visual disturbances and balance problems.
The Commission E in Germany, which has studied the drug, has approved it for use since 1990. It recommended a daily dose of 60 to 120 milligrams of kavapyrones (the active ingredient) and that the herb not be taken for more than three months without consulting a doctor.
Excerpted from Healthy Together: A Couple's Guide to Midlife Wellness.
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