Stress Management can be well explained if we know what is stress. We all know that change is inevitable. Our life is changing. Stress is the way our body responses to these changes.
Each person’s response is different to a situation, so is the stress experienced. Getting late at a party, Mr A will worry about the host’s complain. But Mr B thinks latecomers get extra attention. There are some common causes of stress that many people experience. But each person’s stress & counter steps are different.
WHY IS STRESS HARMFUL?
Historically, stress was a protective mechanism to humans. When used at right time, it increases our awareness & improves our physical performance. Stress was part of our evolutionary drive since it helped human survival. As soon you see an animal approaching you, it stresses you. Then you climb the tree. Humans, with time, could not cope up with repetitive exposure to stress making it harmful. Excessive stress can lead to long-lasting psychological, physical health issues. Suicides, (early age) Heart Attacks are often resulting from stress.
WHAT CAUSES STRESS?
Stressors are the main cause of stress. Any expected or unexpected change can be a stressor. But a specific situation may is “stressful” to one person and “challenging” to someone else. For example, A project with deadline & 90% quality assurance makes you stressful. If we continue burning the candle slowly at both ends until we reach physical and emotional exhaustion? Just like the candle itself – we burn out. Stress is inevitable. Burnout isn’t. Burnout is the accumulation of excessive stressors over time. It results in unmanageable stress levels. The process of burnout is often slow.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO MANAGE STRESS?
Stress disturbs your emotional & physical health. It may seem like there’s nothing you can do about stress. With high levels of stress, your entire well-being at risk. Your ability to think clearly, function effectively, and enjoy life narrows down. Stress causes or influences a majority of health problems. So, one must learn stress management technique to make it work for you rather than against you.
Stress management breaks the stress-hold on your life. You will be happier, healthier and more productive.
The ultimate goal of stress management is a balanced life. The balance between work, relationship, relaxation, fun & resilience to handle pressure. Stress management is not one-size-fits-all. Thus we must experiment and find out what works best for us. Life can be difficult sometimes, but there are ways you can relieve the stress and regain control.
HOW DO WE MANAGE STRESS?
We cannot be stress-free all the time. With stress management, we can aim at experiencing less stress.
As Nelson & Hurrell said:
Stress is inevitable, distress is not!
People can learn to manage stress and lead happier healthier lives.
Stress management is a set of techniques and programs intended to help people deal more effectively with stress in their lives by analyzing the specific stressors and taking positive actions to minimize their effects.
Put simply – Learning skills to cope with stressors can help reduce your experience of stress. Stress management is all about taking charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. Stress can be managed in many ways. The simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of managing stress. With a mix of various stress relievers that fits your need is key to stress management.
Here are 21 ways you can excel at Stress Management.
#1 How, Where & What?
First, you have to understand that, How Do you get stressed? Once you know, you can prepare & reach out for that fix.
Where does this stress come from? Work, Family, or it could be anything. Identify the source.
What does it look like? Recognize the signals of stress. Ask others about your behavioural change. Each person will have a different symptom. Observe and note.
Start a stress journal: A stress journal can help you identify the stressors and the way to 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 you’re unsure)?
>> How you felt, both physically and emotionally?
>> How you acted in response?
>> What you did to make yourself feel better?
#2 Stress Source
As easy as it may sound, pinpointing chronic stress is complicated. Major stressors are easy to identify. Our thoughts, feelings & behaviour contribute to everyday stress levels. Accept the responsibility of creating or maintaining stress. Else stress will always be outside your control.
#3 Eliminate Unnecessary Stress
From a list of stressors, only a few hold importance. Eliminate the other stress source. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer but less-travelled route. Cutting down such kind of stress can minimize overall stress load.
#4 Alter the Situation
We can alter most the stressful situations. Often by speaking up, listening attentively etc,. Don’t let that feeling bottle up, resentment will build & stress will increase. During exam time, if your chatty friend comes at your home, say up front that he has 5 minutes to talk.
#5 Adapt to the Stressor
For major stressor, adapt to situations. Regain your control by changing your expectations and attitude. View the situation from a positive perspective. Look at the big picture or in the long run. Will this matter in a month? A year? Is it worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere. Don’t be a perfectionist, adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Set reasonable standards or timelines for yourself. Adapt to be okay with ‘Good Enough”.
