It’s not surprising that any type of stress can affect us. What we often overlook is that this tends to be a cumulative effect that can affect our tolerance for change, our likelihood of getting sick and even how much we might be able to adapt to new problems.
This isn’t limited to just unpleasant stress; even good stress can take a toll on our body. One of the common ways a therapist might help you determine how much stress you’ve actually faced is the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory. The consequences of unanticipated stress can have a tremendous impact on your ability to live a healthy and happier life.
Stress, unlike anxiety, is primarily a emotional feeling and can cause thoughts like:
- I find it hard to wind down
- I tend to over-react to situations
- I feel that I’m using a lot of nervous energy
- I find myself getting agitated
- I find it difficult to relax
- I find myself intolerant of anything that keeps me from getting on with what I was doing
- I feel that I am rather touchy
Table of Contents
Stress is Often Misunderstood
Stress controls us, keeping the most rational of us in fear and unable to cope. It’s a serious condition that affects over 40 million adults, can often be accompanied by extreme depression and panic attacks, and is often left untreated in one out of three people. In trying to overcome anxiety, we can often make things worse. By trying to control everything that happens around us, we end up struggling even more than is necessary. When we focus on the outcomes of a stressful situation, we end up multiplying our fears in our desire to run to safety. The main difference between stress and anxiety is that anxiety causes excessive physical sensations, such as:
- Dry mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Trembling (eg, in the hands)
- Being worried about situations in which you might panic and be seen as foolish
- Feeling close to panic
- Being aware and concerned about your heart beating or pulse rate
- Feeling scared without any good reason
All Stressed Up and Nowhere to Go
People think that stress and anxiety is something that happens when one has too many negative things happening. In reality, stress is any demand made up on the body. Understanding issues in how our body is affected by stress is critical to one’s long-term health.
To understand stress, we must remember four important concepts:
- Some stress is important for growth and change.
- The lack of stress, therefore, is stressful!
- Too much stress is also stressful.
- What is required is that we find a middle ground where one learns to manage how they handle and encounter stress.
Pacing and Stress
We live in a fast-paced society where we feel that we have to accomplish things quickly. We also have the feeling that we might as well do it ourselves forcing us to take on more and more tasks all the time. This is accompanied by the feeling that others just will not do it as well as we do so we have no choice but to do it ourselves. Our impatience, desire to have things quickly, and the need to do it all over time becomes both intoxicating and exhausting.
Beyond this, we enjoy the high we get from dealing with constant crises and the rush to accomplish everything as quickly. On top of this, we also have the need to experience, to do, and to always be busy and moving. When feeling good, we rush to accomplish as much as possible before we crash again. We work until we feel exhausted and overwhelmed and then wonder why we crash and suffer increased pain, fatigue, and exhaustion.
Stress and our Body
When we ignore how stress is affecting our lives, our body makes a decision that it will shut us down. Because stress goes to the weakest bodily part we will experience stress as an increase in back pains, headaches, stomach pains, allergies, Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, allergies, and related problems. Because we all have weak spots the body becomes an equal employment opportunity site for the over-stressed. What this means is that stress body symptoms have a purpose to help stop us–slow us up in our lives.
Perfectionism and the Need to Control
In our need to control life, we become stuck in the need to have everything perfect. This need for perfectionism is related to our mistaken belief that having everything in order will bring us control and comfort in life. Perfectionism comes out also as co-dependency where one tries to control everything, everyone, and every situation in an almost addictive fashion where one is focused on too much caring and too much helping. Out of perfectionism also comes a sense of guilt because one is never able to do enough or to accomplish it good enough. This leads to continuing frustration, the inability to sit still, and the need to be always on the go doing and accomplishing things.
The Unexpected Impact of Stress
Research has shown that stress is the single most important factor that can shorten one’s life and keep your mind confused and disorganized. Most of us know that we can look at others and tell that they have aged beyond their years because of the continuing pressures and stress that they have been under.
However, what really matters is not how someone looks, but what is happening inside of a person’s body. The stress hormones that are released when one is under stress, or in a continual state of stress, impacts the body in adverse ways. When under stress chemicals are released into the body. These chemicals are released by the adrenal cortex, a pair of small glands perched on top of the kidneys, in response to stress. The released of these chemicals increase the physical and metabolic processes as part of the fight or flight survival response. Blood pressure goes up, sugar floods the circulatory system and the one’s heart rate increases.
