Suffering from stress can be an almighty strain on ourselves both mentally and physically. It depletes a person’s quality of life and affects those around them. In a world where we are told to have it all, no one necessarily tells us how to cope with it. Stress can come from many sources whether it’s feeling too much pressure, experiencing a sudden loss or gain and not knowing how to deal with it, a change in circumstances or just generated from general anxiety disorders. How people deal with stress is very individual but the main symptoms are usually sickness, fatigue, mood swings and, if prolonged, can develop into forms of depression.
Stress management is really important to keep these feelings in check. You may not fully get rid of it but there are definitely ways to relieve stress and keep it under a certain control. What type of coping strategies you use are crucial as what you may think are healthy ways to relieve stress are unhealthy in the long run. Turning to excessive drink, recreational drugs and prescription drugs are obviously going to be detrimental to your overall health but things like sleeping too much, watching TV for excessive periods, projecting your stress onto others by lashing out are all common actions we take when suffering from stress. However, when dealing with stress we need to be proactive in fighting it rather than letting it take over.
Stage 1: Identifying the Cause of Your Stress
Stress can be so common that people can live their lives accepting it – they feel it so often that it’s just become a part of their life and they are unable to know how to cope with it. This is when the unhealthy coping strategies like drinking too much or constantly taking it out on other people can come into play. It’s common to stress over many things but it’s key to keep your anxiety focused on real, immediate issues, and tune out imagined ones or those over which you have zero control. This will automatically reduce stress overload. It’s really important to first of all admit that you are feeling stressed and then identifying the cause. It’s only in this space that a person can start to develop a management strategy to help overcome the stress in their lives.
- Write Down What Your Cause Of Stress Is
Your reasons for feeling stressed may be obvious or they could be disguised in some way. Writing things down helps you clarify what is causing you the stress in your life – even the less obvious ones. One cause of stress can transcend into many causes so it’s important to find the main culprit and then you can start to think about how to deal with it.
- Plan and Organise Your Day-to-Day Life
The key to fighting stress is structure. When we’re stressed our mind can be a jumble of thoughts which then mirrors other areas of our life. Creating a plan of the day can allow your mind to cope better with the tasks you need to do. Whether at work or home make a rough schedule of what you want to achieve for that day. Remember to make it open and flexible so as to not add to any current stress.
- Preparation Is Key
Feeling unprepared can add to existing stress. The beginning and end of the day are key times to get prepared and control possible causes of stress. A good morning routine will set you up for a positive day. Even getting up 15 minutes earlier will help lessen any unnecessary rushing around and give you more time to organise yourself. At the end of the evening clear up anything that needs finishing so your mind is at ease for the following day.
Stage 2: Relaxation Techniques For Stress Relief
Trying to relax is hard when you suffer from stress. It’s often difficult to stay still while the source of stress is still very much at the forefront of your mind. This is why some people turn to binge-watching TV shows or movies because they think this is a good way to unwind and relax. But often, this is having the opposite effect as the mind will wonder back to stressful thoughts almost straight away. Research has shown that people tend to feel worse after watching a big bout of TV as it promotes feelings of failure and procrastination. There are much more positive relaxation techniques that will help against feelings of stress.
- Mindfulness Techniques
Mediation is a great way to manage anxiety. There is a huge amount of research that indicates that practising mindfulness and mediation can reduce stress immensely – not only for your mind but also for your body. Reduced stress through meditation results in lower blood pressure which will lessen chances of heart attacks and other stress-related problems.
- Breathing Techniques
Also related to mediation, taking long deep breathes can really help boost the amount of oxygen that the brain receives. Typically someone suffering from stress will have shorter, sharper breathes and this disrupts the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in the body. When you feel particularly stressed, stop and sit down for a few minutes and just concentrate on your breathing. Feel your body relaxing and the muscles losing tension – using this technique several times during the day can help with symptoms of anxiety and clear your head.
- Doing What Makes You Happy
This can come in many forms from involving yourself in a hobby you enjoy, making plans with friends to planning a long weekend away. The aim here is to switch off and have fun. Often when we’re stressed, we forget to do the things that we enjoy, which can subtly add more stress to our lives. Being around people that you love and trust can really help lower stress levels, promoting the experience of safety and connection. Avoiding people who are known to stress you out will be beneficial.
Stage 3: A Healthy Lifestyle For Stress Relief
When it comes to stress management nothing does the job better than exercise and diet. Keeping your body healthy will transcend through to your mind. Endorphins are magical when it comes to stress and when released through exercise, they can combat stress fast and effectively. Eating a healthy diet also contributes to stress relief as eating the right foods feeds the mind as well as the body. Finding an all-round healthy routine will help you on your way to down-sizing the stress in your life.
- Establishing An Exercise Routine
Exercise should be a priority. It’s important to pick something that you enjoy and you feel you can stick to. Running on a regular basis is especially known to help reduce anxiety, stress and depression but any cardiovascular activity will act as a stress eliminator. Not only will regular exercise make you more relaxed but it will allow you to sleep better. Try exercising with other people as this will encourage you to keep a routine.
- Adopting A Healthy Diet
Eating healthily is a must because a well-nourished body is more prepared to cope with stress. Being mindful of what you’re eating is important as it can be easy to over-eat on the wrong foods when feeling overly stressed. Starting the day with a nutritious breakfast and eating regular healthy meals throughout the day will stop any stressed-induced cravings. Caffeine and sugar can be a hinderance. If you suffer from tiredness and fatigue it is tempting to drink coffee or energy drinks to lift you up but it will often end in a crash affecting your mood attracting further stress. Reducing your caffeine and sugar intake will help level out your body’s reaction to stressful situations.
- Creating A Good Sleep Pattern
Since sleep is crucial for daily functioning, any disruption can affect our level of stress which, in turn, can stop us from getting a good night’s sleep. When we fall into this trap it can become routine and our mind and body can start feeling the effects. It’s easy to sleep too much and at irregular times which disrupts our ability to get our 8 hours of sleep a night. Make sure you stick to a good schedule and go to bed at a reasonable hour avoiding any stimulants. If you find it hard to fall asleep try more of the breathing and mindful techniques mentioned earlier – they will help to calm your mind if it’s being over-active.
Stage 4: Changing Your Perspective Towards Stress
For some people stress has become a habit or our natural reactions to stress never change. Sometimes a change in perspective can help overcome stress more easily. Stress starts in the mind and it’s how we react to it that can determine how prolonged it will be. Shifting your mindset on a problem that’s causing you stress can relieve you of the worry and anxiety it creates.
- Look At The Bigger Picture
Try to see the bigger picture when it comes to a stressful situation. Ask yourself if it’s really worth getting upset over. Will you still care in a month or a year down the line? How important is this situation for it to cause you this stress?
- View Your Problem In A Different Way
If you find yourself getting stressed then try to think of the problem in a different way. Can you benefit from the situation somehow? For example if you find your commute to work long and tiresome, try to see as it as an opportunity to listen to your favourite music or read that book. Changing the way you perceive your situation to find some benefit to it will diffuse the stress you create around it.
- Understand That You Can’t Control Everything
Trying to control a situation and failing will cause you to feel helpless and more stressed. It’s important to understand that you can’t control everything especially other people. Therefore, try to focus on the things you can control like the way you react to situations and other people’s actions. Our mindset is very powerful so make sure you try to shift it to a more positive perspective and you’ll reap the benefits of a less-stressed life.
Featured photo credit: Mislav Marohnic via flickr.com