#6 Accept the things you can’t change
Accepting unavoidable stress may be difficult. But in long run, it will be easier than railing against the situation. Do not attempt to control the uncontrollable. You cannot control other people’s behavior or the death of loved ones. Rather than stressing out, focus on how to respond to the situation. If you made a mistake, that is causing the stress. Accept your mistake and learn from it.
#7 Personal Connect
Talking face-to-face about your problem brings down the stress to a manageable level. The listener cannot solve your problem. But the fact that he/she knows about my situation, brings down the stress.
Spend quality time with one who makes you feel safe & understands you. Building & maintaining a network of close friends can improve your resiliency to stressors. Sharing worries are making them half.
#8 Have Fun, Chill & Relax
Find that ‘ME” time and you’ll be in a better place to handle stress. Don’t get too caught up in managing life. Take up an everyday hobby. Polish your sense of humour & laugh at yourself. Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout. Try to find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities, and downtime.
#9 Distress Now, Like ‘NOW’ now!!
By experimenting, find that one or two activity that you need to do as soon as you feel stressed. Develop stress-relieving quick-fix habits. Bring them is acting as the situation arises. Few e.g., deep breathe, think of that happy moment, count 1-10. [P.s.: Watch Boman Irani’s character from Munna Bhai M.B.B.S, as anger triggers he fakes laughing].
#10 Be Assertive
Always be assertive instead of being aggressive. Assert your thought, opinions etc., Avoid becoming angry, defensive or passive. Be fair & firm while still having empathy for others when communicating. Learn to say ‘NO’ when you want to deny that request. If something or someone is bothering you, be more assertive and communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way.
#11 Reduce Noise
Find a quiet place for sometime in the day. Disconnect from technology for a while & all those urgent tasks become less important. [Here is my another blog on Phone-Life Balance]. Remember – recharging is the most effective way of tackling stress.
#12 Time Management
Organize tasks. By this means you will be able to complete the task on time, giving that positive sign to yourself. Give a reasonable timeline to each task. Apply this in both personal & professional life. BONUS: This will also improve your efficiency.
#13 Create Boundaries
Bound yourself with a set of rules, defining what kind of behaviour is acceptable or not. Healthy boundaries are important for stress-free life. This creates self-respect & we are clear in our communication. Know your limits and stick to them. Avoid people who stress you out. End those stressful relationships.
#14 Get Out of Your Head
Take a break from those racing thoughts. Distract yourself, divert to a hobby – paint, sing or dance. Dancing & Music are best stress-busters!
#15 Be Positive
It’s proven that positive imagery & affirmation increases positive emotion. By thinking of a positive experience, your brain perceives it to be a reality. So replace that ‘ I can’t have a car’ with ‘ I will have a car’.
#16 Diet and Exercise
Eat healthy, exercise 30 minutes a day. Making this simple change boost ‘feel-good’ feeling and kills stress. Alcohol, Caffeine, Sugar & Nicotine are ‘NOT’ stress-busters. A brisk walk for 20 mins, cycling etc during early morning will boost stress managing. GOOD NEWS- Dark Chocolate reduces stress hormones.
#17 Meditation and Physical Relaxation
Yoga, Meditation is now well accepted and practised stress management techniques. [Three Cheers to NaMo]. Practice deep breathing for Quick-Fix stress killer.
Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from stressful experiences. Resilient people accept that the situation has occurred. Then they learn from what transpired and move on. Engage in regular long-term healthy habits to promote resilience toward stressors.
A good amount of sleep is recharging & the best possible way to deal with stress. The amount may differ from person to person, but approx. 8 hours is what medical science recommends.
#20 Off-Load Yourself
Taking too many tasks that you could not complete can cause stress. So, depending on the priority of a task, cut some or take them to the bottom of the list. Or Find smarter ways to do them.
#21 Problem Handling
If a problem arises, Re-frame the problem. Break it down into smaller problems. If you feel stuck, get a break and try viewing the problem from another angle. Failing somewhere is not the end of life. You need to reattempt that or choose something else. Don’t let failure make you overthink about what went wrong, or what did you missed.
Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same. If you both are willing to bend at least a little, you’ll have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
The warning signs are out there – the headaches, stomach knots and racing thoughts. They’re all asking us to take action. The good news is that we can. All we need to do is listen and respond using a realistic stress management plan adapted from the extensive list above.
It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.