1. Worry about one thing at a time
Women worry more than men do. A Harvard University study of 166 married couples who kept stress diaries for six weeks, found that women feel stress more frequently than men because women tend to worry in a more global way. Whereas a man might fret about something actual and specific-such as the fact that he's just been passed over for a promotion-a woman will tend to worry abstractly about her job, her weight, plus the well-being of every member of her extended family. Keep your anxiety focused on real, immediate issues, and tune out imagined ones or those over which you have zero control, and you'll automatically reduce stress overload.
2. Talk about -- or write out -- what's worrying you
Writing or talking about the things that prey on you-in a diary, with friends, in a support group or even a home computer file-helps you feel less alone and helpless. One study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at people who had either rheumatoid arthritis or asthma-conditions known to be stress-sensitive. One group chronicled in a perfunctory manner the things they did each day. The other group was asked to write daily about what it was like, including their fears and the pain, to have their disease. What researchers found: People who wrote at length about their feelings had far fewer episodes of their illness.
3. Speak a stress-free language
People who handle stress well tend to employ what stress experts call an "optimistic explanatory style." They don't beat themselves up when things don't work out in their favor. So instead of using statements that catastrophize an incident, like "I'm a complete failure," they might say to themselves, "I need to work on my backhand." Or they'll transfer blame to an external source. Rather than saying, "I really blew that presentation," it's, "That was a tough group to engage." Replace the word "expect" with "hope." Expectations can only be used for those things over which you have the greatest personal control. You can expect to quench your thirst with a drink of water. You cannot expect to get the job you just interviewed for. You can hope to get it. Think "hope" instead of "expect" and you'll greatly reduce stress.
4. Once a day, get away
When you're having a hell of a day-good or bad-checking out for 10-15 minutes is revitalizing. Find a place alone (and definitely ditch the cell phone)-the attic, the bathroom, a quiet cafe, a big oak tree-and wipe the slate clean for a few minutes. Do whatever it is that relaxes you: Meditate, read a novel, sing or sip tea. It is important to take some time-even a few minutes-to establish an inner sense of peace. What's crucial is not how much time you allot, but being consistent and doing something every day.
5. As a ritual, literally take the stress in, then release it
It is important to think in terms of being resilient, elastic, of being able to bounce back. To achieve this positive point-of-view, do a tai chi exercise known as "embracing the tiger," where you take your arms, spread them wide, put your hands together and then draw them-and everything around you-toward your navel, the center of your being. Then you reverse your hands and push them out. By performing this move you're saying, 'Look, I've accepted and integrated all that has happened to me and I no longer allow it to cause me stress.'" And when you can control stress, it can no longer control you.