Americans have experienced tense times lately as Mother Nature unleashed her fury with a series of hurricanes that pummeled Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Meanwhile, wildfires ravaged California and the Northwest U.S.

Anyone living through these disasters certainly felt stressed, and to a lesser degree so did millions of others who saw news reports updated constantly on their laptops or phones.

And that’s bad, not just because of potential health problems that stress can bring about, such as hypertension, heart disease and sleep disorders, but also because of how stress affects the simplest tasks of day-to-day living.

“Stress jams our ability to reason,” says Jane Bernard, an educator, philosopher and author of Lucid Living in the Virtual Age (www.sensualthinking.com). “When we’re stressed we miss the exit, forget appointments, lose our keys and make decisions that are not smart.”

Bernard, who is also a practitioner of Rinzai Zen, points out that it doesn’t take a major disaster to lead to stress. Daily responsibilities also can cause anxiety levels to escalate and blood pressure to rise.

But there are ways to alleviate stress. She suggests that those who are feeling stressed – whether because of a major calamity or a routine difficulty – should consider these four tips.

Take comfort in the old saying “this, too, shall pass.”

Realize that however good or bad a situation is, it will change, Bernard says. Use your senses and mind to analyze the environment and act to move forward and away from whatever is stressing you.

The time-honored “take a deep breath” advice works.

Let breathing help relax your body. Take that deep breath and then exhale all the way. “This is especially important when we eat,” Bernard says. “If our body is tense, the digestive process can be thrown off.”

Seek distractions.

Read, exercise, or find someone to talk to. Tell a joke, listen to music or take a walk. Develop a strategy based on ways to feel good about yourself when you’re in a stressful environment.

Take charge of how you react.

Most people have been told somewhere along the way that while you can’t always control events, you can control how you react to them. “Remember that stress comes and stress goes,” Bernard says. “You are in control of your thinking. Choose to feel smart.”

“Be determined to override stress by noticing what you sense, and the big picture will come into focus,” Bernard says. “The world will unfold with new rhythms and problems will get smaller. Time expands when you are aware of what you sense. Then, happiness happens.”

.

About Jane Bernard

Jane Bernard, author of Lucid Living in the Virtual Age (www.sensualthinking.com) and other books, is a philosopher and educator who writes and teaches about intuition and sensual thinking. She has appeared on TV and international radio, talking from the intuitive perspective. Jane introduced her first book, Fine Tuning, on The Montel Williams Show, in 2006.  Her easy-going combination of common sense and originality is a natural eye-opener.