With taxing jobs, complicated relationships, unexpected situations, and everyone’s seemingly perfect life on social media, life can sometimes get pretty stressful. While stress can help some people perform under pressure, too much stress can negatively impact your mental and physical health, and in turn, throw your life into more disarray. No one is immune to stress, but there are ways to reduce and cope with it. Here are eight ways to manage stress plus stress management techniques you can use to live a fuller, healthier life.
— Before you read on, we also created a FREE checklist that includes easy ways to manage your stress. Grab it here and save to your computer to refer back to throughout your week. —
1. Identify what stresses you out
Knowing that you are in charge of your life is a crucial part of stress management. The first step to taking control is to identify what’s causing you stress.
Stress can be caused by more than just obvious things such as new demands at work or dealing with a health issue. Many of the sources of stress lie within our own thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, so it’s important to look inward as well. Experts suggest writing down every stressful situation in a journal so you can identify patterns as to what’s causing your stress, how you felt, and how you’ve been able to make yourself feel better.
2. Avoid the stressors
Once you’ve identified the things that cause you stress, you can work to avoid them more, whether it’s saying “no” to a coworker who tries to pile all the work on you or spending less time with someone who brings you down.
That’s not to say you should avoid dealing with situations that need to be resolved. Running away completely will not help, but taking a break can. Sometimes you just need some space away from the stressor, whether it’s physical or mental space. Allow yourself to do something else first and then return to it. Things may have calmed down later on, or you’ll simply have had the chance to gain a different perspective on it.
3. Change what you can and accept what you can’t
Be proactive and make changes that can help reduce your stress. If it’s a crazy schedule that has you on edge, find the balance you need to take care of the necessities and still have some self-care time. If it’s a person that’s bothering you, communicate your feelings respectfully and be open to discussion. Having constructive conservations about the problem is much more useful than just bottling up your stress and resentment.
You can’t change all the stressors in the world, however, so sometimes the best way to cope with stress is by accepting the situation as it is. Instead of trying to control what you can’t and adding more stress to your life, focus on controlling how you react and feel instead.
4. Keep it positive
One of the best ways to control how you react and feel is by keeping it positive. Looking for the upsides of situations, keeping a positive attitude, and keeping your thoughts positive are great ways to reduce stress and tension. One technique that can help is learning to shift your negative thoughts to positive ones. For example, instead of thinking “I can’t believe I made this stupid mistake,” think “Everybody makes mistakes. I am able to fix this.”
You can also reduce stress and build your emotional resilience by keeping a gratitude journal and focusing on the good in your life. Smiling and laughing can directly help reduce stress as well, so create opportunities to smile and laugh more, perhaps by catching up with friends over a meal or watching comedy.
5. Keep your body healthy
Another way to increase your ability to resist and cope with stress is by keeping yourself healthy. Put in the good and eliminate the bad.
Eat regular, well-balanced meals, and get some endorphins. Research confirms that exercise not only benefits you physically but also mentally. Exercise helps with stress management in the long-run as well as in a moment of stress. Even a quick workout can immediately trigger positive feelings. Getting quality sleep is important as well.
On the flip side, there are negative ways to deal with stress. Turning to alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or even binge-eating can seem to be easy ways to de-stress, but they can aggravate your symptoms in the long run. Doctors also suggest reducing caffeine and sugar, as the energy crash they result in can make you more agitated and stressed.
6. Keep your mind peaceful
Just as it’s important to keep yourself healthy physically, it’s also important to do so mentally. Relaxation techniques and mind-body activities such as meditation, yoga, and deep breathing can help you relax, focus, and develop new perspectives. Like exercise, mind-body activities have been shown to have immediate benefits.
Another way to relieve stress fast is by finding your happy place by doing something you enjoy, whether it’s reading, spending time on a hobby, or relaxing in a bathtub.
7. Stay connected and talk to someone
Human interaction is essential to all people, and having a conversation with someone you trust is a natural stress reliever. So reach out to your friends and family to catch up and get some bonding time, unless they happen to be the sources of your stress. You can also get this crucial person-to-person interaction by building new relationships. Volunteering, signing up for a new class, and joining a club are all great avenues to make new connections.
You may also find it useful to talk with a physician or professional therapist. Healthcare professionals can help you find healthier ways to cope with your stress, help you find solutions, and add perspective. Under the Affordable Care Act, almost all health insurance plans must cover mental health services as an essential benefit. Compare plans on HealthSherpa to see which ones have the best mental health coverage.
8. Manage your time more effectively
One of the biggest causes of stress is poor time management. Not only does it directly cause stress, it can also make it harder for you to assess situations with different perspectives and to stay healthy and well-rested, thus creating more stress. Manage stress in life and stress at work better by prioritizing what you need to do, saying “no” to additional obligations if you already have a full plate, and delegating when appropriate.
You can also be more effective by breaking down large projects into smaller steps. This will make them more manageable and can help you stay encouraged by mentally noting what you’ve accomplished rather than what you didn’t get to on your to-do list. You don’t have to be a superhero.
What’s the difference between stress and anxiety?
While many people frequently use stress and anxiety interchangeably, the two terms actually have different meanings. While the above tips can help with both, understanding what each term means is important so you can identify whether other resources and options may be helpful to you.
Stress and anxiety are both negative emotional experiences that can cause chaos in your life. Stress is your body’s reaction to changes and challenging situations, and it occurs when you believe you don’t have the ability to cope with the demands placed on you. Everyone can get stressed.
Stress can trigger anxiety, which everyone can experience as well. But some people will have more than just anxious moments. Those who have anxiety disorders have excessive and persistent worries and fears, even in situations that are not going poorly and are not threatening. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illnesses in the United States, with approximately 18 percent of the adult population living with one or more types of anxiety disorders.
If you think you may be struggling with anxiety, consider taking a mental health screen. It can be the first step to learning more about and improving your mental health.
Before you go, don’t forget to grab our FREE stress management checklist!