The Keys to Stress Management
You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who has never felt the sensation of stress -- the body's automatic response to high-pressure situations. Whether it's an impending deadline, medical procedure, relationship issue or even trouble finding a parking spot, the anxiety these situations create causes your body to release a flood of energy-boosting hormones into your bloodstream. The anticipated rush your body feels from stress can be good in some situations, such as just before a race, recital or work presentation. But, most people experience negative side effects of stress at some point. That's why knowing how to effectively manage stress is so important.
A little stress can be exciting. But, too much can be exhausting. And, stress is different for every person. Some people seem to thrive on high-pressure situations, while others in the same situation could feel overwhelmed and threatened. But, for everyone facing stress, one thing is certain: If negative stress is constant and never relieved, it could, over time, take a toll on your health. Eventually, stress could cause symptoms of fatigue, insomnia and upset stomach, and it also may contribute to disorders such as high blood pressure or depression.
Learning to identify and better manage the stress in your life can help keep it from getting the best of you. You can't always make stressful situations go away, but you can try and change the way you deal with it. These tips may help.
When you realize that stress is building, take time to refresh your attitude and mind -- even if it's just for a few minutes. Even, if you're short on time, you could:
- Take a walk around the block for some fresh air.
- Listen to a song or a read a passage that puts you in a more relaxed mood.
- Count to ten and clear your mind.
- Take slow, deep breaths.
- Calm yourself with your favorite scent. Light a candle, or apply hand-lotion or perfume, for example.
- Take a hot shower or bath.
- Give tension spots like the scalp or neck a mini-massage.
If you have more time, you may want to try:
- Exercising. Exercise releases endorphins, which help make the body feel good.
- Participating in a hobby. Choose something that interests you and gives you a break from the everyday grind. Sports, artistic pursuits or even just reading a book or magazine can be great escapes for some people.
- Socializing. Take time to nurture your relationships and connect with others.
- Getting a massage. Not only is it indulgent to treat yourself every now and again, but massage can help relax tense muscles and help make you feel more relaxed.
- Reaching out for support. Talking about your stress with friends, family, a counselor or clergy member can provide a release for your emotions.
- Relaxation techniques. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga and other approaches can be soothing to both body and mind.
During times of stress it may seem like drinking more alcohol and caffeine, eating more food or indulging a bad habit relieves tension. In reality, over-indulging in bad habits can be a stimulant for stressful symptoms. When stressed, it's especially important to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of rest and avoid bad habits. If you're having trouble quitting smoking, limiting alcohol, or resisting other vices such as excessive shopping or gambling, your doctor, counselor or a mental health professional may be able to help. Employee assistance programs, if you have access to one, are great resources as well.
Reduce stress before it starts
The best way to avoid negative stress is to learn to recognize what causes your stress and to take steps to stop it before it starts. Stress is oftentimes self-inflicted when we over commit ourselves to multiple things at once. Before volunteering to take the lead on a project or head the PTA, ask yourself these stress-avoiding questions.
- Do I have the time? Make sure you're committing to a realistic time frame that works for you and your schedule. If a work project sounds too demanding, discuss a new timeline. And, in your personal life, remind yourself that it's OK to say no. You may thank yourself later when you have more time to do activities you really enjoy.
- Can I ask for help? If you can delegate responsibility, you may feel less pressure.
- Am I enjoying this? If you're not enjoying a hobby or activity, maybe it's time to find something you're more suited to. Your time is valuable. In a work situation, talk with your manager about alternative solutions.
- Am I being realistic with myself? Don't put undue pressure on yourself to do everything perfectly, do the job alone or say yes to everything that comes along.
Know when to seek help
While stress will always be a part of life, it's essential to try and minimize negative impacts of stress. However, there may be times when things still feel out of control, and it's important remember that help is out there. Reach out for help if you need it. If the stress in your life begins to feel overwhelming or interferes with your day-to-day activities, it may be time to seek help from a doctor of or mental health professional.