Feeling stressed out? Learn how to effectively recognize and deal with stress using these critical keys of stress management.
What causes stress?
Stress is often defined as the inability to cope with a perceived threat (real or imagined). We feel that a particular situation may have a negative impact on our mental, emotional, physical or spiritual well-being.
Some things that can cause stress include financial, marital, work or health-related issues.
We all have different ways of coping with situations or change, so each person will feel stress differently.
Much of the stress we feel is based on our own perception of a situation, not necessarily the reality of what is actually happening. It’s commonly the fear of what could happen that gets us stressed out, not what is actually happening.
And guess what???? Even fun things can cause stress.
Is stress always bad?
A little stress can actually be a good thing. During a physical competition, stress might push you to perform better. If you’re facing a deadline, stress can help you push through to get more accomplished.
When a little stress increases to the point where it starts to affect you emotionally or physically, you know it’s time to stake some steps to get it under control.
What are some signs of stress?
- Feeling tired or down
- Trouble concentrating
- Feeling angry or edgy
- Headaches or stomach aches
- Trouble sleeping
- Laughing or crying for no apparent reason
- Social withdrawal/wanting to be alone
- Tense muscles
- Inability to see the positive in any situation
- Not enjoying activities you used to
- Feeling overwhelmed
Some of these stress symptoms can also be signs of depression. If you exhibit these symptoms for an extended period of time or feel like your stress is more than you can cope with, please seek professional assistance.
Your body’s reaction to stress.
The human machine really is an amazing thing! Your body has some built-in ways of dealing with stress. Here are a few ways that your body deals with stress, which also happen to be good indicators that you are stressed out:
- “knots” in your stomach
- sweaty palms
- dry mouth and/or lips
- shaky feeling
When your body gets hit by stress it can make you feel like you are getting sick for no apparent reason. To quickly shake that feeling just try taking a few deep breaths and telling yourself everything is going to be okay.
If that doesn’t work, try a simple meditation, do some yoga, or take a walk outside. Getting some fresh air and a change of scenery can do wonders towards giving you a fresh outlook and a change of heart.
Ways to reduce stress.
It can be helpful to find ways to manage, decrease or even prevent stressful incidents. But since stress really is unavoidable, it’s even more important to learn how to manage the way that we react to stress.
1. Time Management
It sometimes seems that learning and practicing good time management would lead to an increase in stress. All those calendars and lists and spreadsheets…. But if you do it right, good time management practices will actually lead to a reduction in your stress levels. Knowing where your time is going and what you have coming up next can greatly reduce task-caused stress.
Here are a few things you can do to step up your time management.
- Get a day planner, preferably a printed planner. Carry it with you so you have something tactile to keep track of your time, tasks and goals.
- Track your time. Keep a record of where your time goes each day. Using 15 minutes increments, just keep track of where you spend your time throughout the day. Be sure to track not just time spent working, but preparing and eating food, commuting, watching tv and reading.
- Make a list of all the things you need to do, and then prioritize them. Rate them by importance and urgency, and move those that really don’t matter to the bottom of the list or to a separate list entirely. Focus your time on those that are meaningful and important to you.
- Don’t overcommit: learn to say no. If it isn’t important to you or won’t make a difference, pass on it!
- Re-examine your values and beliefs. Make sure that the work you are doing is in line with what is important to you.
2. Coping Strategies
Coping strategies define the way you identify and deal with stress. The best way to identify and develop good coping strategies is to keep track of each stressful situation. Maybe use the day planner we just talked about.
Record each situation that makes you feel stressed. Identify the situation, your reaction to it, and what the eventual outcome was. Chances are pretty good that the things that stress you the most turn out to be not that big a deal when you get through them.
Once you know what stresses you and how you handle it, you can work to enhance those strategies to make stress more positive.
Some lifestyle choices greatly affect your stress levels. Things such as spending too much time at work, overeating and being a couch potato might not directly stress you, but they do interfere with the way your body and your mind deal with stress when it comes your way.
Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help deal with stress.
- Define and commit to your purpose in life
- Get enough quality sleep
- Eat right
- Stop smoking
- Engage more in hobbies/activities you enjoy outside of work
- Learn to balance work, family, and personal obligations
4. Social Support
Lean on me… when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on…
Having a good support system can be crucial in developing a good stress management program.
Social support is the positive support you receive from friends, family, co-workers and the community. It’s the knowledge that others care for you, love you, and see the value in you as a human being.
Because you are awesome!
Here are a few ways you can increase your social support system:
- Volunteer for a cause that you believe in
- Get involved in an employee group at work, such as an employee fundraising or recognition program
- Find a community group that shares your interests
- Take a class. Learn about horticulture or sign language or dog training
- Call your mom!
All of these are great ways to meet new people, find new interests and feel more connected. And that reduces stress!
Stress leads to negative thoughts and feelings such as fear, anxiety, insecurity, guilt, depression and even rage.
Your body reacts to those feelings just as it would an actual physical threat.
That’s not good!
Most stress is a perceived concept in your mind. Which is great, because with that knowledge you can learn to combat those negative thoughts and more effectively deal with stress.
Here are a few tips to help you deal with negative thoughts and feelings:
- Recognize the negative feeling, and tell yourself it’s ok to feel that way. Because it is.
- Let your stressed-out brain go down the path of “what’s the worst that could happen”. It’s seldom as bad as it feels. You’ll probably feel like you’ll end up living in a van down by the river. (but that almost never happens)
- Rationally look at the problem – try to leave your emotions out of it.
- Find a place or activity that can distract you enough to get your mind off the problem.
- Change your communication style to something that lets your views be known without making others feel put down or intimated. This not only changes your mindset to something more positive but makes others around you feel less stressed as well. Which makes you feel less stressed out. It’s a good circle to be in.
Let Me Stress This Again
Everybody feels stress at some point in their life. Most people will feel stress several times a day. The key to putting a stop to the feeling of constantly being stressed out is learning how to recognize and identify the stress so that you can deal with it in a more positive manner.