There are a lot of great resources out there for stress management but also some that are not-so-stellar. I recently came across an eBook in this category which inspired me to write a few brief words on the subject. We all have a sense of what stress is for us, typically what brings it on, and even sometimes how to manage it. The biggest sources of stress can be work, financial situation and relationships. Stress affects everyone differently just as we all respond to our stressors in different ways. Today’s modern world is full of ever increasing stressors, many of which we do not even realize. Nobody wants a life full of stress and chaos, therefore taking steps to manage your stress can be a huge benefit. Some strategies include:
- Make Lists. Some stress can be a result of your own lack of planning or preparedness. I have to admit that I am a list junkie. I make lists for everything; what I need to buy at the store, what I need to pack for a trip, what work I need to get done today or this week etc. I find being prepared for 90% of the task at hand makes it much easier to deal with the unexpected when it appears.
- Be Organized. Much like point one above, you can eliminate a lot of self-induced stress by being organized. Some examples include; put your keys in the same spot each day, label boxes/ drawers/ files, and don’t let things just pile up in one spot. This is one area I am constantly working on myself.
- Eliminate Destructive People. We have all experienced those people who after spending even five minutes with them, you feel tired, drained, sad or angry. These might be a family member, a friend, a coworker, your boss or even your spouse. These are all difficult situations to deal with and I would suggest reflecting on if you are getting your needs met with these relationships and if not, is it time to make a change? I have learned over time to avoid these people in my life, whether in my family or in the workplace. There are many old friends I no longer connect with for this reason. This can be a tough one, so please look up resources from experts or talk to a professional.
- Develop Your Mindset. You have to accept that stress is a part of life and it is up to you on how you handle it. As long as you do genuinely your best at what life throws at you, you should be satisfied with that. Don’t worry about what others are doing or what they have; you need to be you, accept that and be happy with your results. Using daily affirmation statements can help develop this mindset. An example could be the following: “I am in charge of my mind”, “I choose to be happy right now” or “I create the life I want”. You can find many resources for these online.
- Reframe. This is closely related to point four above. We tend to complicate our stress situations more than they need to be. How often have you thought after the fact, “I should have said this..” or “I wonder if he took my comment this way?”. We can sometimes overthink things and cause ourselves more stress. Try to reframe your situation to one that is positive, you can only control what you can control. While self-reflection is healthy, dwelling on the negatives or “what if’s” is not. Practice patience as much as possible and avoid pessimistic thoughts.
- Breathing Exercises. Breathing exercises not only relax your mind and body but are also proven to boost your immune system. Deep breathing helps me clear my mind of daily events and fall asleep faster. There are many different types of breathing exercises including; Coherent, Box, Resistance, Fire, Alternate Nasal and Movement breathing. You do not need special training or intense practice to learn these. They are free and easy to learn, and you can do them anywhere and in any situation. I find that a breathing exercises work very quickly. Breath control or breathing exercises are not just for stress relief; they are used in practices like tai chi, yoga and meditation. I feel meditation could be its own strategy; however I am going to leave it included in with breathing exercises for now as I am working on a future article on my one year meditation experiment. Keep an eye out for that!
- Be With Good People. Receiving support from your network of friends, family and colleagues is a great way to manage stress. Simply having a good time and laughing with them is stress medicine. When one of my kids says or does something funny, I cannot help but laugh and any stress is naturally reduced. Having a network of healthy relationships provides a feeling of security, increases your self-confidence and provides a sense of belonging. All of which help reduce or manage your stress.
- Take a Break. Sometimes all you need for a little stress relief is to take a small break from the activity you are doing or the situation you are in. This could mean taking a 5-10 minute walk away from your desk or if you can’t do that, even going to the bathroom for a few minutes to gather yourself can help process a negative situation at work or at home. Taking a few deep breathes only takes a few seconds to help lower your stress. I find that removing myself from a situation for a few minutes, whether it be at home or at work helps to calm me, refocus on the underlying issue and avoid saying or doing something I may regret later.
- Exercise. For me personally I find exercise to be the best stress release. While I often do some of my best thinking while exercising, I find that I do not dwell on problems while I am working out. Exercising releases endorphins, which are chemicals that interact with the receptors in your brain that lower your perception of pain and trigger a positive feeling in the body. Back in my university days, if I had two exams in the same day, I found way more beneficial to exercise in between the two exams rather than cram studying for the second after writing the first.
- Journaling. Writing down your thoughts and feelings at least once a day is a very cathartic exercise. It does not matter if you do it as soon as you get up or before bed or anytime during the day, just try to be consistent with it. Reflecting on what you have written can provide insight into underlying issues you are having as well as identify patterns to your thoughts and emotions. This is a practice that I have recently incorporated. I have only been doing it for seven months, but it has certainly helped me identify patterns in my sleep and stress amongst other factors. An example is that I find if I sleep with my cell phone next to my bed, I tend to have more vivid dreams that I remember in the morning. At this point I am not sure I fully understand why this is, but it is something I am exploring. This is such an important topic I will have a future blog post devoted to it.
- Gratitude. This is related to many of the points above. Writing down or verbally expressing out loud what you are grateful for not only is cathartic but also helps develop a positive mindset and reframed attitude. Once you realize how blessed you are and how much better you have it than many people in this world, it puts your stress in a new perspective. I have to admit this is an area I am just getting into. I am trying to develop my own gratitude practice and this is a focus area for the rest of this year and into next. I promise to keep you posted on my gratitude journey!
We just touched the surface here on stress management strategies. I look forward to delving deeper on some of these in future posts but for now try a few of these out. Send me a comment and let me know how they work for you to achieve your EXCEPTIONAL RESULTS.