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Relaxing – A skill everyone needs to learn

People live in a world that produces lots of stress. While stress can sometimes help motivate them to focus and act, a lot of stressful things are not productive and harmful. Stress might help motivate someone to meet that new project’s deadline at work, but the anger a traffic jam causes them really has no benefit.

No one can avoid all of life’s stress-causing events and people, but learning how to relax can keep that stress from causing them harm. Uncontrolled stress can make them react poorly or angrily, and prolonged stress can negatively affect their health in a number of ways.

The starting point is simply to learn to recognize when something is stressful and is affecting them. Experts advised that one quick way to reduce that stress is deep breathing. Simply breath in for five seconds, hold that breath for five seconds before slowly breathing out for five seconds and holding it for another five seconds. Repeat. When people do breathing exercises like this one, their brain is focusing on their breath and not the source of their stress, and that new focus gives their mind and body a chance to relax just a bit.

Another way to relax is to exercise. If, when faced with a stressful situation, a person can get up, go outside for a quick walk and use the time to focus on the world around them rather than what is stressing them, they are going to find themselves more relaxed. And a relaxed person will think more clearly.

Learning to relax simply means looking for ways to refocus attention and thinking. The simple act of counting to 10 when someone feels that they are getting angry, which is a sign of stress they want to avoid, really does work. If the anger is pretty strong, keep on counting to 100. Getting upset by that traffic jam that’s going to make them late? Turn on the car radio and sing along with whatever’s playing. Again, it’s relaxing by simply refocusing attention.

People can and should also prepare their body to handle stress, since there always will be some to manage. Good nutrition, regular exercise, staying hydrated and being well rested are all good protections against the negative effects that stress can produce.

People should learn to recognize when stress is beginning to affect them or their loved ones, and look for ways to add some relaxation. The result will be a happier and healthier world.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to [email protected] or visit


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