Previously I talked about “The Crippling Effect of Stress on Your Organs”. We discussed the negative physical effects caused by stress ranging from heart problems to multiple sclerosis (MS).
Managing stress is all about taking charge of your life and your attitude towards dealing with problems.
Today we are going to look at the 3 steps that will help you manage and even overcome stress so that you don’t have to worry about the damage that stress can do to your body.
Step 1: Identify Source of Stress
Let’s face it; identifying the source of stress in our lives is easier said than done. We can easily overlook our own negative behaviour such as stress-inducing thoughts and negative attitudes.
We need to eliminate these thoughts and attitudes before we can get to the true source of our stress. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I dismiss stress as a temporary issue although I am always stressed out? Example: “I just have a million things going on right now.”
- Have I accepted stress as part of my daily routine? Example: “Things are always crazy around here.”
- Do I always blame others and external events without taking responsibility? Example “Why does this always happen to me?”
Unless you take responsibility and identify your own shortcomings and how you contribute to your own stress you will not be able to control your stress levels.
If you still have difficulty identifying the source of your stress after following the steps above, keep a stress journal. Every time you feel stressed write down what you think caused your stress, how you felt, how you responded, and what you did to feel better.
Step 2: Identify Your Coping Techniques
Think of how you currently cope with stress and whether the methods you use actually help or not. Certain things will actually have the opposite effect and contribute to worsening your situation.
Below are some of the more well-known ways of coping with stress that could actually do more harm than good:
- Alcohol Abuse
- Lashing out on others
The best way to defeat stress is by knowing which options you have when it comes to managing or eliminating stress. There are four options to choose from that will help you change the situation or change your reaction. You can do this by using the Four As approach.
|Change the situation:
||Change your reaction:
Step 3: Manage Stress Using the Four As Approach
Avoid the Stressor
Avoid unnecessary stress as long as it is caused by a situation that does not really need to be addressed. There are many stressors in your life at this very moment that you can eliminate just by avoiding certain situations.
- Say “no” and stick to your guns. You don’t have to please all the people all the time.
- Avoid negative people who stress you out and if needed end the relationship entirely.
- Look for alternatives to things you do that cause you stress. For example, if driving to work stresses you, take the bus.
- Avoid discussions about topics you may be sensitive to. Change the subject or excuse yourself.
- Shorten your to-do list by limiting it to the things you really must do.
Alter the Stressor
If you are in a situation where you cannot avoid the stressor then you must try to change things around so that the problem does not present itself in the future.
- Express your feelings and concerns. Bottling up your feelings will not change the situation and will build resentment.
- Be willing to compromise. You can’t always make people act exactly the way you want them to. Sometimes you will have to meet them halfway.
- Deal with problems head on and be more assertive. Take matters into your own hands and be in the driving seat of your life.
- Improve your time management in order to avoid getting stretched too thin. Running behind schedule can be a major cause of stress.
Adapt to the Stressor
Have you ever heard of the expression “if you can’t beat them, join them”? Well this is not exactly the same thing but it uses the same philosophy. It is about adapting to situations that you can neither avoid nor change by changing your expectations and attitude.
- Always look at the bright side of life. The next time you are stuck in traffic, take it as an opportunity to enjoy some alone time, to meditate, to pray, or to pause and regroup.
- Put things into perspective. Some things may not be worth getting stressed about in the long run. How many times have you looked back and thought “what was I so upset about?”
- Stop being a perfectionist if you are one because you are setting yourself up for disappointment. Set reasonable standards for you and the people you deal with and have more realistic expectations.
- When the going gets tough try to think of all the good things that you have in your life at that moment. I bet you will find more reasons to smile than to frown.
- If you feel like you have underachieved look at the less fortunate people who are struggling to find shelter, food, or are victims of modern slave trade. I would even go out and do a good deed if I was in your place. The feeling of satisfaction that comes after a charitable deed is amazing.
Accept the Stressor
Some things in life you just need to accept. Stressors that you cannot adapt to, change, or avoid are the most difficult to manage. For example, you have no control over the death of a loved one, a chronic illness, or world economic recession.
- Identify things that are out of your control such as how people behave. Rather than getting upset over such a situation, focus on things that you can control.
- Turn challenges into learning opportunities and come out of a stressful situation stronger.
- Talk to a friend or family member you trust. It is very therapeutic. Don’t worry you will not be considered weak. Confiding in someone will also make your bond stronger with that person.
- Learn to forgive and you will have a great life. We live in an imperfect world and if you keep grudges with everyone who has wronged you, you will hurt yourself emotionally, mentally, and physically.
We said that managing stress is all about taking charge of your life and your attitude towards dealing with problems. However everyone is unique and there is really no “one size fits all” solution to fighting stress.
We have given you the three basic steps to a successful stress management strategy but you know more about what is going on in your life so try thinking outside the box.
Don’t forget to eat healthy, exercise, sleep enough and to spend time with the most important people in your life.