All of this causes a great deal of wear and tear on the body and our mind which over time starts to take it’s toll on functions such as memory, the immune response, the ability to deal with damaging free radical chemicals in the body necessary to fight off heart and cancer disease.
The Mind-Body Connection to Stress
Physical symptoms, stress, anxiety, and chronic health care problems are many times overwhelming and difficult to deal with. Such physical problems are exhausting and solutions many times are hard to find. Because we believe that doctors and other professionals should have the answers to all of our physical health concerns, we are many times discouraged and upset when such solutions are not found. It may be that we are looking in the wrong place for understanding what is wrong with us. Here are a few thoughts that are critical to understand.
Though we many times do not want to admit it, there is a clear connection between our mind, emotions and our physical bodies. Our American culture has tried to make us believe that our bodies, and our psychological selves, are separate entities. Modern science has known for quite some time that there is a clear mind-body connection. However, we humans would like to deny such a connection because we think it makes things simple and allows us to avoid dealing with some of the more painful issues of our lives. None of this denies the reality of the physical problems that you may be experiencing. However, these problems are many times aggravated by the emotional issues that we try so hard to push away from our conscious awareness.
The Body Never Forgets
It is critical to understand that we all have a “body memory” that “contains” everything that we experience in life. If our early life was comfortable, safe, and predictable, we many times find ourselves feeling comfortable and relaxed in the world. In contrast, if our early life were full of pain, suffering, conflicts, etc., then we find ourselves “harboring” inner tensions and anxieties that seem to “rumble under the surface” of our lives. The body remembers everything that we have experienced in life–fears, anger, upsets, disappointments, hurts, abuse, loss, tensions, and issues of growing up in dysfunctional situations.
The Body Feels Our Daily Stress
Not only does our body remember stress from the past, it also reacts to daily hassles, upsets, conflicts, and problems that we deal with on a daily basis. It helps when we pay attention to our “physical-stress symptoms” because they are “messages” telling us something about our lives in the present. Many times, our body is telling us that we need to “slow down and pace ourselves better.” When we are stressed, in a panic, feeling anxious, our immune system responses are compromised and we are more open to illness and infections, physical problems, etc. Further, any physical problems are made worse when we are under stress, anxiety, panic, etc.
The Body Reminds Us Of Denied Issues
When we continue to deny problems, issues, and our need to “slow down” and respond differently in life, our body becomes “a friend that reminds us” of what we need to do in life. The more we continue to deny personal issues in our lives, the more our body will “stop us” until we “slow down enough to pay attention to what we have to do.”
If we continue to deny problems, and avoid taking appropriate action, our bodily symptoms will increase, amplify, become much worse, and become more central in our lives. Many times physical problems are metaphors (or indirect ways of telling a story) for our inner rage and anger about the conditions of our lives.
The Body Reacts To Family/Relationship Stress
Family and relationship issues are critical to our emotional and physical health. When we experience problems in the family, our body reacts no matter what we do. If we deny problems and try to push them away we will find ourselves experiencing an increase in physical problems, sensations, pains, stress and suffering.
The Body & The Dysfunctional Rules Of Stress
The dysfunctional rules of the family, and life, are responsible for most of our human suffering. We as a society think that “the less said about problems and issues the better it will be.” We know that “talking about things will only make them worse.”
The dysfunctional rules are (1) Don’t Talk About It; (2) Don’t Think About It ; (3) Don’t Even Feel Any Emotions About it; and, (4) Avoid Doing Anything About It At All Possible Costs! These rules only create more misery for us in life.
The Body & Solutions For Living Again
Facing things will at first be difficult, distressing, and overwhelming, but the only way to heal is to feel everything. Honest solutions require taking time for an honest awareness of what is happening in one’s life that is causing problems.
It takes an effort to look to the past and the unresolved issues that have been “pushed away” from being resolved. It also takes an effort to look at the present situation, stressors, personal and relationship issues, and other things that are “making them known through the body.”
Facing problems that have been denied requires an understanding that this is something that has to be done if one is to move on and become healthy again in life. Change does not happen quickly because “your body does not believe that real change has happened until it sees that you will consistently change your patterns of responding.” Our needs to “make it work and force solutions by continuing on the same course” are doomed to failure. Real change requires real efforts over time, not by looking for the cure, but focus on real issues.
