Because in my previous article, ‘Joker: Mental Health Review‘, I talked a lot about stressors, I thought I’d write about how to manage stress. Thus, here are my tips for how to avoid stress getting the better of us.
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What Is Stress?
Stress is simply your body’s response to mental/emotional pressure. Sometimes stress can be good, other times it can be bad. Good stress can help motivate you to perform better or to overcome an obstacle: rising to the challenge. It can also allow us to have the energy to keep us going by keeping us alert (Gross, 1992).
However, if, for whatever reason, we’re not able to manage the stress, then it can become a problem. Especially if the stress starts to get the better of us. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to stress is detrimental to our health, which can manifest itself in many different ways. It can damage our relationships, affect our ability to meet our obligations (e.g. work), affect our mood (e.g. make us feel depressed), and it can even cause physical manifestations (e.g. upset stomach and insomnia).
In short, stress can be seen as a mismatch between a stressful situation and an individual’s ability to manage it, and thus reduce stress (Hewstone, Fincham, and Foster, 2005).
Everyone experiences stress, no exception. Each person will be affected and respond differently to the stress and stressors they encounter: that’s just the rule of individual differences. Thus, the sooner we learn to recognise our warning signs of stress, especially stress that is starting to overwhelm us, the better. Knowing these signs will allow you to tackle your stress earlier before it becomes a problem. The sooner you tackle it, the better off you will be.
Although everyone is affected by stress differently, there are common signs which you can use to help you better identify your warning signs (see the next section).
Signs Of Stress
There are many signs of stress you should be on the lookout for. The following is a list of signs you should be aware of, although the list itself might not be complete (if you know of any I’ve missed, please tell us about them in the comments section at the end of the post).
- Sleeping problems like insomnia.
- Gaining or losing weight.
- Upset stomach and stomach pains.
- Lack of energy.
- Teeth grinding.
- Sweaty hands or feet.
- Heartburn and acid reflux.
- Loss of sex drive.
- Diarrhoea and constipation.
- Aches, pains, and muscle tension.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Feeling anxious or constantly worried and scared.
- Panic attacks.
- Racing thoughts.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Mood swings.
- Loss of self-confidence.
- Low self-esteem.
- Low self-wroth.
- Obsessive or compulsive behaviours like biting your nails.
- Social avoidance and social isolation.
- Eating, drinking, smoking, etc. more than usual or using illegal drugs.
Why Is It Important To Manage Stress?
As stated above, failure to manage stress appropriately will have a negative effect on ourselves and those around us, one way or another. Stress can make it difficult to think clearly, function normally, or even enjoy life.
Knowing how to properly manage your stress will allow you to be happier, keep your levels of production at your optimal level, be healthier, be better mentally, and allow you to build up resilience to dealing with pressure.
Thus, it’s important to find out what works for you as an individual to help you manage your stress levels. Because what might work for one person might not work for the next person. Take time to experiment with as many strategies as you can, so you can develop your primary coping strategy, as well as several fallback options. That way, when the time comes to implement them, you’ll be able to right off the bat.
17 Stress Management Strategies
Accept that there are events that you cannot control
One way to manage stress is to realise that not every situation is within your control. For those events that aren’t within your control, try your best to stop stressing over them, because there’s nothing you can do.
For situations where it is possible to take control, then you should seek to do so. One of the main causes of stress is the feeling of a lack of control. Thus, by taking control, you’re reducing your stress and improving your wellbeing.
Make time for hobbies, interests, and relaxation
Even though this one is obvious, it still needs to be said, because people will still forget to use it as a way to cope. So, make time to do the things you enjoy, whatever they are. If you don’t have any hobbies or interests, then look into finding something you can enjoy doing as a way to destress.
There are a lot, and I mean a LOT, of relaxation techniques out there you could try. All you need to do is type in ‘Relaxation Techniques’ into the search engine of your choice, and pow, a million or more sites with relaxation technique suggestions. All you need to do is find the ones that work for you and make a note of them.
Have some ‘me time’
Sometimes you just need to be by yourself, free from all obligations to other people. Even making sure your partner is having a good time if you do something together can add extra stress. Thus, sometimes you just need to do your thing solo, whatever that thing may be.
Identify your stress sources
If you want to get proactive about managing your stress, then identify your sources of stress. Then work out plans for how to manage them.
This one seems a lot hard to do nowadays, given the hours we work. Especially as people often have to have more than one job, family commitments, and a commute that just takes forever. But even so, try your best to find a balance between your work and family commitments, and enjoying life. We only live once, after all.
Work smarter, not harder
When we’ve got a lot on our plates, prioritise the ones that need to be done first, and/or the ones that’ll benefit you the most. Learning more about time management will also help with this, as well as following the next suggestions strategy.
Split up big tasks
One of the things I picked up whilst working for a substance abuse charity was SMART goals. Basically, you should break down your goals/tasks into smaller, more manageable, bite-size pieces. This will allow you to make progress and see results at every stage as you work towards the larger destination.
Allow yourself some positivity
If you’ve read my article about Positive Psychology, then you could engage in Counting Blessing. You can either do this each week or try to do it each day. The point is to try to reflect on your positivity to help block out and manage the stress. You could also use some of the other Positive Psychology interventions I listed in that post to help manage your stress (e.g. Acts of Kindness, Participate in Enjoyable and Meaningful Activities, and Positive Affirmations).
Modify negative self-statements
Challenge all your unhelpful thoughts, because the way you think will make your stress worse or better.
This one gets brought out a lot as a way to help. It’s basically a cliché. But like all clichés, they became that way due to there being truth to them. Being active will help you burn off your nervous energy and allow you to sleep better if you’re having sleeping problems. It’ll also help you feel better when the endorphins kick in.
Talk to someone and invest in a support network
Talk to someone, friends, your partner, family, co-workers, a professional, or even someone from one of the organisations I listed on my Global Crisis Lines And Support and UK Crisis Lines And Support page. Having a good support network you can rely on can make a really big difference.
If you have an event coming up that is going to be stressful, then plan ahead. The more planning you can do ahead of time, the less stressful the event should be. So make those to-do lists and SMART goals as far in advance as you can. You’ll appreciate doing it once the event comes around. But remember, not everything will go according to plan, and that’s ok too.
Avoid relying on unhealthy habits
Don’t rely on unhealthy habits to help you cope with stress, because this is a one-way addiction can be formed. It might be an easy short-term fix, but you’ll pay for it in the long run. So don’t turn to drink, drugs, etc, to help you cope. Pick healthy coping options.
Help other people
As I’ve already suggested in a previous strategy, and in my previous article ‘Positive Psychology‘, engage in the Positive Psychology intervention of doing something for others, through such things as Acts of Kindness. Helping others can make us feel good by doing a good deed.
Sense of humour
I think this is why memes are taking over the world because they allow us to have a quick hit of humour. Humour, is what makes life bearable. So find a way to laugh at the stressful situation if you can. But if not, just find some time to have a good laugh at something else. Maybe find some good memes to look through, watch a funny film, watch a standup show, or even do something childish and let your inner child out.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences with stress and effective coping strategies in the comments section below as well. If you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Gross, R. D. (1992). Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour (2nd ed.). London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Hewstone, M., Fincham, F. D., & Foster, J. (2005). Psychology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.