Stress… It’s a global problem of epic proportions.
No country in the world is immune to its insidious grasp and it’s causing more health problems to the world’s population than any other factor.
With stress being so prevalent in today’s society, the number one question that everyone is asking is… “What can we do about it?”
It might appear that there’s nothing you can do about your stress levels. The bills aren’t going to stop coming, there’ll never be more hours in the day, and your obligations (whether it be work, home or otherwise) will always be demanding.
However, you do have a lot more control over this than you may think. In fact, the fundamental realisation that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management.
Managing stress is all about taking charge. Taking charge of your thoughts, your feelings, your schedule, your environment and the way you deal with any situation that comes your way.
The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation and of course fun plus, the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.
Even though it’s impossible to eliminate stress from your life you can do a better job of living with stress. Here are six strategies that you can adopt which will help you better manage the stress you receive in your life
Stress Management Strategy #1 – Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Not all stress can be prevented, and it’s not healthy to prevent a circumstance that needs to be addressed. You might be shocked, however, by the variety of stress factors in your life that you can remove.
Learn how to say “NO” – Know your limitations (and boundaries) and stay with them. Handling more than you can deal with is a sure-fire recipe for stress.
Avoid individuals who stress you out – If someone regularly causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that individual or end the relationship totally.
Take control of your environment – If the nightly news on the TV makes you anxious, turn it off. If driving in traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less travelled path.
Avoid hot-button subjects – If you get triggered over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the exact same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of conversation.
Trim down your to-do list – Examine your schedule, duties, and day-to-day jobs. If you have got too much on your plate, compare the “should dos” and the “must dos” on your list. Drop jobs that aren’t really essential to the bottom of the list or better still, remove them totally.
Stress Management Strategy #2 – Modify The Situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, attempt to modify it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself again in the future.
Frequently, this will involve altering the method you communicate and operate in your life.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up – If something or someone is troubling you, communicate your concerns in an open and considerate way. If you don’t voice your concerns, resentment will build and the situation will likely to remain exactly the same.
Be willing to compromise – When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the very same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of discovering some middle ground.
Be more assertive – Don’t take the backseat in your own life. Handle issues head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. For instance, if you’ve got an exam to study for and your chatty friend phones you, say in advance to them that you have only ten minutes to talk.
Handle your time better – Poor time management can trigger a great deal of stress. When you’re extended yourself too thin and you find you’re starting to run behind, it’s difficult to stay calm and focused. However, if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.
Stress Management Strategy #3 – Adapt To The Stressor
If you can’t change the stress factor, change yourself. You can adjust to stressful circumstances and restore your sense of control by changing your expectations and your mindset.
Reframe problems – Attempt to view stressful scenarios from a more favourable perspective. Instead of getting all worked up about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to some music, or enjoy some alone time.
Take a look at the big picture – Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important will it be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it actually worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your energy and time somewhere else.
Change your requirements – Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by requiring excellence. Set reasonable requirements on your own and others, and learn to be okay with the phrase “near enough is good enough.”
Concentrate on the positive – When stress is getting you down, take a minute to assess all the things you value in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple technique can help you keep things in perspective.
Changing Your Attitude – How you believe can have a profound impact on your psychological and physical health and wellbeing. Each time you think a negative idea about yourself, your body responds to it as if it remained in the throes of a tension-filled situation.
If you see advantages about yourself, you are more likely to feel great; the reverse is also real so remove words such as “constantly,” “never,” “should,” and “must” from your vocabulary as these are obvious marks of self-defeating thoughts.
Stress Management Strategy #4 – Accept The Things You Can’t Change
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”The Serenity Prayer
Some sources of stress are inescapable.
You can’t avoid or alter stress factors such as the death of a loved one, a serious disease diagnosis, or a national economic crisis. In such cases, the very best way to deal with this type of stress is to try and accept things as they are.
Acceptance might be very challenging, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a circumstance you can’t change.
Do not attempt to control the unmanageable – Numerous things in life are beyond our control especially the behaviour of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the method you choose to respond to them and their behaviour.
Try to find the upside in situations – As the old saying goes, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” When facing significant challenges, attempt to look at them as opportunities for personal growth.
If your own poor choices have added to a stressful situation, reflect on your choices and learn from your mistakes.
Share your feelings – Speak to a good friend or make an appointment with a professional. Expressing what you’re going through can be extremely cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to change the stressful situation at hand.
Learn to forgive – Accept the reality that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Try to let go of your anger and animosities towards people and the world. Set yourself free from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
Stress Management Strategy #5 – Make Time For Fun And Relaxation
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive mindset, you can decrease the stress in your life by taking good care of yourself. If you frequently make time for fun and relaxation, you’ll remain in a better place to handle life’s stress factors when they inevitably come.
There are many healthy ways to relax and recharge…
- Choose a walk
- Hang out in nature
- Call a good friend
- Sweat out stress with a good workout
- Write in your journal
- Take a long bath
- Light aromatic candle lights
- Savour a warm cup of coffee or tea
- Play with an animal
- Work in your garden
- Get a massage
- Curl up with a good book
- Listen to music
- Enjoy a funny joke
Do not get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to look after your own mental and physical needs.
Remember nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
Set aside relaxation time – Include rest and relaxation in your day-to-day schedule. Don’t permit other tasks to intrude. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
Connect with others – Hang out with the favourite people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative impacts of stress.
Do something you take pleasure in every day – Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, watching the sunrise/sunset, watching a movie, playing the piano, or going for a hike.
Keep your sense of humour – This includes the capability to make fun of yourself. The act of laughter helps your body battle tension in a variety of way.
As the old saying goes… “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Find out your relaxation response – You can manage your stress levels with relaxation techniques that stimulate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress action.
Frequently practicing these techniques will build your physical and emotional resilience, recover your body, and improve your overall feelings of joy and equanimity.
Stress Management Strategy #6 – Adopt A Healthy Lifestyle
You can increase your resistance to stress by reinforcing your physical health.
Exercise regularly – Exercise plays an essential role in minimising and avoiding the impacts of stress. Make time for a minimum of thirty minutes of exercise, three times weekly. Absolutely nothing beats aerobic workout for releasing pent-up stress and tension.
Eat a healthy diet – Well nourished bodies are better prepared to deal with stress than undernourished ones, so be mindful what you eat and drink. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Decrease caffeine and sugar – The temporary highs caffeine and sugar offer often end in with a crash in state of mind and energy. By minimising your intake of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar treats in your diet, you’ll feel more relaxed and you’ll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes and drugs – Self medication with alcohol or drugs may supply a simple escape from stress, however the relief is just short-term. Don’t avoid or mask the problem at hand; handle issues head on and with a clear mind instead.
Get enough sleep – Adequate sleep fuels your mind, in addition to your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress since it might cause you to think irrationally.
All in all, stress cannot be avoided but, you do have the power within you to avoid, alter, adjust or accept the circumstances or, your attitudes towards the stressful situations you find yourself in. Besides, isn’t that what being human is all about?