Stress is the body’s method of reacting to a challenge. It is a physiological ‘fight or flight response’ to an environmental condition, an event or a problem.
Everyone, one time or the other, goes through stress. There will be a lot to be done, bills to be paid, repairs to be done in the house, your career and family responsibilities will always be demanding. It seems that there will never be enough time in the day. You seem to be losing control. But you have more control than you might think. In fact, the simple realization that you’re in control of your life is the foundation of stress management. Managing stress is all about taking charge: of your thoughts, emotions, schedule, and the way you deal with problems.
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life. Look closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses.
Do you blame your stress on other people or on events outside your control?
Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining the high stress level in your life, it will remain outside your control. Each time you suffer from stress, try to examine the patterns and likely causes.
What caused your stress (make a guess if you’re unsure)
How you felt, both physically and emotionally
How you acted in response
Note also what you did to make yourself feel better. Focus on this. Since everyone responds to stressful events differently, ways to cope and manage stress also differs from on individual to another. There are however Four ‘A’s to dealing with stressful situation:
Avoid the Stressor
Alter the Stressor
Adapt to the Stressor
Accept the Stressor
1. Avoid the Stressor:
Not all stress can be avoided, and it’s not healthy to avoid a situation that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number of stressors in your life that you can eliminate.
Learn how to say “no” – Know your limits and stick to them. Do not take on more than you can handle even in your personal life.
Avoid people who stress you out – If someone consistently causes stress in your life and you can’t turn the relationship around, limit the amount of time you spend with that person or end the relationship entirely.
Take control of your environment – If listening to the News makes you anxious, turn the TV off or to something more pleasing. You do not miss anything by not listening to negative or horrific News. If traffic’s got you tense, take a longer but less-traveled route.
Avoid hot topics – If you get upset over religion or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you repeatedly argue about the same subject with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.
Prune down your to-do list – Analyze your schedule, responsibilities, and daily tasks. If you’ve got too much on your plate, distinguish between the “shoulds” and the “musts.” Drop tasks that aren’t truly necessary to the bottom of the list or eliminate them entirely.
2. Alter the Stressor:
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. Figure out what you can do to change things so the problem doesn’t present itself in the future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life. Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and respectful way. If you don’t voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation will likely remain the same.
Be willing to compromise. When you want someone to change their behaviour, be willing to do the same.
Be more assertive. Deal with problems that upset you as they arise, doing your best to anticipate and prevent them. If you have work to accomplish at the moment and a friend wants to come visit, be bold to suggest another date.
Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a lot of stress. When you’re stretched too thin and running behind, it’s hard to stay calm and focused. But if you plan ahead and make sure you don’t overextend yourself, you can alter the amount of stress you’re under.
3. Adapt to the Stressor
If you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude.
Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as an opportunity to pause and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone time.
Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with “good enough.”
Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, things you have achieved, including your own positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
4. Accept the Stressor
Accept the things you cannot change. There are some causes of stress that cannot be changed or avoided. Events like the death of a loved one, failure in an examination, a serious illness, etc.In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.
Don’t try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our control— particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems.
Look at the bright side. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
Share your feelings.Talk to a trusted friend (a friend who will tell you the truth rather than tell you just what you want to hear) or make an appointment with a therapist. The simple act of expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation. Opening up is not a sign of weakness and it won’t make you a burden to others. In fact, most friends will be flattered that you trust them enough to confide in them, and it will only strengthen your bond.
Learn to Forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
Show Gratitude and Appreciation. Gratitude lets you celebrate the present. Studies have shown that gratitude blocks toxic emotions such as anger, envy, resentment, regret, and depression. Grateful people are more stress-resilient. Gratitude strengthens social ties and increases self esteem.