11/17/2012 11:16 am ET Updated Jan 16, 2013

Freaking Stressed

I admit: I'm freaking stressed. There are times when stress is dumped on us and there is nothing we can do but manage it. Divorce (me), death, acts of God (like Sandy), car accidents, violent crime. These are not events that most people (unless you're a trained Buddhist monk) can easily brush aside.

I don't want to be stressed because it is associated with a lot of health problems like chronic anxiety, insomnia, muscle aches and pains, weakened immune system (illness), heart disease, depression, chronic eating, infertility, erectile dysfunction, forgetfulness, headaches, being short-tempered, muscle aches, lack of energy, and possibly even increased risk of cancer.

These are ways that I've used to cope:

  1. While it's important to let your stress out, you don't want to tell your (in my case, divorce) story to everyone you meet up with all day every day. Find one person you can confide in, your sister or your therapist and let it rip. I love my therapist, she's like a smart big sister. Beyond that, telling the story over and over and over not only makes you more stressed, but drives people away and identifies you with the stress issue.
  2. I've read that you should write a stress journal and write all the negativity down. I don't agree with that. I think that it's more productive to stop catastrophizing and instead say positive things to yourself out loud as well as visualize positive outcomes.
  3. Exercise increases the excited, giddy neurotransmitter dopamine, so please exercise.
  4. Listen to music.
  5. Take 10 deep breaths every hour.
  6. Count to 10 before you speak.
  7. Walk away or hang up the phone to get away from anyone who is increasing your stress.
  8. Do things that you like to do. Be creative, write, paint, knit, make stuff, work in the yard.
  9. Play with your pets. I miss my dogs (they are with my ex), but I take every opportunity to stop people who are walking their dogs to play with a dog for a minute. The vast majority of people are cool about it.
  10. Volunteer. If you don't want to volunteer or don't have time then identify some needy friends and go out of your way to do something for those people. They are stressed, too!
  11. Stay out of the malls if you're a stress shopper. Debt increases stress.
  12. There are Asian massage spas opening all over the place (cheap like nail salons). I can get an hour massage in Santa Monica for $30 plus a tip. Go get a massage and breathe deeply the entire time.
  13. Make dates with positive friends, go out and have a glass of wine (one, not the whole bottle), and go see a funny movie together.
  14. Play with your grandkids, nieces, and other kids you're close to.
  15. Last but maybe most important, meditation is a proven way to reduce stress. Buddhist meditation is a psychology, not a religion. The Buddha was all about the pain of life. That's the reason he developed meditation techniques. So get into it even if it's five minutes a day. Here are some free meditation downloads you can listen to.

You can be stressed out and negative or you can stay positive. It's your choice.

Peace, love, and understanding.

For more by Nancy Deville, click here.

For more on stress, click here.