Everyone is subject to stress. It can sometimes help you focus and complete the task at hand. However, it can strain your body and make it impossible to function when it is frequent and intense. Finding effective ways to manage stress is critical to living a healthy life.
How Stress Affects You
Stress has an impact on your entire body, both mentally and physically. The following are some examples of common symptoms:
- Trouble sleeping
- Jaw pain
- Changes in appetite
- Frequent mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed
When you are stressed for an extended period of time, your brain is exposed to higher levels of a hormone called cortisol. This exposure weakens your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
Stress can aggravate the symptoms of your mental illness. In schizophrenia, for example, it can promote hallucinations and delusions, whereas in bipolar disorder, it can precipitate episodes of both mania and depression. The first step in coping with this very common experience is to understand what situations cause it.
When people are at their most vulnerable to stress, they are:
- Not getting enough sleep
- Not having a network of support
- Experiencing a major life change such as moving, the death of a loved one, starting a new job, having a child or getting married
- Experiencing poor physical health
- Not eating well
Everyone has a different cutoff point. Certain things that irritate you may not even raise the brow of one of your friends. Some people are affected by large crowds and noisy environments, whereas others are affected by silence and free time.
If you are under a lot of stress, you are jeopardizing your entire well-being. Stress disrupts both your emotional equilibrium and your physical health. It limits your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and have fun in life. There may appear to be nothing you can do about stress. The bills will never stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family obligations will always be demanding. But you have a lot more power than you think.
Effective stress management assists you in breaking the grip that stress has on your life, allowing you to be happier, healthier, and more productive. The ultimate goal is to live a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun—as well as the resilience to cope under pressure and face challenges head on. However, stress management is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That is why it is critical to experiment and discover what works best for you. The following stress management tips can assist you in doing so.
The 4 A’s
You can, believe it or not, simply avoid a lot of stress. Prepare ahead of time, rearrange your surroundings, and enjoy the benefits of a lighter load.
- Take command of your environment. Is the traffic out of control? Leave for work early or take a longer, less traveled route. Do you despise standing in line at the corporate cafeteria? Pack a lunch that you can eat at your desk or in a break room.
- Avoid people who irritate you. Put some physical distance between you and a coworker who causes your jaw to tense. Attend meetings from a distance or walk around his or her cubicle, even if it means taking a few extra steps.
- Learn to say no. You have a lot of responsibilities and time demands. You cross the line between being charitable and being foolish at some point. Refuse to participate in the neighborhood sports league. Coaching T-ball is out. Those around you will appreciate spending more time with you when you are relaxed. You’ll also have time to enjoy them.
- Ditch part of your list. Label your to-do list with A’s, B’s, and C’s based on priority. On busy days, cross the C’s off your list.
Some issues, however, cannot be avoided. In those cases, try a different technique.
Taking inventory and then attempting to change your situation for the better is one of the most beneficial things you can do during times of stress.
- Request that others change their behavior in a respectful manner. And be willing to reciprocate. Small problems, if left unresolved, frequently lead to larger ones. If you’re sick of being the target of a friend’s jokes at parties, request that he or she leave you out of the comedy routine. In exchange, be willing to laugh at his or her other jokes and thank him or her for making you laugh.
- Express your emotions openly. Remember to use “I” statements, as in, “I feel frustrated by shorter deadlines and a heavier workload. Is there something we can do to balance things out?”
- Improve your time management. Group similar tasks together — group phone calls, car errands, and computer-related tasks. Extra time will be the reward for increased efficiency.
- Set limits ahead of time. Instead of wallowing in a coworker’s constant chatter, politely begin the conversation with, “I’ve only got five minutes to cover this.”
We may have no choice but to accept things as they are at times. During those times, try to:
- Speak with someone. You may be powerless to change a bad situation, but that doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid. Call or arrange a coffee break with a sympathetic friend. You might feel better after you talk it out.
- Forgive. Being angry requires a lot of energy. Forgiving may take practice, but it will save you from burning more negative energy. Why sulk in your rage when you can simply shrug and move on?
- Use positive self-talk. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to lose your objectivity. One negative thought can trigger another, and before you know it, you’ve created a mental avalanche. Maintain a positive attitude. Rather than thinking, “”I’m terrible with money, and I’ll never be able to control my finances,” try this: “I made a financial mistake, but I’m resilient.” I’m sure I’ll get through it.”
- Learn from your mistakes. Recognizing a “teachable moment” has value. You can’t change the fact that procrastination hurt your performance, but you can plan ahead of time to make sure you have more time in the future.
One of the most significant stressors is the belief that you cannot cope. That is why adapting — which frequently entails changing your standards or expectations — can be extremely beneficial in dealing with stress.
- Adjust your standards. Is it necessary to vacuum and dust twice a week? Is macaroni and cheese an acceptable substitute for homemade lasagna? If you redefine success and stop striving for perfection, you may be able to function with less guilt and frustration.
- Experiment with thought-stopping. Put a stop to your pessimistic thoughts right now. Refusing to replay a stressful situation as negative may cause it to stop being negative.
- Reframe the problem. Consider looking at your situation from a different angle. Instead of being frustrated because you’re stuck at home with a sick child, see it as an opportunity to bond, relax, and finish a load of laundry.
- Make a mantra for yourself. Create a phrase like “I can handle this,” and mentally repeat it in difficult situations.
- Make a column for assets. Consider all of the things in life that bring you joy, such as vacations, children, and pets. Then, when you’re stressed, call on that list. It will put things into perspective and serve as a reminder of the good things in life.
- Consider the big picture. “Will this matter in a year or in five years?” ask yourself. Frequently, the answer is no. Recognizing this makes a stressful situation appear less daunting.
Finding the best stress relief strategies may require some trial and error. Some strategies may also involve practice. However, it is critical to continue looking for tools that will assist you in managing life’s inevitable ups and downs in a healthy manner. Maintaining a manageable level of stress is essential for your overall well-being.