Do you feel constantly under pressure? Are your work deadlines taking a toll on you? Do you find yourself being anxious and on edge in your relationship? Do you experience headaches often? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are undergoing stress.
Stress has taken over our lives. The alarming rates of competition, job insecurity, and conflicts at a personal level all give rise to stress. Stress is the reaction of our body and mind to the demands placed on us. To a certain extent, stress is normal and useful and helps us to react quickly or work hard to meet a deadline.
However, if the stress is prolonged or occurs often, it results in negative effects like upset stomach, back pain, headache, and disturbed sleep. It also has an adverse effect on our mood and may hamper our relationships and career. This is when we need to take certain steps in order to manage stress.
The first step – find what is causing your stress
The most important thing you should do when combating stress involves finding the source of stress in your life. This can be done by keeping a stress journal.
Keeping a stress journal entails recording information about the daily stressors you are experiencing in order to analyze and manage them. Here are a few things you would want to record:
- The stressful event you have experience
- Your feelings after the even
- How did you handle the event?
After you have recorded in your journal for a number of days, it’s time to analyze it. For the analysis, look at the different stressful events you have experienced. Highlight those that occur frequently as well as those which are the most unpleasant. Then, appraise how you have felt after these events as well as how you handled them. Your analysis will reveal several problems regarding your handling of these events that need to be fixed. It will be helpful to list these areas separately to work on them later.
Then shift your focus to the stressful events you experienced and list ways in which they can be changed or if your reaction to them can be changed. Finally, analyze the feelings these events arose in you and how did that affect your overall functioning.
Once you have fully identified the common sources of stress in your life and analyzed your pattern of handling them, you can discontinue managing your journal and move onto the next step.
The second step – avoid situations that cause stress
Avoiding all situations that are causing you stress might not be possible, but avoiding some will be. For example, avoid people who stress you out. Limit the time you spend with them. Of course, this can’t be done if it’s a spouse or a family member.
Having too many deadlines and taking on too many roles is a cause of stress. Learn to be assertive and say no. Know your limits and say ‘no’ to taking on more than you can handle.
Take control of your environment. Avoid the traffic-filled route or hire someone to clean the house for you if you find it stressful.
The third step – change the stressful situation
If there is no way to avoid a stressful situation, try to make changes and decrease the amount of stress that way. For example, play your favorite music while doing an unpleasant chore like cleaning to make it seem more pleasurable.
Manage your time better. Poor time management leads to a lot of stress. Planning ahead ensures you are on time on your deadlines and you lose a reason to be stressed.
Express your feelings. Talk it out instead of keeping it inside. If you want some me-time, tell your spouse you want to be by yourself for __ number of minutes and will get back right after that. If something is bothering you, be upfront about it without being rude and express how you feel about it. For example, if your spouse is not throwing out the garbage, a duty they initially assumed, calmly approach them and say ‘I feel stressed when the garbage is still there and I feel like I have one more task to attend to before sleeping.’
Balance it out. Asking someone to change their behavior also involves doing something for them in exchange. Or when you are taking on their duties, you might want to give them one of yours. For example, in the above situation, you can add, ‘When we divided the duties earlier, we had decided you will do it. Do you want to continue doing it or exchange it for another?’
The fourth step – change your reactions
You may not be able to control stressful situations and events, but you can control the way you are reacting to them. Try looking at stressful situations from a positive perspective. For example, if an added responsibility at work stresses you out, think of how it will add to your learning and you can add an extra set of skill experience to your resume.
Take out your binoculars. The situations cause us stress because we are looking at merely the present scenario. However, if we zoom out and see the whole picture, it might not seem as bad. Think of how much this event is important? Will it matter in a month or a year? Is it worth wasting your time over? For example, this might be applicable when a colleague has pointed out your mistake in a monthly review meeting. You feel bad about it and get stressed that it will affect your reputation at work. Thinking about how many people will remember it till the next meeting or how important that colleague’s view is for you should help reduce the stress.
Set lower expectations. When we expect a lot from both ourselves and others, we set ourselves up for failure. Stop demanding perfection. Set reasonable standards.
The fifth step – accept what cannot be changed
Some situations and people are beyond our control. Focusing on these uncontrollable events will only lead to more stress. You need to shift your focus to things you can control instead. For example, if a family member’s behavior often causes you to be angry and your umpteen efforts at changing him/her have proved futile, it would be best to change the way you react to him/her. Don’t give him/her the power to decide your emotions.
Look at difficult situations in a new light. View them as ways to grow and learn.
Humans are fallible and prone to mistakes. Forgive and let go of resentment.
The sixth step – find ways to de-stress
Find strategies that work for you when you are stressed. Some of these may be:
- Playing with a pet
- Writing about things that are bothering you
- Talking to a friend
- Indulging in a hobby
- Going for a walk
- Taking a long, leisurely bath
- Watching a comic video
- Practicing relaxation techniques or yoga
Set aside time for yourself during the day. Indulge in things you enjoy doing.
The seventh step – practice healthy lifestyle choices
Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Reduce caffeine, oil, and sugar from your diet. Get enough restful sleep. Drink sufficient water daily to keep yourself hydrated.
This will help you feel better physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself; it’s the number one thing stress hates.
Elkin, A. (2013). Stress management for dummies. John Wiley & Sons.
Romas, J. A., & Sharma, M. (2013). Practical Stress Management: A Comprehensive Workbook. Pearson Higher Ed.
Tol, W. A., Barbui, C., & van Ommeren, M. (2013). Management of acute stress, PTSD, and bereavement: WHO recommendations. JAMA, 310(5), 477-478.
