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updated 12/1/2006 7:44:16 AM ET 2006-12-01T12:44:16

Ever tried wearing a clown nose as an antidote to stress? That's one reader's secret to coping with tension when trapped in traffic during her long commute.

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When we asked readers to share what causes you the most stress and how you cope, we got an avalanche of responses. Family, jobs and over-scheduled lives top the list as being tension triggers. Others are facing health problems and situations they don't have any control over.

Some of you cope by meditating, taking time for yourselves and exercising. Others cope in a myriad of other creative ways, such as Jim Gleason, who decompresses by hitting the beach with his metal detector. "Donald Trump can have his millions of dollars, hotels, casinos, etc. I'll take the sound of the sea gulls and the surf anytime," he writes.

One reader finds solace in "a good burger and fries" and childhood TV favorites like "Gilligan's Island." Others look for the humor in situations and try to keep things in context.

"We're not in charge of everything and it's somewhat liberating to realize that," wrote one woman.

Read on for more responses:

What causes me the most stress is putting everyone else before myself. To combat that stress, I bought some gifts for myself before I started Christmas shopping for everyone else.
— Denise, Alexandria, Va.

I'm in high school and school in period gives me stress. If it's not the teachers and the work, it’s the nagging parents.  I try to cope with stress by doing a sport I love, figure skating, which calms me and helps me focus on that more than school. Or I listen to soothing music like Coldplay or classical music. It's amazing how music can make you feel.
Haley Hinson

Being a working mom/wife is two full-time jobs! How do I cope with it? Be thankful for all I have and just do it.
June Berglund, West Haven, Conn.

I work full time as a controller of a public company, am married with a family, volunteer very regularly with Boy Scouts, and am working on my Ph.D. Some people would think that combination creates stress and, at times, it does. However, I continuously remind myself that these were all conscious choices that I made and that I need to turn that stressed feeling into positive energy. This helps put things into perspective.
Janet, Plano, Texas

I get stressed from feeling that I don't have enough time to do all of the things I set out to do each day. I cope with stress by planning a "time out" for myself to organize my thoughts and let go of things that aren't important.
Piedmont, S.D.

I think not getting enough sleep and worrying about work, money, family causes stress. I find meditating, writing in a journal when I'm frustrated and practicing slow breathing [helps].
Karen Mathieson, Chicago, Ill.

I drive one and half hours each way to work in heavy traffic. I make myself and others laugh by wearing a bright red sponge clown nose. You can not be stressed when you are busy laughing!
Jackie, Michigan

Overbooking myself and having too many commitments [stresses me]. I am a full-time working single mom, but most people I know have too much on their plate no matter what their particular situation might be. I need to start my day with mediation which includes deep breathing and also remember, especially at this time of year, to keep things simple.
Patty, Los Angeles

[I get stressed by] financial situations. I am always able to relieve my stress in the bedroom. We really use the stress in our life to our favor to help out our sex life.
Ryan, North Augusta, S.C.

A recent divorce after 21 years of marriage [causes me stress]. I make sure I spend quality time with my two daughters and surround myself with people who have my best interests at heart. I have met a wonderful woman who has re-instilled in me the power of love and romance. I have spent more time with my parents and my brother's family than I ever have in the past. Also, my apartment is now my haven of peace. I make sure to keep it clean, comfortable, and unique to me. I work hard at looking forward and focusing on life's new adventures while making sure I continue those activities that have brought me satisfaction in the past.
Dana Bemis, Caldwell, N.J.

Disorganization and an inability to say no are the two biggest causes of stress in my experience. I work as a management consultant for a well-known firm and I can honestly say I am rarely stressed. To me it is a state of mind. I know what I have to do and I know how to go about doing it. This is not to say I don't feel some extreme pressures once in a while but I work though it to produce results. I rarely work the 12 to 16 hour days my colleagues work because I know how to tactfully say no and I find I am far more organized than they are.  I have been doing this for almost 20 years and clients view me as confident and fresh, not overwhelmed and frazzled. Real stress for me is raising my children to be good responsible citizens of the world. I lose far more sleep over that than I ever would with work.
New York, N.Y.

My primary stressor is that my mother's had two heart attacks in the past two months, and I can't do anything about that. I do her laundry so I can fold and hang it in outfits with accessories, because she cares about her appearance — and it helps the nursing home staff, too.
Mary

A few months after starting my own business, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Feeling that stress was the cause, I purchased a blood pressure monitor and enrolled in yoga classes. My blood pressure is now usually in the optimal range. Not only can yoga be a good workout, the focus required forces you to shut out everything else for your hour of practice.
Tiffany,  Kansas City, Mo.

My greatest stress is self-imposed, and usually from not giving myself enough time to complete a task. … To de-stress, I like to work out at the gym, then go to a movie or sometimes just watch old TV shows, like “Gilligan's Island” or “Bewitched.” There is something so comforting about watching TV shows from my childhood. … I used to drink alcohol, but that only made me more stressed the next day, so I don't drink and although I do think that prescription medication is good in some cases, I find that a good long workout to the point of exhaustion is the best de-stresser for me, or a great movie or sometimes just a good burger and fries.
Greg, Dallas

After working 40 years, first as a 17-year old Marine, then finally finishing up as a pipe fitter in a major tractor company, I retired the day I could. My de-stresser has always been to grab my metal detector, and head out to the beach to treasure hunt. I call it "healing my soul" Just me, the detector, the sunshine, and maybe a nice little find to sweeten the pot. Donald Trump can have his millions of dollars, hotels, casinos, etc. I'll take the sound of the sea gulls and the surf anytime. Life is too short to remain a slave any longer than necessary.
Jim Gleason, Waterloo, Iowa

My husband had a heart attack and five bypasses nine years ago (at age 41), and last year I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, absorbed as much chemo as my body could tolerate, and I still struggle with some of the residual effects. To add to the stress — and joy — I work part-time writing a column while working full-time in a human services agency with several other menopausal women. In three days, I'll be having a biopsy on the remaining breast. It all reaffirms that "Life is good!" … We're not in charge of everything and it's somewhat liberating to realize that. My new mantra is "Faith over fear." Faith, family, friends, humor, watching a spectacular sunset, listening to some rockin' music and writing can go a long way in helping with the coping process.
Carolyn

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