We have to start to talk about, face, and change what is happening in our lives if we are to make changes in other ways. The more we focus on our physical symptoms as the cause of all our problems, the less we will be able to “use this situation as new insight to a better future.” However, our need for security, comfort, and safety pushes us to continue to employ the dysfunctional rules resulting in even further physical problems and much less of an opportunity for healing. We have to become realistic and stop our denial, rationalizations, and resistance to changing.
When our body “tells us something about the conditions of our lives,” then we have to start to “thank it for being there to remind us that something is not right for us in life.” Facing our fears, insecurities, and uncertainty of what to do in life is critical to being able to make changes. When you find yourself becoming upset because you, or others, have confronted your “run from facing the truth,” then the more you will know that you are on the right track to making changes.
Real change requires “taking the leap of faith” because we know what we have been doing is just not working–especially in the face of what our bodies are telling us about how we have lived life. To Heal You Must Feel! So when you are feeling overwhelmed, in a state of anxiety and panic, and rushing for solution to physical problems that should be telling you something about your emotional health, then you have to know you are on the right track. The more your feel, the more you are healing.
Solutions to Stress
One of the critical elements in helping the person to deal with stress has to do with their attitude toward stress. The more one feels that they can affect some level of control over the situation, the less stress they will experience. The more one lets go of anger, frustration, upset, impatience, fears and frustrations, the more one will start to feel a reduction in one’s physical stress reactions.
Further, resilient people know that in the face of stress they are mandated to fall apart and feel exhausted. They also know that with time they will recover and return to normal functioning again. They also have learned that they cannot handle everything. They are perfectionists who have control over everything. They have also learned that it is critical to take breaks, to get away from it all frequently, and to have periods of time of solitude where they are alone and allow themselves time to recover.
They have also come to recognize that body symptoms are early warning systems that are alerting them to the stress that they have experienced. There is a decision to take things slower, to walk more, to exercise, and to do things that are not competitive in nature. Beyond this, there is a realization that the most important thing that one can do to help manage their stress is to say NO when asked to take on just a little more.
The desire to save others, or to not offend others pushes people to agree to things that they should not be taking on regardless of the cause. Saying NO is critical to learn in order to pay attention to what one’s body is capable to doing.
If one continues to push themselves to do and experience all then one will continue to have intense periods of activity followed by intense periods of being physically exhausted, in pain, and immobilized. What has to be realized is that when one continues to live under intense stress without limits, then the body will shut down in order to provide for a break because we are not human doing machines.
Learn relaxation techniques; have several types from quick short ones to longer ones where you allow yourself to learn to enjoy “letting go of control” and even resting comfortably. For seven days, set up a self-treatment program that will involve one-hour daily trainings in:
- Anxiety management
- Identification of “high-risk” situations
- Cognitive restructuring to confront irrational beliefs and thoughts
- Use of social supports
You first learn the various relaxation techniques and practice them in non-pressured settings, becoming more comfortable in using them. You identify the things that make you nervous and put them on a list of things. You then take each item and rate that item/problem on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most anxiety it causes you.
Start with the thing that is the least fearful or anxiety provoking to focus on – first imagining it while relaxing and later going out to the situation in real life. You will then allow yourself to feel all the anxiety, worry, upsets for one hour and remain in that situation. The concept of “flooding” your feelings so that it is overwhelming but you then get use to it is like circus ride where you finally get use to it and it is not so fearful.
For example, if you fear things, like dirty objects for fear of germs, you make sure that once a day you go around touching as many of those dirty objects as you can without washing or doing any other rituals, except quick relaxation techniques, until you no longer find it overwhelming. This is done each day for one hour for the full seven days. You then move on to the next thing you fear.
Learning from Stress
Sometimes, people do not overcome pain and other stress-related body symptoms, because one’s body needs to keep them down. There is a lack of trust that the person themselves will stop and pace themselves. As a result, the body becomes a friend that stops one permanently until one becomes mentally healthy enough to learn to be more self-regulating.
- We have to learn how to stop doing several things at once.
- We have to learn to slow down and take life less seriously.
- We have to stop looking for the one simple solution that will solve everything.
