Hello Lybrate User.
We all respond to stress differently so, thereâs no âone size fits allâ solution to managing stress. But if you feel like the stress in your life is out of control, itâs time to take action.
Identify the sources of stress in your life
Learn healthier ways to cope with stress
Connect to others
Practice the 4 Aâs
Make time for fun and relaxation
Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle
Tip 1: Identify the sources of stress in your life
Itâs easy to identify sources of stress following a major life event such as changing jobs, moving home, or losing a loved one, but pinpointing the sources of everyday stress can be more complicated. Itâs all too easy to overlook your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that contribute to your stress levels. Sure, you may know that youâre constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe itâs your procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress.
To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
Do you explain away stress as temporary (âI just have a million things going on right nowâ) even though you canât remember the last time you took a breather?
Do you define stress as an integral part of your work or home life (âThings are always crazy around hereâ) or as a part of your personality (âI have a lot of nervous energy, thatâs allâ)?
Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events, or view it as entirely normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining it, your stress level will remain outside your control.
Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Each time you feel stressed, keep track of it in your journal. As you keep a daily log, you will begin to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
What caused your stress (make a guess if youâre unsure)
How you felt, both physically and emotionally
How you acted in response
What you did to make yourself feel better
Tip 2: Learn healthier ways to cope with stress
Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Your stress journal can help you identify them. Are your coping strategies healthy or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately, many people cope with stress in ways that compound the problem.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
These coping strategies may temporarily reduce stress, but they cause more damage in the long run:
Smoking Using pills or drugs to relax
Drinking too much Sleeping too much
Bingeing on junk or comfort food Procrastinating
Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities Taking out your stress on others
If your methods of coping with stress arenât contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, itâs time to find healthier ones. 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.
Tip 3: Get moving
Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress, but you donât have to be an athlete or spend hours in a gym to experience the benefits. Just about any form of physical activity can help relieve stress and burn away anger, tension, and frustration. Exercise releases endorphins that boost your mood and make you feel good, and it can also serve as a valuable distraction to your daily worries.
While the maximum benefit comes from exercising for 30 minutes or more, you can start small and build up your fitness level gradually. Short, 10-minute bursts of activity that elevate your heart rate and make you break out into a sweat can help to relieve stress and give you more energy and optimism. Even very small activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving. Here are some easy ways:
Put on some music and dance around
Take your dog for a walk
Walk or cycle to the grocery store
Use the stairs at home or work rather than an elevator
Park your car in the farthest spot in the lot and walk the rest of the way
Pair up with an exercise partner and encourage each other as you workout
Play ping-pong or an activity-based video game with your kids
Managing stress with regular exercise
Once youâre in the habit of being physically active, try to incorporate regular exercise into your daily schedule. Activities that are continuous and rhythmicâand require moving both your arms and your legsâare especially effective at relieving stress. Walking, running, swimming, dancing, cycling, tai chi, and aerobic classes are good choices.
Pick an activity you enjoy, so youâre more likely to stick with it. Instead of continuing to focus on your thoughts while you exercise, make a conscious effort to focus on your body and the physical (and sometimes emotional) sensations you experience as youâre moving. Adding this mindfulness element to your exercise routine will help you break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that often accompanies overwhelming stress. Focus on coordinating your breathing with your movements, for example, or notice how the air or sunlight feels on your skin. Getting out of your head and paying attention to how your body feels is also the surest way to avoid picking up an injury.
When youâve exercised, youâll likely find it easier to put other stress management techniques to use, including reaching out to others and engaging socially.
Tip 4: Connect to others
Social engagement is the quickest, most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external events that you perceive as threatening. Expressing what youâre going through can be very cathartic, even if thereâs nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. There is nothing more calming to your nervous system than communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. This experience of safetyâas perceived by your nervous systemâresults from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.
The inner ear, face, heart, and stomach are wired together in the brain, so socially interacting with another person face-to-faceâmaking eye contact, listening in an attentive way, talkingâcan quickly calm you down and put the brakes on defensive stress responses like âfight-or-flight.â It can also release hormones that reduce stress, even if youâre unable to alter the stressful situation itself. Of course, itâs not always realistic to have a pal close by to lean on when you feel overwhelmed by stress, but by building and maintaining a network of close friends you can improve your resiliency to lifeâs stressors. On the flip side, the more lonely and isolated you are, the greater your vulnerability to stress.
Reach out to family and friends and connect regularly in person. The people you talk to donât have to be able to fix your stress; they just need to be good listeners. Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it wonât make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond. And remember, itâs never too late to build new friendships and improve your support network.
Reach out and build relationships
Reach out to a colleague at work
Help someone else by volunteering
Have lunch or coffee with a friend
Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly
Accompany someone to the movies or a concert
Call or email an old friend
Go for a walk with a workout buddy
Schedule a weekly dinner date
Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club
Confide in a clergy member, teacher, or sports coach
Tip 5: Practice the 4 Aâs
While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable timesâyour commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, itâs helpful to think of the four A's: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Avoid unnecessary stress
Itâs not healthy to avoid a stressful situation that needs to be addressed, but you may be surprised by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say ânoâ â Know your limits and stick to them. Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a surefire recipe for stress. Distinguish between the âshouldsâ and the âmustsâ and, when possible, say ânoâ to taking on too much.
Avoid people who stress you out â If someone consistently causes stress in your life, limit the amount of time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.
Take control of your environment â If the evening news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.
Alter the situation
If you canât avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life.
Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If youâve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk. If you donât voice your feelings, resentment will build and the stress will increase.
Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, youâll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. But if you plan ahead and make sure you donât overextend yourself, youâll find it easier to stay calm and focused.
Be more assertive. Donât take a backseat in your own life. Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If youâve got an exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say up front that you only have five minutes to talk.
Adapt to the stressor
How you think can have a profound effect on your stress levels. Each time you think a negative thought about yourself, your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled situation. Regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude to stressful situations.
Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.
Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with âgood enough.â
Accept the things you canât change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You canât prevent or change stressors such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, itâs easier than railing against a situation you canât change.
Donât try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our controlâparticularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Look for the upside. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
Practice gratitude. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
Tip 6: Make time for fun and relaxation
Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by carving out âmeâ time. Donât get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, youâll be in a better place to handle lifeâs stressors.
Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Donât allow other obligations to encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing, playing the piano, or working on your bike.
Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress in a number of ways
Tip 7: Maintain balance with a healthy lifestyle
In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.
Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your day right with breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day.
Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary "highs" caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar snacks in your diet, youâll feel more relaxed and youâll sleep better.
Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Donât avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress because it may cause you to think irrationally.