Managing stress - no matter the situation you’re in - is all about taking charge. Developing control over your thoughts, emotions, schedule, and environment is the ultimate goal. When you achieve this, you’ll enjoy a more balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun. You’ll also become unshakable during adversity, and will be able to meet change with a clear head and positive outlook.
Identify Sources of Stress In Your Life
Better coping with stress begins with identifying the sources of stress in your life. This may not be as easy as it sounds. Sources of stress aren’t always obvious, and it may be easy to overlook your own stress-inducing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Constantly worried about work deadlines? It could be that the workload is too great - or it could be that procrastination foiled you once again. Either way - the obstacle can be overcome if you are willing to...
...Be honest with yourself about your habits, attitudes, and excuses:
- Do you describe your stress as temporary (“I have too much going on right now”) even though you can’t remember when things felt less hectic?
- Do you describe your stress as typical for both work and home life (“This place is always a madhouse”) or as a part of your personality (“I’m just always anxious”)?
- Do you blame your stress on others, or do you feel it’s just normal?
The point? Unless you accept your share of responsibility for the stress in your life - whether in creating or maintaining it - your stress will always feel out of your control. And if you let it feel out of control, you’ll let it remain out of control.
But it doesn’t have to be that way! You CAN take charge of your stress, and by doing so, live a more fulfilling life. That’s why I’ve curated a list of activities you can start partaking in TODAY to start managing your stress levels in a healthier way.
Start A Journal
Writing in a journal can help you in numerous ways; from being more productive at work to eating better meals, to developing stronger relationships. It can also help you to identify and better manage the way you deal with stress in your life. Keeping a daily log will make it easier to see patterns and common themes. Once you’ve identified these patterns, you’re infinitely more capable of finding healthy ways to break free of them.
Avoid or Reduce Alcohol, Nicotine & Caffeine Consumption
Try not to overindulge in the consumption of alcohol, nicotine and highly caffeinated drinks. Because they are stimulants, both caffeine and nicotine actually increase your stress levels. This effect is only compounded when you’re physically addicted to them, as many people are - knowingly or unknowingly.
Alcohol may temporarily relieve stress when used in moderation, but taken to excess (which is ALL too easy to do), this powerful depressant is likely to add more stress to your life. The good news is that you can swap all of these drinks for good old fashioned h20, seltzers, teas or other good-for-your-body beverages!
Move. Your. Body.
Lack of physical activity can increase stress and may lead to the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. The solution? Get out of your office chair or off the couch and start moving. Studies show that as little as 30 minutes of physical activity each day can increase heart health, lower stress levels, improve your mood, and a whole host of other life-enriching benefits. Additionally, exercise will allow your body and mind to enter a calmer, more relaxed state.
Get More (And Better!) Sleep
When you are exhausted, you’re more susceptible to stress. As (bad) luck would have it, stress also interrupts our sleep cycle whether through racing thoughts or elevated fight-or-flight hormones coursing through our veins. That’s why getting a restful night of sleep is so important when reducing stress in your life! Try to set a bedtime routine for yourself - and stick to a schedule that works for you. Every person is different, so it’s important to create a schedule that you can stick to. Being perfect isn’t the goal: we’re all just trying to be better!
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Whether through meditation, breathing exercises, or self-hypnosis, there are a ton of relaxation techniques you can use to ward off stress in your life. Being mindful is the key here! You may find it difficult to relax when you’re focused on it at first - but have patience. As they say - practice makes perfect! Find a method that works for you, and stick with it for a few weeks. The results will speak for themselves.
We are all imperfect creatures running wild through a world just brimming with possible stressors. It’s entirely reasonable to succumb to them from time to time - in fact - I’d question whether you were human if you didn’t! But I hope that the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed at work or at home, you’ll think of this list and feel better prepared to rise above your current situation. Just remember that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Will you take your first one today?