When you’re feeling tense, what do you do?
If you are like most folks, you look up your symptoms online; read everything you can while you try to remember what it feels like to be at peace.
Eventfully you accept what you’ve always known deep down inside, what you are experiencing is the effects of stress.
None of us are stress-free
Stress affects everyone.
If you live in a modern, often chaotic society, you’ve probably experienced the symptoms of stress. It is getting harder and harder just to get through the day.
Stress management can help you find ways to cope so you can better care for yourself and others.
Know the cause of stress
The best way to deal with stress is to get a better awareness of it.
If you can find out the causes of stress, you can prevent it, or at least reduce it, so it will no longer affect you the ways that it did before.
What is stress?
Stress means different things to different people. Even though stress affects us all, we don’t all respond to it in the same way.
The textbook definition of stress: a person’s biological response to outside stimulus that triggers the fight-or-flight-or-freeze reaction.
However, we also know that stress can be self-induced because of what’s going on inside our heads — many times we put too much pressure on ourselves, which can cause anxiety.
Simply put, stress is a reaction your body experiences as a result of challenging circumstances that require you to do something, usually immediately (at least you think you must act quickly), or else you think something terrible will happen.
When you are under a great deal of stress, a physiological reaction occurs which causes your nervous system to produce too many hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) causing a bunch of symptoms. Such as faster breathing and a speedier heartbeat.
When extremely stressed, you also could experience a sudden burst of energy preparing you for fight or flight.
This reaction would be excellent if you were hiking in the woods and came across a giant grizzly bear. But this is not the reaction you want if you are facing job-related pressure — you would have constant cortisol overload.
Unfortunately, for many people, eyeballing a work deadline is the same as staring down a dangerous animal — it’s fight or flight. And this could be a daily occurrence leading to all kinds of problems.
Never-ending stress can wear you down
When stress becomes constant, it creates an unbalance which can lead to mental, emotional, physical and behavioral problems.
Chronic stress can lead to:
Lack of motivation or focus
Irritability or anger
Overeating or undereating
Drug or alcohol abuse
Stress is something we will always have in our lives in one form or another
Of course, we want to minimize stress, but many times high levels of stress can be unavoidable. You never know when are going to collide head-on with a stress storm.
When this happens, you need to be armed with stress management tools.
It’s not so much about how much stress you have; it’s about how you adapt to stress. It’s about adopting daily practices to tone it down when it occurs — because stress is unavoidable — and you need to be ready when the blast comes.
With all that said, if you want to move beyond stress, and get back a sense of harmony, learning effective stress management techniques is crucial.
What is stress management?
If you are one of the many people who want to take the edge off your stress ( for example, you have an agonizing job that you cannot quit because you need the money) there are many things you can do.
One of the best ways is to apply proper stress management methods. Most approaches give you useful coping skills for dealing with your “flight or fight” reactions.
Some stress management techniques work better than others, depending on your response to the methods, and the severity of the stress.
Effective Stress Management Tools include:
- Time management
- Relaxation techniques
- Eating healthy
- Social support
You might not realize it, but time constraints are a significant stress trigger. We’ve all experienced feelings of frustration when not having enough time to complete tasks.
If done correctly, time management can significantly cut down stress. The key is to prioritize by separating tasks based on importance. For example, you might think some tasks are essential, but they are not as important as they appear.
Do the important stuff first
Time stress is usually caused by not knowing what to do and when to do it. You may want to try to structure your time by using a day planner.
Also, break up large tasks into 1-hour blocks.
Social media is stealing your time
Do you spend too much time on Instagram?
If your time stress level is high, it might be because you are doing everything except the activities that support achieving your goals, like browsing Facebook.
Although social media has a lot of benefits, it can be cause for stress. It’s important to manage your time online.
It is far to easy to lose track of time going through all kinds of content. Before you know it, you’ve spent hours surfing Instagram without completing a single task.
Meditation is my preferred daily practice to help withstand stress.
Here is the deal: anyone can meditate, you don’t have to be a monk sitting in the lotus position in a faraway temple. And you can meditate anywhere, on a chair, on the floor, or you can lie down.
There are many different types of mediation and many ways to meditate. You can meditate while walking, listening to music or chanting,
Meditation has benefits beyond relaxing your body and mind. If you meditate daily, your life will improve in many ways, such as:
- It lowers stress levels
- It can decrease anxiety
- It can reduce blood pressure
- It can improve sleep
- It can strengthen the immune system
Resistance to meditation
Many people have a resistance to meditation. I get it.
They claim they aren’t any good at it, or they tried it, and it was too hard. Well, there is no such thing as being as being bad at meditating — it just takes practice and patience.
I never thought I could meditate, but now I do it every morning. I use an app called Headspace — they make it easy. To me, it’s like having a personal meditation guide, right in my pocket.
Using meditation exercises when you’re calm is just as important as when you’re stressed out, to built a sense of stability.
The best approach…
One of the best ways to deal with stress is to prevent it the first place. Waging war against stress is a losing battle— it just makes it worse.
If you begin to feel overwhelmed by stress, see if you can dilute it by using strategies before it gets out of hand.
Start by developing the skillset to spot stressful situations before they occur. Take action by applying stress prevention methods to limit the stress.
Create a lifestyle that can keep stress in check
External factors do not create all stress; many times it is a product of our perceptions of situations.
Like I said before, some stress is self-induced. It is caused by putting too much pressure on ourselves. Let’s suppose you set an impracticable goal because you think that by reaching that goal, you will be happier. So you put all your energy into it.
But then something shifts…
You push yourself harder and harder. So much so, that you neglect things that are healthy for you, and rely on things that are unhealthy. You work around the clock without sleep. Now you don’t have the time or energy to exercise.
You stop having fun activities cause, in your mind, you can’t play until you accomplish your goal.
Eventually everything falls apart.
You are drinking a little too much wine and enjoying lots of pastries. You develop headaches, shoulder pain and acid re-flux.
Recognize the signs and symptoms
The first step in transforming self-induced stress is self-awareness. Recognize the signs and symptoms for when you are pushing yourself too hard, such as feeling overwhelmed, irritability, overeating or under-eating.
Do more of what nurtures your body and mind. Practice some form of spirituality. Make a habit of doing things that relax you, such as reading, meditating, exercising, journaling and yoga.
Start with mindfulness
Discover ways to live in the present. Master the art of taming your inner critic.
Make mandatory quiet times, so you can slow down and breathe deep. Relax with a body scan. This progressive muscular reduction technique will help you notice where you are holding stress. For example, as do it, you feel a tension in your neck, back and shoulders.
Try to minimize multitasking; it is a constant state of limited attention that drains your focus.
And last but not least, turn off your phone. It is a disturbance and a distraction like a buzzing fly swirling above your head, day in and day out.