2-Second Stress Cures
Tactful Expressions4. "I feel..."
Unexpressed emotions are such a major source of tension that they can eventually have physical consequences. "Psychologists call the phenomenon alexithymia, which means that when you can't speak for yourself, your body speaks for you," explains Farrell. For example, one study of 12,986 people at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that those who routinely suppressed their anger put so much stress on their bodies that they nearly tripled their heart-attack risk. This can also manifest in less serious -- but still troublesome -- ways, such as headaches, insomnia, forgetfulness, gastrointestinal distress, and fatigue.
To minimize the health risks, fess up to your feelings immediately. Tell the other person that you're angry, sad or hurt, starting the statement with "I feel." This helps you avoid inflammatory, accusatory language (e.g., "You hurt me...!"), explains Pamela Peeke, MD, author of Body for Life for Women: A Woman's Plan for Physical and Mental Transformation (Rodale, 2005), and enables you to have a calmer, more cooperative conversation.5. "I'm sorry, but I can't."
When you have a packed calendar, taking on even the smallest activity can send your stress reflexes soaring. Knowing how to say no tactfully and firmly is key to deflecting this type of stress, says Dr. Peeke, but it can be hard to do. An outright "no, thanks" may cause you to worry about upsetting the other person, while gentler phrasing ("I'm not sure this is the right time" or "I wish I could") sounds wishy-washy and implies that you might be available under different conditions.
Prefacing your refusal with a sincere "I'm sorry" softens your response without providing an opener for other qualifiers (as would "I'm not sure"). "People will be less likely to press you further since they'll feel you're being genuine," says Luskin. And you'll feel better knowing that you asserted yourself without hurting anyone's feelings.6. "I can do this."
If you've ever done something out of your comfort zone -- gone on a blind date, given a speech or trained for a marathon -- you're familiar with the price of self-defeating talk. Thinking "What if it goes horribly, horribly wrong?!" often makes it do just that. Affirming statements, on the other hand, soothe your nerves by reinforcing the idea that you're in control of the situation, not victim to it.
When you're feeling overwhelmed by a difficult experience, repeat "I can do this" to yourself. Even if it seems silly or disingenuous, it will eventually divert your attention, and you'll start to believe the statement.7. "This is beyond my control."
Your new officemate is a nightmare: When she's not whining about her workload, she's bad-mouthing others in the office. You know that the next eight hours are going to be stomach-churning, and there's little you can do about it.
According to Dr. Peeke, we tend to instigate stress by ruminating over problems we're powerless to change. In other words, instead of shrugging your shoulders, you waste time, attention, and stress being frustrated by her poor disposition. The bottom line: Whether it's a traffic jam or a coworker who zaps your Zen, actively distancing yourself from an uncontrollable situation will make it easier to go with the flow.
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