- We have to know that life is a journey where we are responsible for developing ourselves in new ways rather than just pushing harder.
We need to learn from all of this in order to avoid repeating our own personal history again and again. When stress is useful, we grow, adapt and learn. When we refuse to listen to it in the right way, it binds us, captures us and holds us hostage.
Anxiety, tensions, panic anxiety, worrying, obsessive thoughts, all are difficult to control. Many times such feelings tend to overwhelm us and make us feel out of control. We wonder if we are ever going to be able to find a solution to these problems and “live a normal life.”
One of the reasons we have so much trouble attaining comfort and happiness is that we don’t even know what it is. We try to annihilate our anxiety and other disturbing thoughts, traumas, sadness, loneliness, and other difficulties hoping that his will help.
We confuse being happy with a life that has no feelings of anxiety, rage, doubt, anger, sadness, or problems. We want to numb ourselves from all problems with activity, chemicals, relationships, working hard, etc., so we won’t feel. We hope that if we “don’t talk about it; don’t think about it; don’t feel anything about it; and avoid doing anything at all possible costs,” then all the problem will go away. Research shows that diverting your attention away from the problem will only help for a while but it does not help in the long term.
Happiness is the ability to receive the pleasant without dependent, desperate, grasping, along with receiving the unpleasant without condemning. Anxiety and problems signal a time that something is changing. We need to look inside to ask what are we not facing, looking at, or avoiding. What are my symptoms trying to signal to me? Is an opportunity to change coming up that I must pay attention to?
Learned helplessness is the basis for understanding the root causes of depression and panic anxiety. Early researchers discovered that when dogs were given electrical shocks that they could not control, they later showed signs of anxiety and depression. If the experiment went on for too long, the dogs didn’t even try to escape the shocks and instead just collapsed in a corner of their cage.
If a “safe area” was made in the cage where the dogs could go to in order to not receive any shocks, they would act helpless and not move. If they were picked up and forcibly placed in the “safe” corner, they would voluntarily return to the side where they were continually exposed to electrical shocks, sitting and shaking in a helpless and anxious state. It was as if the dogs were saying that they were helpless and deserved the pain and suffering. Therapists refer to this anxious, suffering, response as one of having developed “learned helplessness.”
When a lever was added so that the dogs could use it to stop the shocks, the dogs didn’t develop any anxiety response. This is an important element known as control. Knowing how to be in control of one’s environment makes for a great deal of difference in what responses we learn and exhibit. Occasionally some dogs didn’t master the ability to use the lever to turn off the shocks. This is not learned helplessness; instead, these dogs were “failing to learn to control.”
Back in prehistoric times, our primitive minds didn’t have the necessary tools to deal with each threat. So, our brains treated any stressor as a threat. This ensured both protection and survival. As a result, the default (normal) position of the brain is to assume that stress is NOT controllable. Our “ancient” brain stem (located on the top of the spinal cord) is not smart enough to know whether stress is controllable or not; it just responds. In the face of stress, the brain stem just activates the body’s stress responses.
In the experiments where the dogs were exposed to uncontrollable shocks, their levels of serotonin in their brains peaked. However, when they learned to control the shocks by pressing the lever, their serotonin levels dramatically dropped and the front parts of their brains were more active. Since the front parts of our brains help us to regulate impulse control, give motivation, and focus, it’s as if our brain is telling our brain stem, “Relax. We’ve got the situation under control”.
So it is only with training that we can learn to relax when a situation is under control. We can think our way in, out of, and around a problem. Our minds give us tools that we can use to teach us, with practice, to calm down our gut instinct in the “fight vs. flight” survival response. However, this takes time and practice.
Dealing with Change
Change is something that is always happening around us. We cannot avoid it. Change can be exciting and stimulating. The lack of stress is stressful and boring.
Change needs to be planned for, and anticipated, in our life. Planning helps us deal with it better. Change that happens too fast, and too frequently, can be overwhelming and emotionally draining.
Change is something humans want to resist in favor of maintaining some type of stability. Change can be difficult. We want to maintain stability, uniformity, familiarity, routines and the comfort of “sameness” in life. Change feels like “Murphy’s Law:” Things seem to happen at the most inconvenient times and we wonder when it, if ever, will all end. Change makes us feel that we are always off balance emotionally. We long for things to just go along in a smooth manner without crises and stress.
