“When Mozart was composing at the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Vienna was so quiet that fire alarms could be given verbally, by a shouting watchman mounted on top of St. Stefan’s Cathedral. In twentieth-century society, the noise level is such that it keeps knocking our bodies out of tune and out of their natural rhythms. This ever-increasing assault of sound upon our ears, minds, and bodies adds to the stress load of civilized beings trying to live in a highly complex environment”? (Steven Halpern)

We’ve established that stress is a normal and recurring part of life. With that in mind, you don’t want to deal with stress empty handed. Our ability to cope with stress in daily life is directly related with our ability to use tools to minimise the negative effects of stress. So what are some of these tools?

Lighten up. Don’t take yourself or those around you too seriously. Cultivate your sense of humour and joy.

Volunteer to serve your community. It doesn’t take a lot of time or strength to read to kindergartners for an hour a week, but it will take your mind off your problems and fears.

Adopt a pet. Besides providing companionship and a nonjudgemental ear, pets lift our spirits. Has walking been prescribed to control your blood pressure? A dog will make sure you get out every day.

Cultivate a garden. Whether you prefer flowers or vegetables, take pleasure in nurturing the plants, watching them bear fruit or flowers and then share your harvest.

Indulge yourself. Especially when you are preparing for a treatment or struggling to get through a trying time. Get a professional pedicure, take a bubble bath, lunch at an outdoor cafe, take a walk on the beach or spend an afternoon browsing a bookstore.

Take a class. Just for the fun of it. Quilt making, conversational French, painting, Chinese cooking: whatever your choice, don’t take it too seriously.

Adjust your attitude. Tell yourself that just for now you will leave behind your expectations and preconceived notions. Consider the possibility that, no matter how bleak your situation seems, the end result will be a good one.

Look at your priorities and learn to let go. Ask yourself if being right or controlling every situation is more important than improving your health. Let the other driver take the parking place; save your energy to build your health.

Be mindful. Focus your attention on what you are experiencing moment to moment. Let go of expectations, and quiet the inner voice that says, “should”, “must”, “always”, “ought” or “never”.

Find a relaxation technique. Many programs teach various ways to experience inner peace and tranquillity, thus relieving stress. The common threads of these tools are repetition and a passive disregard of everyday thoughts. You can take some classes or rent videos to find the practice that takes you to the quite place where healing can occur, and then do it every day. You can try some of the following: breathing; meditation; visualisation; mindfulness; passive yoga; etc.

Look at your everyday life. Examining and perhaps changing a number of behaviours in your day-to-day life can help. Areas such as time management, task efficiency, diet and exercise are particularly important ones.