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Five fresh ways to stress less

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Creative roadblocks can cause substantial stress; the stress compounds and creates more roadblocks, leading us into a vicious cycle. Even the energy surrounding a positive event like a project completion can initiate physiological changes identical to those from a negatively stressful event. When you find yourself in the throes of such tension, try these tips:

· Take a deep breath. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: deep breathing soothes the central nervous system and oxygenates the blood, making you feel calmer and think more clearly. Find a quiet place for even five short minutes. Sit up straight, but without being rigid; close your eyes, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Focus on taking deep breaths in through your nose, lasting for 5 counts each, then make your exhalation the same pace and length. Feel your chest and stomach expand and relax with each breath. It won’t take long to feel a sense of calm.

· Check out your lunchbox. When we are feeling crunched for time and low on energy, it’s easy to head for fast food or a vending machine’s sugary snacks. Having a protein-packed bite instead will keep your blood sugar levels more constant, and will help you maintain a calm frame of mind. Try on-the-go snacks like yogurt, a bit of cheese, jerky, or a banana with peanut butter.

· Accentuate the positive! One of the best ways to work out of a bad mood or rushed feeling is to remember a few things we’re lucky to have in our lives. You may feel grateful to have a terrific spouse or child, great creativity, a new outfit, a good job in a frightening economy, or a friend who makes you laugh. Whatever makes you say “thanks” is worth considering, and consciously remembering the fullness in each of our lives can be powerful encouragement.

· Get some fresh air. Again, we’ve all heard it before, but it bears repeating. Even in the most hectic day, we can find ten minutes to walk outside – even around the block if you feel like it. Look up at the sky, breathe in the fresh air, and take a look around. Combine this with the deep breathing and gratitude exercises above, and you’ve got a fast and easy stress break!

· Keep your eyes on the prize. Remember the ultimate reason you do your job or practice your craft. Perhaps it’s to support a family, to support yourself financially, or for your own creative expression. When our days get crazy, it grounds us when we think about the “big picture.”

The happiest people in the world know a valuable secret: we can’t be totally happy all the time, so it’s best to enjoy it when we are.

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