Look on the Bright Side
"Seeing the positive side of reality has a calming and challenging effect, while seeing the pessimistic side is threatening--it scares us and our bodies," says Quick. You can become an optimist by acting like one: Faced with a problem, don't catastrophize the situation. Instead, visualize positive solutions.
Practice, Practice, Practice
"Chronic stress has the ability to tip the scales if you have a genetic tendency to a health problem, such as depression or high blood pressure," cautions Feldman. "It also has the stand-alone ability to make you sick." So take stress seriously--and practice these tension-busting tips every day.
While you're getting your mind in gear, don't forget to bring your body along for the ride. Exercise is a wonderful way to perk up or calm down. Just a brisk 10-minute walk increases your energy, while vigorous exercise, such as 30 minutes of Spinning or running, reduces tension and invigorates both mind and body.
"When you're deciding what type of exercise to do and how hard to do it, look at how you want to feel afterward," says Robert Thayer, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, and the author of Calm Energy: How People Regulate Mood with Food and Exercise. "If it's at the end of a hard, stressful day, a strenuous workout may be the best way to deal with that."
Because stress and exercise have similar effects on the body, such as increased heart and respiration rates, it's not surprising that working out trains you to handle stress. "Exercise is really stress practice," says Jim Loehr, Ed.D. "Increasing your capacity for tolerating physical stress deepens your capacity for tolerating all stress." By pushing outside your comfort zone--on the weight bench or the treadmill--you become stronger physically and more stress-hardy.
Exercise gives you endurance and sustained energy, both of which are critical in dealing with stress. When a project calls for long hours in front of the computer, the stamina you build by going to the gym helps you meet your deadline. Physical activity also quickens response time, so you feel sharper and more "on your game."
"Your tension may increase slightly at the start of a strenuous workout," says Thayer. "But the final result will be a calmness that will last for hours." Convinced? But don't overlook the flip side of exercise and stress management. "If you don't have recovery after stress exposure--whether it's biceps curls or rush-hour traffic--you don't get any growth," says Loehr.