Stress Management – An Introduction
Stress…it can do damage to the body and soul, especially if you are anything like this person…
“I stress about stress before there’s even stress to stress about. Then I stress about stressing over stress that doesn’t need to be stressed about. It’s stressful.”
Learning how to relieve stress is something that all should strive for. And keep in mind that just thinking about how to cope with stress shouldn’t give you stress!
So, take a “chill pill” and a few deep breaths. This post has been created with all the resources needed to successful start managing stress at work, at home, or any other aspect of life.
What is Stress, Exactly?
Learning how to release stress first starts with deepening your understanding of what stress really is. This section will provide the educational foundation before moving on to ways to manage stress.
Stress is a normal physical and psychological reaction to the demands of life. All of us experience stress at one point or another throughout our day, week, month, and year.
Our brains are incredibly intelligent, and come hard-wired with an alarm system, of sorts, to help protect the rest of the body.
When the brain perceives a threat, it signals the body to release a short burst of hormones to fuel the capacity to respond to the situation (the “fight-or-flight” response). The body, through its natural process, is typically able to return to a normal relaxed state, once the threat has been extinguished.
Unfortunately, modern life provides ample opportunities for this alarm system to be triggered and rarely shuts off.
What Causes Stress?
Causes of stress can include a host of situations and pressures. These are called “stressors”. There is a never-ending list of external and internal stressors, since all of us are different. What may be a stressor for one person, may not be for another.
While external stressors sometimes come randomly and are hard to deal with, internal stressors are often the “silent” killers and can flare up at any given point. Here are some of the most common internal and external stressors:
- An exhausting work schedule or trying to receive a promotion
- A rocky relationship
- Getting married
- Buying a house or other important purchase
- Going to College or School
- Financial issues
- Other major life changing events
- Excessively worry about something that may or may not happen
- Irrational thinking, or too much thinking
- Negative self-talk
- Unrealistic expectations / perfectionism
- A lack of flexibility
Different Types of Stress – Albrecht’s Four Types of Stress
There are different types and effects of stress. Dr. Karl Albrecht is the pioneer in development of stress-reduction training for people in business. He defined these four common types of stress in his 1979 book “Stress and the Manager”:
1. Time Stress
Time stress is present when you worry about time, or the lack thereof. Perhaps you constantly worry about the never-ending to-do list and how you don’t have enough time to get it all done. Or you worry about being late for a meeting or other activities.
2. Anticipatory Stress
Anticipatory stress involves worrying about the future. Perhaps it’s a specific event, or experience that you know is coming up soon. It can also be vague and undefined, such as dreading for the future or always worrying about “what might go wrong”.
3. Situational Stress
Situational stress comes because of a scary situation that you have little to no control over. For example, an emergency, a situation with conflict, or the loss of status in the eyes of your peers.
4. Encounter Stress
Encounter stress involves meeting and interacting with people. Perhaps there is a certain person or group that you worry about interacting with. This is a typical stress related to work, when meeting with customers or clients. You are often left with “contact overload” where you feel drained from being around too many people.
Common Symptoms of Stress
Common stress symptoms are numerous, and they often appear at different times, and differently for each person. Typically, these symptoms fall under four different categories:
- Loneliness and isolation
- Overwhelmed feeling
- Irritability, anger, and moodiness
- Anxiety and agitation
- General unhappiness or depression
- Other mental or emotional health problems
- Worrying all the time
- Seeing only the negative
- Concentration problems
- Memory problems
- Poor judgment
- Racing thoughts or anxiety
- Frequent flu and colds
- Heart rate that is rapid or chest pain
- Stool inconsistency – diarrhea or constipation
- Aches and pains
- Nausea, dizziness
- Decreasing or loss of sex drive
- Eating less or more
- Feeling withdrawn from society
- Feeling the urge to relax with alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs
- Nail biting, pacing, tapping, or other nervous habits
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities has become the norm
- Sleeping too much or too little
Regardless of the types of signs of stress you are experiencing, there is help for you! Keep reading…
ACTION STEP: Consider writing in a journal the answer to these three questions:
- What type of stress do you mainly struggle with? Time, Anticipatory, Situational, or encounter?
- What are the stressors in your life that are wreaking havoc?
- Are there any symptoms that you are currently experiences that you’ve now identified?
Evaluating ones’ self is the first step to being able to change, and writing it down makes it a priority!
FURTHER READING – STRESS ARTICLES
Stress Management Techniques
What is stress management exactly? Well, we all deal with stress to some degree; therefore, getting rid of stress completely is probably not an achievable goal for most of us! So, stress management is all about managing the daily mental, normal life, and work stress that you encounter in your life.
Dealing with stress is important; please don’t postpone working on this aspect of your life! Stress relief techniques can help you gain control of your stress.
Here are some great stress techniques that you can start applying into your daily life:
A. Identify your stress triggers
Start by identifying the sources of stress in your life. It may be easy to identify your stressors, from above, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress may prove to be a bit trickier.
Don’t overlook your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, especially in connection with your everyday stress levels.
To identify your triggers, consider your excuses, attitudes, and habits, for example:
- It’s never your fault, but rather the people and events around you that are to blame.
