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Sixty Plus By OSCAR CHAFFEE

Stress is something that afflicts everyone from time to time, but usually we get over it quickly. However, if it continues indefinitely, it can increase the risk of heart disease and depression and other physical and emotional disorders, according to the Dartmouth Medical School’s Medical and Health Guide.

If stress continues beyond the normal brief period, it may result in strain on the system. Symptoms of strain include increased muscle tension and tightness, upset stomach and trouble in the gastrointestinal tract such as heartburn, ulcers, diarrhea or constipation. It may cause rapid pulse and elevated blood pressure, disrupt sleep and bring on depression.

However, there are steps that can be taken to keep stress under control, according to the American Heart Association. These include talking with family or friends or trusted advisers about your concerns, and learning to accept things that you cannot change. Take 15 or 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful scene.

The AHA also advises people to follow the old recommendation that you count to 10 before blowing up when you feel angry. They also suggest that to ease stress you do not smoke, drink, take drugs, overeat or use caffeine. Other good advice is to exercise regularly and think ahead to avoid situations that may upset you. It may be that you will want to join a support group or consult a mental health professional or counselor if you do not find other methods to cope. But since everyone suffers some degree of stress at some times, there are also suggestions on methods to reduce whatever stress there may be.

One stress reducer is to avoid running yourself down. Say something positive about yourself when you look in the mirror. It is said that doing this daily for three weeks will bring guaranteed good results.

Other stress reducers include taking a brief walk for 10 to 20 minutes, saying no to requests to do something that you don’t want to do; laugh more; do something that gives you pleasure, however silly; develop a forgiving attitude; avoid whining; ask for a back rub at any time of day, perhaps with music; and remember that you can’t manage everything, you can’t control the wind but you can adjust your sails.

There are other bits of advice, offered by Hope Health publication. These include becoming organized, putting things where they belong, allow time to get to meetings or finish projects. Also, live in the present and do one thing at a time; help others, and let other people do their own things; laugh; eat right, exercise and take time every day to be alone with your thoughts, and get enough sleep.

Hope Health says that other people and things cannot make you angry because only your mind can do that. You can choose to act in a stressful way or a calm way when something comes up. With practice, the publication adds that your thoughts are easy to change.Oscar Chaffee is a retired Gazette state editor. He can be reached by writing to: Oscar Chaffee; Billings Gazette; P.O. Box 36300; Billings, MT 59107.

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