Stress-Busting Moves from the Pros

Four ways to stay sane.
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People in highly stressful jobs often receive expert training. Here's what stress coaches recommend:

Manage stress when it strikes

Joe Hoare and Linda Cruse, founders of The Just Living Company, in Los Angeles, have trained 5,000 medical professionals to stay cool during life-or-death traumas. To help relieve heat-of-the-moment stress, they suggest taking a slow, deep breath. When you panic, breathing becomes fast and erratic, which adds to feelings of anxiety. Then do something physical, such as walking around the block. "Otherwise, all that adrenaline will be trapped in your system, looking for an outlet," says Cruse.

Think positively

Ninety percent of our thoughts about ourselves are negative, says Alice Domar, PhD, director of the Mind/Body Center for Women's Health at Harvard Medical School and author of Self-Nurture: Learning to Care for Yourself as Effectively as You Care for Everyone Else (Viking, 2000). What causes stress is not the situation, but how we react. If your boss cancels a project you've been managing, for example, it's easy to assume that he doesn't like your work. To break the pattern, write down your negative thoughts and ask: Does this belief contribute to my stress? Where did I learn this? Is it a logical thought? Is it true? "Ninety percent of the time, it's not logical and it's not true," says Domar.

Practice, practice

As a squadron commander and instructor pilot at Columbus Air Force Base, in Mississippi, Lieutenant Colonel Tamra Rank teaches pilots how to fly a T1 Jayhawk and handle the stress of a mission. Rank puts her pilots through vigorous simulated-flight training and teaches them to visualize each step of the mission before they get into the cockpit. Once airborne, they feel as if they've already successfully completed the task many times.

Set limits

According to Deborah Bright, PhD, a New York City psychologist who has taught stress-coping strategies to Secret Service agents and professional athletes, only 22 percent of women are effective at mentally disengaging from their jobs. To keep work from spilling over into your time away from the office, set limits. For example, designate a time when you will stop looking at e-mail. And don't dwell on how much you have to do -- just do it. "Saying, 'I've got so much to do' will only make you feel more stressed," she says.

 

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