We live in a fast-paced society which is conducive to feeling stressed. The trick is learning how to manage the stress in your life and prepare your body and mind for handling highly stressful situations. Here are 5 steps that will help you reduce stress and put you back in control of your life.
Step 1 – Identify the source of your stress
Start a stress journal and write down sources of stress in your life, including your thoughts and worries. You might find it helpful to ask your spouse or a close friend to help you identify sources of stress; some things are more obvious to others than to ourselves.
You need to be very honest with this exercise to get to the real root cause of your stress. Be aware that you might think that stress is just part of life, or just a temporary situation, or someone else’s fault or just how you operate. Many of these are simply excuses or your own attitude to certain situations.
In your stress journal note down how you reacted to each stressor, how it made you feel and what you did to recover. To regain control over your life and reduce stress, you must accept responsibility for your actions that have created or continued the situation.
Step 2 – Notice how you react to stress
You will have noted your reactions to stress and what you did to feel better, in your stress journal. Check whether your actions are healthy or bad for you. Many people react to stress in unhealthy ways which only serve to exacerbate the problem, though they may seem to help in the short-term. These may include drinking too much, smoking, over-eating or eating the wrong foods, using drugs, sleeping too little or to much. Other anti-social behaviors that can be used to handle stress include withdrawing form social life, taking it out, verbally, emotionally or physically, on other people, shutting out those close to you or working really long hours. Many people procrastinate, zone out or go off on their own when they are feeling stressed.
Step 3 – Make some changes
You can change or avoid the situations that cause the stress and you can change how you react to the stress by adapting, using different ways to deal with the stress and, sometimes, accepting some things that cause you stress.
Other changes include improving your diet, reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake and learning some relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga. Regular exercise is a great stress reducer because exercise releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones, while increasing your fitness and general health. When you are leading a healthier lifestyle, you are better able to cope with stressful situations.
Step 4 – Implement stress-relieving strategies
Try these simple strategies to reduce stress:
- Plan your day with a to-do list and stick to it. Keep control of your schedule and learn to say ’no’ more often.
- Work out when you are your most productive and do the most important tasks at this time. Don’t allow interruptions at this time; don’t take phone calls, see visitors or check emails.
- Eat 5 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals or worse, skipping meals. Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein at every meal and limit fast food and those high in sugar.
- Keep nutritious snacks handy for when your energy levels drop. Include nuts, fruit and yogurt in these snacks.
- Take a lunch break, eat something light and nutritious and get outside. A brisk walk will make you much more productive in the afternoon.
- Take the time for rest and relaxation to maintain a balance in your life.
Step 5 – Stress management strategies
There are many excellent courses available that teach you how to manage the stress in your life. These teach you how to recognize what stresses you and gives you strategies for dealing with severe stress.
Readers, how do you manage stress? Any tips to share?