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People who work in the human services field are no strangers to stress. In fact, human service workers such as nurses, direct care staff, police officers, and teachers are reported to have some of the highest stress levels of all professions. There are several physical symptoms of stress including: low energy, headaches, upset stomach, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea, aches, pains, and tense muscles, chest pain and rapid heartbeat, insomnia, frequent colds and infections.

Since stress is unavoidable, I wanted to share some ideas in controlling the physical symptoms that lead to complications. First, learning to manage one’s own behavior by understanding what is in your control. For example, regulations and required paperwork are a necessity so learning how to manage your time effectively reduces stressful deadlines. Another key in reducing stress when dealing with others is picking your battles. Does it really matter if your client takes out the trash at 6 pm? Allowing an individual to make some choices and have flexibility not only can reduce battles, but also helps increase independence and improves self-advocacy. Finally, learn to relax! Here are 6 stress-relieving tips to get you started.

1. Meditate
A few minutes of practice per day can help ease anxiety. “Research suggests that daily meditation may alter the brain’s neural pathways, making you more resilient to stress,” says psychologist Robbie Maller Hartman, PhD, a Chicago health and wellness coach.
It’s simple. Sit up straight with both feet on the floor. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on reciting — out loud or silently — a positive mantra such as “I feel at peace” or “I love myself.” Place one hand on your belly to sync the mantra with your breaths. Let any distracting thoughts float by like clouds.

2. Breathe Deeply
Take a 5-minute break and focus on your breathing. Sit up straight, eyes closed, with a hand on your belly. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling the breath start in your abdomen and work its way to the top of your head. Reverse the process as you exhale through your mouth.
“Deep breathing counters the effects of stress by slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure,” psychologist Judith Tutin, PhD, says. She’s a certified life coach in Rome, GA.

3. Be Present
Slow down.
“Take 5 minutes and focus on only one behavior with awareness,” Tutin says. Notice how the air feels on your face when you’re walking and how your feet feel hitting the ground. Enjoy the texture and taste of each bite of food.
When you spend time in the moment and focus on your senses, you should feel less tense.

4. Reach Out
Your social network is one of your best tools for handling stress. Talk to others — preferably face to face, or at least on the phone. Share what’s going on. You can get a fresh perspective while keeping your connection strong.

5. Tune In to Your Body
Mentally scan your body to get a sense of how stress affects it each day. Lie on your back, or sit with your feet on the floor. Start at your toes and work your way up to your scalp, noticing how your body feels.
“Simply be aware of places you feel tight or loose without trying to change anything,” Tutin says. For 1 to 2 minutes, imagine each deep breath flowing to that body part. Repeat this process as you move your focus up your body, paying close attention to sensations you feel in each body part.

6. Decompress
Place a warm heat wrap around your neck and shoulders for 10 minutes. Close your eyes and relax your face, neck, upper chest, and back muscles. Remove the wrap, and use a tennis ball or foam roller to massage away tension.

Randel Goad – Mandt Faculty Supervisor

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