Seven Days for Stress Management
By William Bradley
Remember that old saying, “There’s more than one way to skin a cat”? This is also true when it comes to stress. There’s more than one way to take care of stress. So many of us are conditioned to the stress and anxiety that we deal with on a day-to-day basis that we think we can’t do anything about it. This can not only cause you mental anguish, but physical anguish as well. If you’re terribly under stress, you can even be driven right over the edge.
If you’re stressed, I’ve been there, too. There are many reasons for stress and just as many ways to fix it. Of course, we all have to cope with life. Carrying problems, some of which are our own and some of which aren’t, can take a toll on even the most positive of people. However, we have more control than we think we do, many experts say. Why, then, do we allow stress to weigh us down? Is stress really all in the mind, and if so, what’s the fix for it?
There are several ways that you can manage stress. Of course, you’re never going to completely remove stress, because it’s a part of life. In fact, a little stress is beneficial. You need it just as you need exercise, to challenge yourself mentally, physically and emotionally. Yes, a little stress, properly managed, will keep you healthier than no stress at all would.
That said, though, most people do need to manage their stress better than they do and reduce it. The following list divides stress management into seven steps, and you can tackle one step a day. This means that the end of seven days, you can have your stress much more under control than you do now.
1. Is stress a good thing? Yep — in moderation
As stated above, stress in moderation is a good thing. Under stress, your body exhibits something called a “fight or flight” response, which gives you a burst of adrenaline and energy. This adrenaline and energy can enhance your performance at just the right moment, when you need it. Use this reaction wisely, so that you can push yourself harder when you need to — again, in moderation only.
2. Stay away from people who are constantly “under stress”
There are some people who use stress like a drug. They seem to need the adrenaline rush they get from stress to keep going. (Of course, all you hear from them is how under stress they are and how unhappy they are about it, but that’s another article.)
Stay away from these people, or you could become “infected” with their stress, too. If you feel up to it and they’re open to it, you could teach them how to better manage their stress — that is, if they’re not addicted to it. Again, though, you don’t want to give yourself more stress by doing so, so use your best judgment.
3. Learn from a master
No doubt, you know at least one or two people who remain calm in the face of storms, and to keep their heads under even the most stressful conditions. What are these people doing differently than most people? How are their attitudes different from those who are constantly in crisis mode?
If you can, have a chat with them and see what they think about stress. It may be that they don’t even know what they’re doing differently than most, but it’s likely that by watching them, you, too, can learn how to manage your own stress better.
4. Take a deep breath, and then another
No matter how stressed out you are, deep breathing can help. No, this doesn’t mean you hyperventilate, but one or two slow, calm, long, deep breaths can help your body relax naturally. Count to seven while you breathe in slowly, and then breathe out as you count to 11, again, slowly. Repeat this one or two time until you relax. Your pulse rate should slow down and you should feel calmer, so that you are then better able to handle what’s going on.
5. When in doubt, don’t worry
The vast majority of things we all worry about never happen. Now, think about that for a minute. Have you ever gotten yourself in a panicked situation, thinking, “If this happens, we’re all in trouble!”? It’s likely that you’ve found that 99% of the time or better, these things never happen. So give yourself a break and don’t worry. It sounds easier said than done, but worry is a habit just like anything else is. The next time you begin to worry about something, think to yourself, “How likely is this to happen?” Chances are, you’ll say, “Not likely,” and you can give yourself a break and calm down. If there is a chance something can happen, you’re still better off doing some proactive problem solving with the energy you would otherwise spend on worrying.
Again, I know. It’s easier said than done, but worrying is a habit you can break yourself of. Give yourself 30 days’ permission not to worry. During that time, promise yourself that you’re going to catch yourself worrying and then either do something about the problem or stop worrying. After 30 days, see how things have changed. It’s likely that you worry much less than you used to, thus freeing the synergy up for much more productive and positive things.
6. Know what puts you in panic mode
What’s your particular panic trigger? Is it speaking in front of others, giving difficult feedback to someone, pushing to meet a deadline, etc.?
Write down what makes you panic and then take a look at it. This is powerful information, because you can do something about it once you know what causes you major stress. Perhaps you can learn some new skills, cut down on the caffeine, learn how to take regular breaks, ask for help, et cetera. No matter what, there’s always something you can do to reduce your stress.
7. Don’t burn the candle at both ends
I know. Not only is burning the candle at both ends common in today’s 24-hour society, but it’s actually a point of insidious pride, for many. However, you’re not going to be anyone’s hero if you’re not getting enough sleep, eating poorly, not exercising, not taking some time to relax, and so on. Instead, you’re going to hurt your performance and your health. There’s even evidence that lack of sleep contributes to obesity because it increases the stress hormone cortisol.
So do yourself and your health a favor and get enough sleep, eat properly, do something fun regularly, and relax on a regular basis. If you follow these words of advice, you should see your stress levels drop to manageable levels (even though they won’t go away entirely). Doing something fun on a regular basis, too, helps you put things in perspective so that the next time a stressful situation hits, you have much more perspective to handle it. So go on. Put stress on the back burner by developing some new habits, and build some fun into your day on a regular basis.