Stress is everywhere, and it can have profound effects on your physical and emotional health. The Mayo Clinic says stress can cause everything, from headaches and chest pain to anxiety and depression.
With such serious potential consequences for your mind and body from stress, it’s incredibly important to get yours under control, and that’s where stress management comes in. Managing stress is all about taking control of things like your emotions, thoughts, and lifestyle and how you handle problems.
No matter how much stress you feel like you’re under, you can take steps to help relieve the pressure and get back into the driver’s seat when it comes to your life. Try the following eight tips for taming stress to breathe a little easier today!
Create A Stress Journal
While there is no one size fits all approach to managing stress, you can start by identifying what is regularly causing you stress in your life. Every time you feel stressed, keep a record of it in your journal. As you keep doing it, you’ll see common themes and patterns emerge.
In Your Journal, Include:
• What you think caused your feelings of stress
• How you felt emotionally and physically
• What actions you took in response
• What you did to feel better
Your journal will help you find causes of everyday stress, which are often easier to overlook than big sources, such as losing a relative or getting a new job. You can find true sources of stress by keeping up on your log and looking more closely at your excuses, habits and attitude.
Ask yourself if you explain away stress by saying it’s only temporary, even though it never seems to let up. Look at stress in your life; do you look at it as part of your personality or life? Do you view it as normal or blame it on outside events or other people?
Until you can accept your responsibility in maintaining or keeping stress, you won’t be able to control it.
Identify The Unhealthy Ways You Cope With Stress
You may already be using coping methods to temporarily lower stress, but they can cause more problems over time. These include:
• Drinking in excess
• Overeating comfort or junk food
• Spending hours at the computer or watching TV
• Isolating yourself from family, friends and activities
• Using drugs to relax
• Sleeping a lot
• Putting things off
• Filling up your day so you don’t have to face problems
• Taking stress out on others, such as lashing out
Figure out what you’re doing to cope with stress right now that’s unhealthy. Knowing these behaviors can help you work toward stopping them and let you know when your stress levels are high.
Develop Healthy Stress-Coping Methods
When your current stress-coping methods aren’t doing anything for your overall physical and emotional health, it’s time to find some healthier ones. There are a lot of methods out there, so experiment and try the different strategies and techniques so you can figure out what works best for you in any given situation.
One method you can try is to get yourself moving. Physical activity can prevent and help reduce stress, and that’s with almost any form of movement. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to get the stress-busting benefits of movement.
For example, just placing music and dancing in your room, taking your dog out for a walk or playing outdoors games all work. Your best bet is to make exercise a regular part of your daily routine for at least 30 minutes a day. Not only will your levels of stress decrease, but you’ll also feel better!
Reach out to other people and build some relationships to help manage stress. Social engagement, from connecting with a work colleague to volunteer work or meeting new people, can really help you ground yourself and feel safe, which is crucial in controlling stress.
Don’t forget to regularly connect with loved ones, too, as the people you talk to don’t have to fix your troubles; you just need a good listener sometimes.
Avoid Stress You Don’t Need
Some stress is actually avoidable, and this is where your journal comes in handy. Look at your predictable stressors, like your commute to your job or family gatherings. When you’re dealing with those situations that you know stress you out, you can work to change the situation or response to it. Start by learning when you should say “no” and avoiding those who do nothing but add more stress to your life.
Changing your response can be more challenging than avoiding stressors entirely, but it is possible. Express how you feel instead of keeping those emotions inside, and let people know when they are bothering you, in a respectful and open way. Work on managing your time better, as poor time management can cause a lot of unnecessary stress.
Adapt To Your Stressors
How you think about things can deeply impact your stress levels. When you have a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it’s in a situation filled with tension. Regain your sense of some control by changing your attitude to and expectations of stressful scenarios.
Reframe your problems by viewing a stressful situation more positively. For example, if you’re stuck in a traffic jam, think of it as a chance to regroup, listen to more of that audiobook or hear some songs on the radio.
Look at the big picture more often. What does this stressful situation really mean in the long run? Will it matter in a few weeks or months? If not, don’t get upset over it. Focus your time and energy on something else.
Last but not least, work on your standards. Trying to be perfect all the time just adds stress and sets you up for failure. Have reasonable standards for yourself and other people, and learn to accept just “okay” sometimes.
Accept What Isn’t Changeable
Some sources of stress just aren’t avoidable. You can’t stop the death of your loved one, an illness or economic turmoil. In those cases, you can handle your stress by accepting some things as how they are. Stop trying to control things that just aren’t controllable, like the behavior of other people and natural acts. Focus on what you can control, which includes your reaction to these problems.
Take Some Time To Relax
If you regularly make some time for relaxation and fun, you’ll find yourself less stressed out overall. This can be as simple as taking a daily walk in a park you enjoy, calling a close friend, playing with your pet or watching a comedy. Taking care of yourself isn’t a luxury; it’s a necessity, so make sure you give yourself time to recharge, rest and relax.
Get Healthier All The Way Around
Regular exercise is great, but you can make other lifestyle choices to help prevent stress, too. Eat a healthier diet, reduce sugar and caffeine, get enough sleep and lay off the drugs, alcohol and cigarettes.