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Stress can feel like an inevitability in daily life. Whether it's a nagging worry, a difficult boss or a long commute, stress creeps into our lives. If not properly resolved, it can also creep into our shoulders, back and hips in the form of tension and pain.

Here are four simple strategies to dodge stressful situations and the tension that accompanies them:

1. Make your commute work for you

Long drives on congested Phoenix freeways can make anyone nuts. Keep an audio book handy and decide that a traffic jam is no more than another chapter finished in your current book. Finding a consistent way to enjoy your ride refocuses your mind and allows you to take it off of people weaving in and out of traffic and making you crazy.

2. Worry not

We all have a long list of to-do's that cloud our minds and lead to worry. Stop stewing over the to-do's and just keep a consistent list. Once your worry is on the list, it's safe; it doesn't need you worrying about it anymore. Rank them from very important to incidental and spend time resolving issues you can and crossing off ones that become obsolete. Worry is about as useful as a handle-only hammer, and you'll get to the list as soon as possible. Until then, it is safe and will be dealt with in good time. Earl Nightingale estimated that only 8 percent of what we worry about has any real bearing on our lives. That means that 92 percent of our worries are 100 percent wastes of time (www.earlnightingale.com).

3. One-minute beach vacation

Visualization is a powerful method of decreasing stress and increasing relaxation. Pick a few pictures of vacation spots that bring you feelings of deep serenity. Keep them in an accessible place and take a one-minute break, visualizing yourself lying on the sand, traversing the woods or diving deep into the blue ocean. Take a few deep breaths and let the world fall away for a moment while you have a personal vacation in your mind. You may not be able to leave your desk or your phone behind, but you can escape for a few precious moments through out the day.

4. Walk away tension

Get out of a stressful situation, get the blood moving and clear your mind with a short walking meditation. Pick a low-traffic, quiet area whether inside or out. Walk in circles, follow a path, or simply walk back and forth. Use this time to refocus your mind onto your breathing, feeling the inhalation and exhalation as individual components of your breath. Repeat words or phrases that bring you peace such as "I can handle this situation," or "I am calm and centered." Let all other thoughts leave your mind as you slowly and deliberately walk out your tension.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Samantha Manning is a licensed massage therapist.

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