We may not be able to control stress, but we can manage it. Stress management starts with recognizing the sources of stress in your life. While it sounds simple, it’s sometimes not because your true origin of stress is not always staring you in the face. It can be a complete mystery, and it’s all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, behavior and feelings. As an example, you may know that you’re constantly worried about deadlines and to-do lists, but maybe it’s your procrastination, rather than the actual act of doing it, that is the source of your stress. Below are some techniques to manage stress so you’re feel better and more relaxed:
Journaling can help you recognize the stressors in your life and the ways you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. You will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down what caused your stress, how you felt, how you responded and what you did to relieve it. If your methods of coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it’s time to find healthier ones.
Keep a positive attitude, rather than defaulting to negatives. Examples of general negative thoughts include saying to yourself, “I’ll never get ahead; bad things always happen to me; I’ll never be in a committed relationship.” Instead, give yourself positive messages like, “I’m doing the best that I can do; I’m a good and worthy person; people in my life love me.” You’d be surprised what these small affirmations will do to the betterment of your psyche. Additionally, accept that there are events that you cannot control, and roll with them. They are not your fault. Only take responsibility for what you can control, and have the courage to take care of your responsibilities for those events.
Avoid people who create anxiety and stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely. This could even be certain family members, or worse, your spouse. There are ways to improve relationships, but if these have no future for improving, it’s better to eliminate them than for them to destroy your health. After all, health is everything. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative effects of stress.
What we think we have to get done in a given day is a whole lot different than what actually needs to get done. Some of us “Type-A-ers” and “over-achievers” think that the more we cram into a work day, the more successful we will be. Not true. Those who take time to think, breath and relax will actually accomplish more meaningful goals in life versus those who are running like a chicken with their head cut off. Reduce your to-do list. Analyze your daily tasks, schedule and responsibilities. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Eliminate tasks that aren’t truly necessary. Give yourself time to get things done; set your watch so you have more time to prepare for an event. Take 15-20 minutes every day to sit quietly and reflect. Learn and practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga.
Don’t give into stress. Exercising and eating right make huge differences in stress management , and your body can fight stress better when it is fit. Avoid alcohol, recreational drugs and don’t smoke. Also, get enough rest and good quality sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events, and good sleep releases important hormones in your body that repair muscles and tissues, and reduce the stress hormone, Cortisol.
We weren’t put on this earth to just manage life. We’re here to enjoy all that life gives us. Do things that are pleasurable, like reading or gardening. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be bird-watching, playing the guitar or working on your car. Also, have a sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in many ways.
Since everyone has a unique response to stress, there is no “cure-all” solution to managing it. No single method works for everyone or in every situation, so experiment with different techniques and strategies. Focus on what makes you feel calm and in control. If your strategies for coping with stress aren’t contributing to your greater physical and emotional health, it’s time to find healthier ones. There are many healthy ways to manage stress, but they all require change. You can either change the situation or change your reaction. Either way, work towards recognizing stress, where it’s coming from, and work to eliminate it with the myriad of tools available to you to do so.
David Novak is a international syndicated newspaper columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV around the world. His byline has appeared in GQ, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, USA Today, among others, and he has appeared on The Today Show, the CBS Morning Show and Paul Harvey Radio. David is a specialist at consumer technology, health and fitness, and he also owns a PR firm and a consulting company where he and his staff focus on these industries. He is a regular contributing editor for Healthline.com. For more information, visit here.