The term “stress” may be considered and felt by an individual when a situation or event is perceived by a person as being overwhelming, beyond their abilities to cope, and threatening to their well-being.
The results of stress can leave individuals feeling exhausted, fatigued, and depressed. Thus, health problems can arise, such as headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Additionally, stress can affect the person in many other ways and areas, including their work, relationships, school performance, social relationships, etc.
Why Does Stress Happen?
Stress is a natural response to a threatening situation, or, at least, something we consider threatening, even if, in reality, it’s not. This is what is called a Fight or Flight Response – when our body goes into hyperarousal, a physiological reaction occurs in response to a perceived attack, harmful event, or threat to our survival.
External Sources of Stress
Physical environment: noises, confined spaces, temperature, comfort
Social: conflict, confrontation, sensitizing
Organizational: changes, transitions, mergers, downsizing, deadlines, regulations, enforcement’s, rules, strict authority
Major life events: promotion, moving into a new home, new baby, death of a relative, wedding, divorce
Daily hassles: mindlessness, commuting, crowds, misplaced things, running errands
Internal Sources of Stress
Negative self-talk: criticalness towards self, over-analyzing, negativity, pessimistic thinking/attitude
Lifestyle: lack of sleep, overloaded schedule, caffeine, unhealthy diet, alcohol, drugs
Personality traits: perfectionism, workaholic, pleaser, difficulty setting healthy boundaries
Cognitive: all or nothing thinking, mind reading, unrealistic expectations, taking things personally, exaggerating, rigid thinking
How to Decrease Stress
- Introduce healthy lifestyle habits (day-by-day)
- Decrease (or eliminate) caffeine (coffee, tea, pop, chocolate)
- Maintain a well-balanced diet
- Regular exercise
- Decrease the consumption of junk food
- Engage in social activities, as well as leisure activities
- Practice relaxation, meditation, yoga
- Enhance money and time management skills
- Learn to be assertive
- Increase coping skills
- Practice effective problem-solving skills
- Change your thinking
- Keep healthy expectations (realistic)
- Enjoy a sense of humor!
- Have a support system around you
The holiday season…
Cold weather ✓
2013 coming to an end ✓
Deadlines approaching ✓
More family time ✓
More commitments ✓
Season of giving ✓
…as you know, the list keeps running. Most of our lives encompass some of these things right now. In my practice, I’m finding that there’s an increased level of stress and anxiety in people’s lives. Why does holiday stress happen?
Holiday Season and Stress
Research from the American Heart Association (2004) contends that this time of year there’s an increase in emotional stress about the holidays. Having to interact with family we may, or may not want to associate with, feeling the pressure of having to absorb financial pressures such as purchasing gifts, traveling, and/or entertaining. Also around this time of year, people are more likely to indulge in foods and beverages they may not usually consume. Consequently, if it interrupts normal healthy patterns, feelings of guilt or regret creep in.
5 tips for avoiding holiday stress:
- Pick and choose your holiday activities
- Ask for help
- Say no when necessary
- Everything in moderation
- Set realistic expectations for the season
Try to relax and lower your expectations from yourself and from your family. You may find yourself enjoying holidays more than you expected.
Kloner, R. (2004). The “Merry Christmas Coronary” and “Happy New Year Heart Attack” Phenomenon. American Heart Association. Retrieved from: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/110/25/3744.short
Deep breathing is so helpful when it comes to relaxing, lowering anxiety, and, well, feeling good about life!
Check out my colleagues video on HOW to do deep breathing properly.
You are a busy professional. Summer is coming to an end. You feel the pressures, the last quarter goals of 2011 are at the forefront of your mind. The new school year is close, and the nervous tension that comes with these pressures can hit a family and business hard. Not only do you have your usual duties, but kids can also feel the anxieties of starting a new year, which can impact your business and personal life.
While the causes can be something other than work stress, here are the most common symptoms and early signs of stress:
- Low morale
- Physical symptoms
But how do I beat stress and reduce signs of it, you ask? Here are 4 tips how to effectively do it:
1. Delete, delegate, deposit
Take 5-10 minutes at the beginning of your day to clear your desk , work-space, or living space. Doing so might help alleviate the sense of losing control that comes from having too much clutter. Keep your goals S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, tangible) helps maintain focus and control in your life.
2. Talk it out
Sometimes the best opportunity to reduce stress is to simply share your thoughts with someone, either someone close to you, or a trained therapist to help you work through the changes. The act of talking it out, and seeking professional support and empathy from someone trusted can be an excellent way of increasing positivity in our lives.
3. Laugh or allow yourself to smile
Finding humour in life helps us when we start to take things too seriously. Share a joke or funny story.
4. Change the situation
Remember the 4 A’s:
If you remember the 4 A’s when it comes to stress, it might help you work through it.
Staying positive in this modern life is an important act for us all to practice. Coping with stress isn’t easy, but with a little effort, you will be back on the road to emotional wellness and well-being!
Hansen, R. S. (n.d.). Managing Job Stress: 10 Strategies for Coping and Thriving at Work. http://www.quintcareers.com/managing_job_stress.html
Meyer,P. J. (2011). LMI Canada Inc: Personal Leadership, “Living with Purpose”. http://www.lmicanada.ca/EPL.aspx
Feeling stress during the Holiday season? Think about these questions from The Work by Bryon Katie.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
- Then turn it around (the concept you are questioning), and don’t forget to find three genuine, specific examples of each turnaround.