Stress Management 101

With all that we know about the negative health consequences of living with too much daily stress, here is one of my go-to handouts for working with people who are trying to manage stress.  See my associated articles throughout this post.

After completing some type of stress “inventory”, reflection, or assessment to determine just how much stress you are experiencing, begin to mitigate the stress with some of the following approaches. Try to determine what you have control over and what you do not have control over. If there are some things you feel as though you have some control over, begin to identify steps or strategies that can be taken to reduce the stress that you may be experiencing.   Taking control and feeling as though you can address issues is empowering and the first step in addressing life tension.

Proven Tips for Stress Relief 

  • Cut back on media. Whether it’s the daily news and internet headlines (which is usually negative) or Facebook, which is usually wasteful, going on a media diet can get you valuable time back and cut out aggravation.  Want to Reduce Stress?  Turn off the News
  • Control your environment by controlling who and what is surrounding you. In this way, you can either get rid of stress or get support for yourself.       Examine your social circle. Are you hanging out with people in places that bring you down, or raise you up?
  • Exercise your body since your health and productivity depend upon your body’s ability to bring oxygen and food to its cells. Therefore, exercise a minimum of three days per week. This can be done in 10-minute increments.
  • Be aware of yourself. Be aware of distress signals such as insomnia, headaches, anxiety, upset stomach, lack of concentration, colds/flu, excessive tiredness, etc. Remember, these can be signs of potentially more serious disorders.
  • Feed yourself / Do not poison your body. Eat a balanced diet. Avoid high calorie foods that are high in fats and sugar. Don’t depend on sleep aids, drugs and/or alcohol. Caffeine will keep you awake, but it also makes it harder for some to concentrate. Remember, a twenty-minute walk has been proven to be a better form of stress management than some prescription drugs.
  • Get up earlier in the morning.  The inevitable morning mishaps will be less stressful.  If you really want to go crazy – exercise in the morning!
  • Prepare for the morning the evening before.  Set the breakfast table, make lunches, put out the clothes you plan to wear, etc.
  • Don’t rely on your memory.  Write down appointment times. Use a written calendar or planner.
  • Practice preventive maintenance.  Your car, appliances, home, and relationships will be less likely to break down/fall apart “at the worst possible moment.”
  • Procrastination is stressful.  Whatever you want to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you want to do today, do it now. Make a to-do list to keep track of what you need to get done and put a deadline or timeline on it.
  • Plan ahead.  Don’t let the gas tank get below one-quarter full; keep a well-stocked “emergency shelf” of home staples; don’t wait until you’re down to your last bus token or postage stamp to buy more; etc.
  • Combine walking and talking with a friend. Not only do you get the chance to catch up with a friend, you can get some physical activity and get things off of your chest at the same time.
  • Don’t put up with something that doesn’t work right.  If you own something or are associated with something that  is a constant aggravation, get it fixed, get rid of it, or get a new one.
  • Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments Getting somewhere early allows you to get yourself together instead of rushing in late or at the last minute.
  • Eliminate (or restrict) the amount of caffeine in your diet. Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic and can interfere with sleep and hydration, increase irritability, and even cause anxiety and headaches.
  • Always set up contingency plans, “just in case.”
  • Relax your standards – when possible.  Not everything has to be priority #1. The world will not end if the grass doesn’t get mowed this weekend. Try to prioritize your to-do list.
  • Say “No!”  Saying “no” to extra projects, social activities, and invitations you know you don’t have the time or energy for takes practice, self-respect, and a belief that everyone, everyday, needs quiet time to relax and be alone. If no is not an option, see if you can get some more time or more notice.
  • Unplug your phone.  Want to take a long bath, meditate, sleep, or read without interruption?  Drum up the courage to temporarily disconnect.
  • Turn “needs” into preferences.  Our basic physical needs translate into food, water, and keeping warm.  Everything else is a preference. Don’t get attached to preferences.
  • Make friends with non-worriers.  Nothing can get you into the habit of worrying faster than associating with chronic drama queens or worrywarts.
  • Get up and stretch periodically if your job requires that you sit for extended periods.
  • Get enough sleep.  If necessary, use an alarm clock to remind you to go to bed.  Rest yourself as regularly as possible. Sleep 7-8 hours a night. Take study or work breaks. There is only so much your mind can absorb at one time. It needs time to process and integrate information. A general rule of thumb: take a ten minute break every hour. Rest your eyes as well as your mind.
  • Create order out of chaos.  Organize your home and workspace so that you always know exactly where things are.  Put things away where they belong and you won’t have to go through the stress of losing things.
  • Try to keep perspective. Even if something is really stressing you out, stop and think about others who may be experiencing the loss of a loved one or those who are living without food or shelter.
  • Practice cleansing breaths. When feeling stressed, most people tend to breathe short, shallow breaths.  When you breathe like this, stale air is not expelled, oxidation of the tissues is incomplete, and muscle tension frequently results.  Check your breathing throughout the day,  and before, during, and after high-pressure situations.  If you find your stomach muscles knotted and your breathing is shallow, relax all your muscles and take several deep, slow breaths.
  • Writing your thoughts and feelings down (in a journal, or on paper to be thrown away) can help you clarify things and can give you a renewed perspective.
  • Take breaks, add variety. When the stress of having to get a job done gets in the way of getting the job done, a diversion – voluntary change in activity and/or environment – may be just what you need.
  • Talk it out.  Discussing your problems with a trusted friend or counselor can help clear your mind of confusion so you can concentrate on problem solving.
  • Live your values. One of the most obvious ways to avoid unnecessary stress is to select an environment (work, home, leisure), which is in line with your personal needs and desires.  If you hate desk jobs, don’t accept a job, which requires that you sit at a desk all day.  If you hate to talk politics, don’t associate with people who love to talk politics, etc.
  • Take a hot bath or shower (or a cool one in summertime) to relieve tension.
  • Do something for somebody else.
  • Become more flexible.  Some things are worth not doing perfectly and some issues are fine to compromise upon.
  • Eliminate destructive self-talk:  “I’m too old to. . .,”  “I’m too fat to. . .,” etc.
  • Use your weekend time for a change of pace.  If your workweek is slow and patterned, make sure there is action and time for spontaneity built into your weekends.  If your workweek is fast-paced and full of people and deadlines, seek peace and solitude during your days off.
  • Do one thing at a time.  When you are with someone, be with that person and with no one or nothing else.  When you are busy with a project, concentrate on doing that project and forget about everything else you have to do.
  • Allow yourself time – everyday – for privacy, quiet, and introspection.
  • Just do it. If an especially unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day and get it over with, then the rest of your day will be free of anxiety.
  • Learn to delegate responsibility to capable others. If you are living with friends or family, household responsibilities can be shared.
  • Don’t forget to take a lunch break.  Try to get away from your desk or work area in body and mind, even if it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes.
  • Have a forgiving view of events and people.  Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world.

Leave a Reply