- You have grown accustomed to defining stress as just another part of your everyday work or home life. Or perhaps you’ve even let yourself believe that it’s just “part of who I am”.
- You look at stress as a temporary issue, even though remembering the last time you relaxed is hard to.
Stress levels will always remain outside of your control until you own it! Accept responsibility and start changing!
B. Practice R.A.A.R. – Remove, Adjust, Adapt, & Roll
At the beginning, we addressed how stress is the nervous system’s automatic response.
Remove Unnecessary Stress
There are situations that all of us need to take part in, even if it is stressful; however, you might be surprised how many stressors that you can eliminate from your life.
- Say “no” more often. You know your own limits, so don’t compromise them! Personal or professional, taking on extra things (when you know you can’t handle it all) is a recipe for disaster!
- Scale down your tasks. Look at your schedule, daily tasks, and responsibilities and prioritize your “needs” before other “wants”.
- Control your environment. Stop attending events or situations that you know will be stressful for you.
- Stay away from people who stress you out. Choose to limit the amount of time that you spend around or with the person who causes the most stress in your life. If it’s a person in a relationship with you, consider ending it.
Adjust the Situation
If you can’t remove unnecessary stress, then consider adjusting it.
- Balance out your schedule. Attempting to balance work, social activities, family life, personal time, work, and other daily responsibilities should be a priority.
- Don’t bottle up emotions. Resentment will always build, and stress will increase when you don’t have an outlet for emotions. Be more assertive and communicate these emotions with someone that you trust.
Adapt to the Stressor
All of us have a choice. When the stressor can’t be changed, you can choose to adapt to that stressor. Change your expectations and attitudes to help you gain control again.
- Consider the big picture. A new perspective = automatic stress reliever. Take a deep breath, and think about the bigger picture. Is this something that will be important tomorrow or later this week?
- Be thankful. Gratitude is a great way to reflect on the things you appreciate, including what gifts you have been given. Gratitude allows you to stop thinking about your current situation and the stressor for a temporary time. It can work great.
- Change your standards. Stop being a perfectionist (which is a major source for avoidable stress). Don’t demand this standard upon yourself, since all of us fail; it’s part of life. Be happy with who you are and what you have accomplished in life so far.
Roll with the Punches
Sometimes, you just can’t change what’s about to happen, people, or the situation you find yourself in. That’s OK. “Rolling with the punches” is a great way to control stress. And remember, stay positive!
- Forgiveness is important. We all live in an imperfect world; everyone is bound to make mistakes. Don’t let this frustrate you. Roll with it and freely forgive yourself and others for mistakes that are made.
- Give your feelings freely. It’s healthy to express your feelings to those that you trust, or with a therapist.
- Stop trying to control what can’t be controlled. There are things, situations, and people that you just can’t control. Don’t beat yourself up because of something that was out of your hands to begin with. Instead, focus on what you can actually control!
C. Time Management is Equally Important
Time management should be a critical part of your life. Poor time management is a quick blow to your stress levels. Try to work on these areas: don’t over-commit yourself, prioritize tasks, delegate responsibilities, and make smaller goals and smaller steps to achieve those goals.
When you are behind schedule and stretched too thin, it’s hard to stay calm and focused!
D. Exercise is Incredibly Important
One of the best ways to reduce stress is to stretch out your body through exercise. Physical activity is a huge stress reliever.
Why is exercise so great to reduce stress? Because exercise releases the endorphin hormone. Endorphin’s are sometimes called the “happy” hormone, since it typically gives you a “rush”, accompanied with excitement and satisfaction.
If you don’t have enough time to commit going to the gym, that’s perfectly fine! You can still get stress benefits by doing small activities over the course of a day. Just get up and start moving!
*Extra tip – while you exercise, coordinate breathing with the movements that you make. This will help remove negative thoughts and give you a much-needed boost of energy.
E. Fun & Relaxation MUST Be a Priority
Making time for fun and relaxation MUST be a priority. While it may be initially hard to “carve out” time, consider it an investment in yourself. It’s a necessity, not a luxury. Make sure that you do something for yourself every day, set aside regular leisure time, and laugh with others.
Relaxation exercises, like yoga, meditation, and deep breathing can help your body relax and calm down. Keep these relaxation techniques in your “quick toolbox” to pull out at a moment’s notice.
F. A Healthy Lifestyle Can Be Obtained
What does a healthy lifestyle look like? It’s one where everything is in balance. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, removing alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, and reducing sugar and caffeine can greatly improve your lifestyle.
G. Make Connections with Others
Stressed out? Consider spending time with others. Face-to-face interactions trigger hormones that counteract the “fight-or-flight” response; of course, only have this face-fact interaction with someone that you trust and feel safe.
Make a point to connect with family, friends, and others that you trust on a regular basis. No one can fix your stress, but being with them can help the stress to leave!
A few ideas to make connections…
- Leaving work for lunch with a friend
- Go get coffee with your spouse
- Call or email an old friend
- Schedule a movie night with your best friends
- Reach out to someone that you know is struggling with stress too
ACTION STEP: Apply these stress reduction techniques into your life and experience the benefit of less stress!
Stress Relief Tips
There are a ton of fantastic ways to relieve stress out there.
Some of those are included in the picture above. Others are:
- