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"Stress - Conquering Stress"

Many writers will offer suggestions about how to manage stress. But wouldn't it be preferable to conquer it altogether? Here are a dozen things to try to do just that.

Yoga, Tai-Chi and similar disciplines from Asia have been effective for centuries in helping to relieve stress. The physical techniques limber up the muscles and help focus the mind into relaxing thoughts.

Meditation has also been practiced, in Asia and elsewhere, for centuries. It's easy to learn and has multiple benefits. Taking as little as a few minutes per day (though 15-20 is preferable) can go a long way toward relieving stress symptoms. The focus on any one thing helps move the mind away from the stressor. There is also evidence that, practiced properly, it can have numerous beneficial physical effects as well.

Deep breathing exercises can be a terrific first step toward getting stress symptoms under control. And lessening the symptoms is often a good first step toward curing the longer term problem. Try this: lie face down on the floor on a large towel, elbows bent with your hands flat on the floor. The backs of your hands should be under your chest. Now breath deeply, three or four times.

Dietary supplements can be helpful. The difficulty is that there are so many, and so many that are useless, that recommending specific ones is prone to error. Anything which helps elevate serotonin levels is likely to help. Beware those that promise miracle cures.

Some mild drugs, such as a sleeping aid can be useful on occasion. The risk is becoming dependent on them, not in the narcotic sense but simply as a crutch to avoid dealing with the underlying problem. But as part of a well-rounded program of stress relief they can be very beneficial. A proper sleep is essential to lowering stress.

Several newly popular (and some traditional) techniques have proved helpful for many. Aromatherapy, often combined with 'mood music' does actually work in a lot of cases. There's little scientific evidence that aromatherapy has any sort of deep significance, but memories are often associated with certain smells. It can certainly do no harm.

The old phrase from Congreve: 'Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast' still has a place in contemporary society. While the effect shouldn't be exaggerated, it's nonetheless true that the right kind of music can help shift mood. Both because of its memory associations with pleasant events and for reasons not well understood, music can alter feelings.

Often a good massage, particularly in conjunction with relaxing music, can be an adjunct to a larger program of stress relief. One of the most common effects of stress is severe muscle tension, particularly in the neck, shoulders and calves. Massage helps solve this physically and it has psychological overtones of doing something good for oneself that contribute to the effect.

In extreme cases, psychotherapy may be called for. The variety of schools and techniques employed make recommending a therapist harder than choosing a good dietary supplement. Trusted friends can often be a good source to turn to in this arena.