Negative Aspects of Change
Change seems to happen more quickly in our present history. Change demands that people continue to learn new skills, techniques, and ways of doing things. Change demands that we have a “set” for new learning — never feeling we have learned it all. Change seems to happen much faster in our jobs, leaving us feeling vulnerable and lacking control.
Change may keep us tense, wondering what is going to happen next. We ask if we will have a job, what changes will be required of us in a job, and how we might have to do more in our jobs because of the these “changes.” Change that is frequent, continuous, and unpredictable, can cause both emotional and physical health problems.
Adjusting to Change
Accept the fact that change is happening. In fact it will continue to happen. Stop asking when will it end. It won’t end. Change is going to happen at an ever increasing speed and nature in our world.
Welcome change as an opportunity to move in different directions, to try new skills, and to challenge your beliefs. Invest in your support system, knowing that having family, friends, peers, church relationships, etc., all contribute better to our abilities to handle and face stress and change. These “social buffers” are critical to our health and well-being. We live longer if we have a positive support system.
Let go of negative self-talk, blaming, “the sky is falling,” dramatic negatives in your life. Focus on Positive-Self-Talk — knowing you will get through it in time — whatever it is! See the positives in it and “go with the flow.” Small Changes, adjusting a little at a time, helps one handle what looks like an overwhelming big change: Focus on the little things you can do now rather than the “whole thing that has to be done.”
Know that any change is hard for us to handle. We miss the familiar, the known, the routines, and the habits. When we face loss of old routines we also have a sense of grief. When we face change that we have no control over we feel upset and anger. Change and stress can create a “black cloud of heaviness” over our heads and minds that makes it difficult to think, function, or even know what to do. We feel trapped and helpless.
Surviving Change & Resilience
- Surviving change requires a positive attitude. It is never the suffering that is the gift. It is the changing and healing that is the real gift.
- When faced with change we have to know that our life’s path has been adjusted and we must adapt and function in an entirely new manner. If we are not flexible we will “snap.”
- There is nothing wrong with feeling overwhelmed in the face of rapid change, or any type of loss. Some losses will affect us more than others. However, they all have an impact on us.
- Admitting that is “OK” to feel overwhelmed and fearful is the real mark of a strong person. Those who do not acknowledge problems live a life of denial and dysfunction always wondering why they cannot get on with their lives.
- Know that the world is not fair and you have very little control over it! Logic means nothing when we are encountering change, stress, crises, etc.
- Strong people admit that they have problems, look to do something about it, along with being open to reaching for help if it is needed.
- Strong people know that it resilience in the face of crises mandates that we fall apart for a while. However, resilience also requires that we come to find new solutions and ideas that can carry us on to a new level.
- Strong people know that “difficult times do not last — however, strong people do endure, grow & change.”
- Strong people know that change presents both risks and opportunities. It is time to look for the new possibilities, opportunities, and directions that this change is demanding of us.
- Don’t expect the world to change. We spend too much time trying to control and change things that we have little, or no, control over.
- Lower your expectations: The gap between reality and our personal expectations of ourselves, and others, can create more stress for us.
- Focus on short-term goals: Live in the “precious present moment” not in the future.
- Relax and exercise: Take time to relax, breath, listen to music, stretch, and walk daily.
- Open yourself to others: “No man is an island!” However, we tend to isolate ourselves in order to be “strong” and not show emotions. This only brings us down faster. We need to “reach out and touch someone!” Listening to others reduces our blood pressure. We live longer if we have friends.
- Pace yourself, your activities, and watch what you are doing: Take breaks, rest, and don’t push until you are exhausted. Know your energy levels and reserves. Don’t always be on an “adrenalin rush.”
- Know that the work place is unpredictable: We tend to see the work place as “another family” were we act out our needs, desires, hopes, feelings, looking to supervisors as “new parents.” This creates stress as we try to understand, control and/or change them.
- Develop a personal life: Have a life, family, and social supports separate from work. Focus more of your energies in these areas. They can help when the “going gets rough.”
- Learn to say NO: Don’t accept everything asked of you. Pick and choose wisely. Set limits on what is possible. Trying to do everything will just wear you out and overwhelm you.
- Know the warning signs: When you see change happening, take a personal inventory of what it means to you, your present and future. Don’t use denial and avoidance until it is “too late.”
