Happy Wednesday everyone! For this week’s Wellness Wednesday, I thought this would be a good time to talk a little about managing stress. Chronic stress – ongoing, day-after-day, week-after-week stress – can wreak havoc, not just on our emotional wellness but on our physical wellness as well.
Last week, we talked about how our thoughts can affect our overall wellness, and when we’re under stress, our thoughts can tend to become skewed. Managing our stress can help us avoid becoming prisoners to our negative thoughts and deal constructively with it.
It can also help us to develop resilience, feel more positive, and give us the ability to handle whatever challenges arise.
Stress Management Tips
1. Identify your stress triggers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, this needs to be the first step in our stress management plan. This makes sense – in any process improvement, the first step is to identify the problem. The same goes with handling stress. We have to figure out what the “problem” or “trigger” is. What sets off your stress response? Is it job pressures, health issues, financial worries? Whatever it is, once we’ve identified our triggers, the next step is to figure out strategies for dealing with them.
2. Get outside.
Now if you’re a wimp like me, getting outside this time of year might not be a very attractive proposition, but on those nice days, being out in nature can improve your mood and reduce stress. The American Heart Association has a great article, 10 Ways To Relax In Nature and Stress Less.If you need some ideas, be sure and check it out.
3. Use a technique called reframing.
According to Psychology Today, reframing “is a mental activity that involves looking at a stressor or negative situation and explaining it (realistically and honestly) in a positive or neutral way.” Remember when we talked about dealing with those ANTs? We can reframe, as Dr. Amen suggests, by writing down the negative thought and turning it into a positive, but we can also use critical thinking skills to look at the problem from various angles.
4. Improve your planning.
Having a plan and sticking to it (as much as possible, anyway) can help us feel we have more control over a given situation. Planning helps us break the larger problem down into smaller parts, which helps us to just take it one step at a time. It can also help us feel more hopeful, as we feel we have some direction. This can be particularly helpful when our stressors are things like finances or work requirements.
5. Learn relaxation techniques.
There are lots of different techniques that have been developed to help us learn to relax. Some of these include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation. What works for one person doesn’t always work for another, so we often have to experiment a little to find what is most helpful.
6. Be grateful.
‘Counting our blessings’ can help reduce our stress by reminding us of all the things we have to be thankful for. It can also remind us that we’ve been through difficult situations (and perhaps experienced the same stressors) before, and we made it through. This helps us feel more confident that we can make it through the current situation as well.
7. Find an activity you really love.
Having an activity we really love – making art, reading, writing, scrapbooking, playing a sport, listening to music – can help us manage stress by giving us something else to concentrate on. When we’re feeling stressed-out or down, doing something we enjoy can lift our mood and help us feel more positive.
8. Live a healthy lifestyle.
Fueling our bodies properly and keeping them moving is crucial to being able to handle the demands stress places on them.
9. Develop a forgiving style.
According to Psychology Today, “the strength of forgiveness has been shown to have a powerful buffering effect on stress.” This forgiveness is not only for others, but for ourselves as well.
10. Ask for help if you need it.
Too often, we get caught up in an, “I should be able to handle this so I’m not going to ask for help” philosophy. Our society tells us we need to be independent, that we shouldn’t need to depend on others, but that’s just not true. We were created to be in relationship, and to help one another out. Whether it’s asking for help with doing household chores to reduce stress centered around our ‘to do’ list or seeing a professional for help learning to deal with stress in general, we never have to suffer alone. We should never feel bad about reaching out for help if we need it.
Resources for Stress Management
If you’d like more tips and/or information about managing stress, here are a few links to articles, a stress management worksheet, and even a stress management workbook. These are some great resources to help us deal with those unexpected events, undesirable encounters, or less-than-ideal circumstances we all face from time to time.
- 62 Stress Management Techniques to Prevent a Burn Out https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/stress-management-techniques-tips-burn-out/#exercises
- 3 Ways to Become More Stress Resilient (Mayo Clinic) https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/3-ways-to-become-more-stress-resilient/art-20267213
- Five Tips to Help Manage Stress (American Psychological Association) http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx
- Stress Management Worksheet https://www.concordia.ca/content/dam/concordia/services/health/docs/stress-management/Stress%20management%20worksheet.pdf
- Stress Management Workbook https://www.prevention.va.gov/mpt/2013/docs/managestressworkbook_dec2013.pdf
What helps you the most when dealing with stressful situations? Please share your top tips!