Learning to manage stress is a crucial component in mental and emotional care. We live in a fast past, information heavy, and technology driven world that constantly throws stimuli at us. We must become smarter with our boundaries, develop firmer foundations, and increase our awareness to help us manage our stressors more appropriately. When we develop healthier ways to manage our stressors, we can improve our quality of life and our daily functioning. So, let’s look at six ways to manage stress.
Six Ways to Manage Stress
1. The first thing to do is to build awareness of is our stressors. We need to be able to identify what our stressors are. Everyone has stressors; most people have multiple stressors. Stressors are areas of our lives that we spend time being worried about. Stressors may look like monthly bills, health concerns, job worries, parenting fears, and familial/relational problems. Stressors may also look like traffic jams, the sudden death of a loved one or pet, a promotion, a divorce, and an argument with a friend or spouse. Stressors are life situations that increase our feelings of worry, fear, overwhelm, and being unable to cope.
2. We must also recognize that stress is a normal part of life. Life is filled with continuous ebbs and flows. There are times when things are calm, and times when things feel overwhelming. So, the second thing that we need to do is to learn about patterns and stressors in our lives. Knowing that we have monthly bills coming requires us to prepare for these bills every month. We must increase our insight and awareness of regular stressors to help us to manage them. We must build healthy coping skills to help us function throughout our normal stressors. Increasing our awareness reduces feelings of worry, fear, and overwhelm because we feel more in control of what’s happening in our lives.
3. Next, we must strengthen our coping skills. Coping skills are things that we do frequently to help us de-stress. These habits replenish us, re-fuel us, and bring us moments of peace. Coping skills are basically our way of coping with the stress we feel as we navigate throughout our lives. Coping skills look different for us all because they reflect our personalities and interests. Coping skills are wide-ranging and personal.
Examples may include listening to music, drawing, painting, journaling, going for a run or going to the gym or doing yoga. They may also include cooking, talking to a friend, going to an amusement park, hanging out with friends, doing puzzles or play videogames, or going shopping. They may include going to the spa, getting a haircut, having a quiet dinner alone, or going to the movies. They reflect our hobbies and interests, and they are behaviors we often engage in frequently.
4. Another important aspect of stress management is mindset. We must be willing to let go of thoughts and thought patterns that hinder us. Developing a growth mindset allows us to be more willing to problem solve and make changes to ourselves, our lifestyles, and our routines to help us reduce our stressors. A growth mindset simply means that we are willing to be flexible and adaptable rather than staying attached to a fixed belief or thought. An example of a change in mindset is being willing to recognize that we cannot project our blame onto others about how stressed we may feel. Taking responsibility for our ability to make changes frees us up to problem solve about areas in our lives that we can make changes to in order to reduce the stress we live with.
5. When we’ve done the emotional and mental work, we can take practical steps to help us reduce our stressors. Daily examples of these could be taking regular breaks in our workdays, having clearly defined times that we log off/leave work, and learning to say no to people and things that cause us to overextend ourselves. We may also have to consider things like looking for a new job, or moving out of a dysfunctional home environment, or ending toxic relationships. We must become practical and intentional about taking steps to reduce the stress that we live with to help us feel more at peace and more in control of our time and our lives.
6. Lastly, when we take practical and intentional steps to reduce stress in our lives, we must also become vigilant about protecting that peace that we built in our lives. This means maintaining healthy boundaries that we set – even when others push back on those boundaries. We must also remain vigilant and ensure that we are consistently meeting our basic needs. These basic needs include getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, moving our bodies consistently, observing changes in our health and seeking professional help as needed, and taking any medications as prescribed.
We must work to maintain our awareness of our thoughts, behaviors, and actions to help us recognize when our healthy coping skills stop functioning and we begin to allow overwhelm to cause us to spiral into using unhealthy coping skills. Unhealthy coping skills can look like overeating/restricting food, smoking/vaping, consuming large amounts of alcohol, self-harming, and or over/under-sleeping, among others.
It is important to recognize, and remember, that stress is a part of life. How we deal with stress is what often increases our stress. Stress ebbs and flow as life ebbs and flows. Reframing how we see stress is important because it allows us to take back the control we give up when we start to feel overwhelmed.
It is also important to remember that stressors are impacted by our emotions. Emotions do not go away. Hence, neither does our stressors. So, we internalize our stress as we internalize our emotions. Therefore, movement and deep breathing is essential to help us release the stress and pent-up emotions that we hold in our bodies. Look for tension in your jaws, shoulders, stomach, hands, and feet. Take time to move your body and practice your breathing. Spend time being present in the moment and let go of future worries and past concerns. You’ll find you’ll feel more at peace.
Are you having difficulty regulating your stress? Do you need some support? If so, please reach out and schedule a consult with me today.
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