The simple realization that you are in control of your life is the foundation of stress management. Managing stress is all about taking charge, of your thoughts, emotions, schedule and the way you deal with problems.
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This is not as easy as it sounds. The source of stress may not be always obvious, and its very easy to overlook your stress inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. To identify your true sources of stress, you need to look closely at habits, attitude and excuses. Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
This can help identify regular stressors in your life and how you currently deal with them.
- What caused your stress
- How you felt, physically and emotionally
- How you reacted in response
- What did you do you make yourself feel better
- Drinking excessively
- Using drugs to relax
- Zoning out in front of TV
- Withdrawing from friends, family, activities
- Filling your day so that you are too busy to deal with the situation
- Lashing out , angry outbursts, physical violence
There are many healthy ways of managing and relieving stress, but the ALL require CHANGE. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option is best, it is helpful to think of the 4 As. Avoid, alter, adapt or accept. Since everyone has an unique response to stress, there is no one correct way of managing it.
- Change the situation
- Avoid the stressor
- Alter the stressor
- Change your reaction
- Adapt to the stressor
- Accept the stressor
- Learning to say NO and stick to it. Taking on more than you can handle is a sure fire way of getting stressed
- Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently stresses you out, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship
- Take control of the environment. If its traffic that stresses you, either go a longer but less travelled way, or if its an unpleasant shopping experience, go online to do the shopping.
- Avoid topics that trigger stress – religion, politics can cause stress in conversation, so try eliminate those subjects or the people that stress you out in relation to those things.
- To do list – distinguish between ‘should’ and ‘must’. Drop tasks that are not truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them.
ALTER THE SITUATION
If you cant avoid a stressful situation, try altering it. Try figure out what you can do or change the situation . Often this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in daily life.
- Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If someone or something is bothering you, communicate your concerns in a respectful and open way. If you don’t voice your concerns, resentment will build and the situation with remain the same or become more toxic.
- Be willing to compromise. If you ask someone to change their behaviour, you have to be willing to change your own.
- Be more assertive, deal with problems head on, doing to best to anticipate and prevent them.
- Manage your time better. As poor time management can cause stress,. Its hard to stay calm and focused if things are getting on top of you.plan ahead and make sure you don’t over extend yourself.
ADAPT THE STRESSOR
- If you cant change the stressor, change yourself. You can regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitudes.
- Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective e.g. If you stuck in traffic, instead of getting angry, put on some relaxing music and treat it as time out.
- Look at the big picture. How important will it be in the long run. Will the situation matter in a month, a year. Is it really worth getting so upset over.
- Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards and learn to be OK with ‘good enough’
- Focus on the positive. Take a moment to reflect on all the things that you can appreciate in your life, including your own life. Every time you think a negative thought, you body reacts to it . If you see good things about yourself you are more likely to feel good. Change the words you use, such as should, never, must. These are tell tale mask of self defeating thought.
ACCEPT THE THINGS YOU CANT CHANGE
Some sources of stress are unavoidable, eg: death in the family, marriage breakdown, financial strain.
DON’T TRY TO CONTROL THE UNCONTROLLABLE
- Many things in life are beyond our control, particularly the behavior of other people. Instead of stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
- Try to look at major challenges as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to the situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
- Share your feelings, talk to someone you can trust face to face or see a therapist. The simple act of expressing what you are experiencing can be very cathartic, even if you cant change the situation . Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it wont make you a burden to others.
- Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments as you are only hurting yourself. Free yourself from negative energy on forgiving and moving on.
MAKE TIME FOR FUN AND RELAXATION
Beyond a take charge approach and positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. Make time for fun and relax, and your mental attitude and energy will improve and help you be positive about stressful situations and your ability to cope with them.
- Spend time in nature
- Call a good friend
- Go to gym and work stress off
- Write in a journal
- Soak in a warm bath
- Light candles
- Listen to music
- Get a massage
- Play with a pet
- Read a book
- Nurturing yourself is an necessity, not a luxury
ADAPT A HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
- Exercise regularly
- Eat healthily
- Reduce caffeine and sugar
- Avoid alcohol , cigarettes, and drugs
- Get enough sleep
In looking at the causes of stress, your brain becomes hard wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals to your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel you capacity for a response. This is called the Flight or Fight response. Once the threat is gone your body is meant to return to a normal relaxed state. However, the non stop stress of modern life means that your alarm system rarely switches off.
Stress management gives you a range of tools to reset your alarm system. Without these tools, your body is on constant alert. Long term high levels of stress lead to a variety of serious health problems. Stress management techniques are taught to bring about balance and harmony and control to your life.
- Identify your stress triggers
- What causes you the most stress
Positive changes as well as negative situations can also be stressful, eg: marriage, new job, deep breathing, massage, tai chi, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, healthy diet, sleep, exercise.