- Seek out professional help when excess stress & depression are noted: Early intervention and treatment can help one to refocus, restructure, and function better. It takes strength to admit problems and to reach out for help.
- Avoid addictive behaviors and substances: We tend to “self-medicate ourselves” with alcohol and drugs in order to avoid feeling and experiencing.
- We tend to avoid feelings by keeping busy: Rushing around is only another form of addictive behaviors which keeps us out of touch with our feelings and emotions.
- Optimism is the key to health: Looking on the bright side of things, figuring out how to do it better or different, looking for opportunities, all allow us to live better and more healthy.
- See the glass as half-full — not half-empty: When we see the potential in situations, rather than the draw backs, we become creative and move forward with more ease.
- Know that the more we resist change, the deeper we will go into the problems and exhaustion: Change offers us a chance to find new ways, ideas, directions, etc. We may not see them at first, but with time, talking, writing and using our imagination, we can come to see the opportunities that we face.
- Know that hardships may last longer than we want: We always want things to end and “get over with” as soon as possible. However, reality tells us that this does not always happen. Difficulties can take “time” to resolve themselves. “All good things happen to those who wait.”
- Use the time to explore alternatives and new directions: Use your imagination to think of what is possible for you. Think of new ideas, talk to others, and investigate everything.
- Analyze your strengths, secret hobbies, interests, etc: Take stock of your strengths, interests, talents, and issues of what you have always wanted to do.
Change can be difficult for all of us. Our world has been changing at a dramatic, fast, pace that is at times overwhelming, confusing, and exhausting. Learning how to handle change is critical for our long-term psychological health. Life does not always turn out the way we had planned. It is a journey that takes us in new directions and places, opening us up to new opportunities. Yes there is risk and problems along the way that we have to overcome. These are tests that “strengthen and toughen us” while preparing us for the new in life. This can be exciting.
Dealing with Stress and Worry
Obsessions and worries can keep one tense, anxious, upset, and unable to stop one from thinking. Most anxious person are aware that their thoughts are irrational but feel unable to stop themselves. Here are a few ideas that might prove helpful in overcoming these difficult times and being able to sleep better.
Worrying As An Inherited Habit
Worrying robs us of being able to live in the present moment of life. Life gets focused on trying to control the future in some way while worrying that the worse things will happen. Many worriers say that they come from a family of worriers who have been like this for generations.
Many people feel that worrying is productive and helps to find solutions to problems. The reality is that it only delays the solutions while causing the person much upset, energy and exhaustion. Many people are so use to worrying that they don’t even realize that they aren’t enjoying their lives until it is pointed out to them. Worrying is a habit pattern that reinforces itself by it happening over and over again making it a major part of one’s life and functioning.
It increases one’s heart rate, increasing adrenaline rushes. After a while though it feels normal and the person feels abnormal only when they are not worrying. This all creates a habit of low grade stress in life.
Ways to Stop Worrying
There are ways of working to stop obsessive worrying by using the following steps.
Set Aside A Time To Worry: Consciously decide that you can only worry at certain times of the day. Schedule a 20-30 minute period of time each day when you will sit and think about what you are worrying about. At other times of the day you have to remind yourself that you cannot worry about things now but will be able to do it later.
Decide To Be Realistic: Realize that you have over-estimated the likelihood that your fears will become reality. Ask yourself, what evidence is there to support your concerns. Ask: what control could you have over it by worrying about it anyways.
Gather Information: Gather evidence like you are testing a problem so that you can find the evidence to support your worries. By gathering the evidence, you will be able to able to solve, or not solve, the problem.
Do Something Rather Than Worry: Rather than worry about an event, make it happen. Let yourself be embarrassed about something. If you feel you never have enough time with the kids, take off work early at times. Feel the fear and do it anyways. Quit the stewing and start to doing!
Visualize (See) A Good Outcome: Worriers tend to see only the bad things happening. Focus on positive things happening and develop a positive attitude.
Enjoy The Moment: Since worrying focuses on the future and the desire to control it in some way, we miss what is happening in the present. Focus on the enjoyment of the sun, the good day, the smell of dinner, the kids playing.
Work It Out: Do some walking, exercising, and work out the muscle tension. Do deep breathing, relaxation techniques, stretching muscles.