There will be tension in our work life; the health of our loved ones can be a constant source of anxiety; the bills never stop coming – overall, life will always be demanding! It’s time to realize that stress is the source of many problems and you need to control it in order to live a healthy life. Stress management is all about managing your thoughts, lifestyle, emotions and problems. No matter how stressful your life seems to be, you can definitely reduce the negative effects of stress by following some simple and healthy steps.
Experiencing Stress- Symptoms
Stress does not have a physical form, but it can be identified through your behavioral patterns. You experience stress when you:
- feel irritable, nervous or depressed
- develop tense shoulders or get frequent headaches
- remain immersed in negative thoughts
- experience fear
Why Stress Management Is Essential?
High levels of stress can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. Effective stress management enables you to release stress, allowing you to have a healthier, happier and a highly productive lifestyle. But how should you manage stress? Here are a few simple steps that can help you do that.
Step 1: Identifying Stress Sources
The first step toward stress management is identifying the causes of stress in your life. Now, it’s easy to identify the major stressors of life such as work pressure, personal relationship dilemmas, health issues etc. However, most of us tend to overlook our own feelings and behaviors that elevate our stress levels. For instance, your work deadlines may be a constant source of anxiety for you, but your unnecessary procrastination can raise your Cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
Once you are able to identify the stressors, just ask yourself these few questions:
- Is there any way to avoid the stressor?
- Can you resolve conflict by practicing compassion and forgiveness?
- Can you make preparations to avoid stressful situations?
- Can you bring up a positive attitude toward a difficult situation?
Maintain A Stress Journal
By maintaining a stress journal, you can identify the stressors in your life and find out ways to deal with them. Every time you experience stress, just jot down the reason in your journal. As you maintain a regular log, you’ll be able to identify some common factors such as:
- causes of stress
- effects on your physical & mental health
- how you acted
- steps you took to feel better
Step 2: Healthy Coping Strategies
How do you cope with stress in your life? Many people resort to very unhealthy ways of dealing with stress. Some unhealthy habits include:
- consuming drugs/pills
- becoming an introvert, i.e. avoiding social gatherings, parties etc.
- bingeing on comfort or junk food
- excess sleeping
- avoiding problems
- taking out stress on others
Well, it’s time to go for some healthy methods of coping with stress. Remember, there is no single method that works for every individual. All you can to do is to experiment with different techniques and strategies. You can try the following methods:
- Listen to soothing music
- Exercise – yoga, walking, running, swimming, cycling, tai chi, and aerobics. Regular exercising releases endorphins that make you feel relieved.
- Switch thoughts – avoid negative thoughts and focus on positive affirmations
- Take a long bath
- Write a journal
- Get a massage
- Play with your pet
- Curl up with a book
- Watch funny videos
- Chat with a friend
Mind Your Attitude!
If you have a negative attitude toward life, you’ll have a hard time dealing with stress. Recent research reveals that people who approach any difficult situation as a challenge rather than a threat, have lessened chances of developing stress related health issues.
How to avoid having defeatist attitude?
- View a difficult situation as challenge and overcome it.
- Accept the fact that there are certain events that you cannot control.
- Be assertive about your opinions.
- Manage tasks, i.e. divide large tasks into smaller components.
- Manage time wisely.
- Know about therapeutic approaches to deal with negative thoughts.
Step 3: Choosing to View Change
It’s a fact that stress is an automatic response, but sometimes stressors are predictable. Under such circumstances, you need to decide on your options. Basically, there are three ways to deal with the situation:
Avoid: Sometimes it difficult to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed. Whether in your personal or professional life, know your limits and act accordingly. If possible, say “no” to a situation. This will help to bring down your stress levels.
It is advisable that you avoid people who elevate your stress levels. Spend none to very little time with those people and avoid having conversations with them.
Taking control of your environment is another way of avoiding stress. If going for grocery shopping makes you tense, opt for online shopping delivery. If a particular TV program or the news increases your stress level, turn off the TV or switch to another channel.
Learn to distinguish between your important and unimportant tasks. Make a list and temporarily avoid the tasks that aren’t truly necessary immediately.
Adapt: If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, the best option would be to acclimatize with the situation. By changing your attitude and expectations, you can gain control over the entire situation.
Adapting a positive attitude can help you to deal with stress easily. Sometimes perfectionism can be a cause of stress. It is important that you set reasonable standards for yourself and others to avoid undue stress.
Take a moment and reflect on all things that you appreciate in your life. This strategy will help change your perspective toward life and lower your stress levels.
Accept: Certain sources of stress are unavoidable. Under such circumstances, the best way to cope with stress is to accept the situation as it is. Remember, many things in life are beyond your control. The best action is simply to accept the fact that the world is not a perfect place and let go of resentments in order to live a healthier and happier life.
Step 4: Stay Connected
Nothing is more relaxing than spending quality time with your friends, family and close associates; people who understand you and make you feel safe and secure. It is important to mention here that ‘face-to-face’ interaction releases certain hormones that respond to the body’s defense mechanisms. People won’t fix your stress, but you can share your problems with them, which can help you release the pressure.
Step 5: Have Fun Play & Enjoy
It would be perfect if you can set aside some time from your daily schedule for play and fun. It can be any enjoyable activity like partying or having fun with friends, or playing games such as football, basketball or any other outdoor game, or indulge in leisure activities like playing the piano, gardening, cooking or some indoor games. If you have fun regularly, you have a better chance to handle life’s stress.
Step 6: Better Time Management
If you can’t manage time, you cannot stay calm. If you extend your working hours, you may not get enough sleep. This increases your stress levels and affects your health. Don’t make commitments when you know that you cannot fulfill them. This will unnecessarily elevate your stress levels.
Learn to prioritize your tasks as per their significance. If you are handling a big project, break it up into small steps, so as to tackle it more easily. If possible, share your responsibility with others. This will prevent unnecessary stress that you would undergo when overseeing the entire process by yourself.
Step 7: Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
Decrease your stress levels with healthy lifestyle choices. Start your day with a healthy breakfast and eat nutritious meals throughout the day to keep up your energy levels. If you are into caffeine and sugar laden foods, perhaps it’s time to avoid them. Reduce the consumption of coffee, soft drinks, fried food, sugar snacks and chocolate and you’ll feel better. Sleep more and avoid alcohol, cigarettes and other menacing drugs that can adversely affect your health and increase your stress levels. Don’t forget the best stress-reliever of all is EXERCISE!
Help Managing Stress
Stress is a bitter fact of life, but it should never consume your life. Learn to take control of your mind, body and environment to cope with stress and live a relatively a stress-free life. If your workload is out of control, trying seeking outside service assistance to manage daily tasks that are too much for you to handle alone. If you are still having trouble managing stress, contact an experienced and certified therapist or counselor who can help you cope with the negative feelings that elevate stress levels and put your health at risk.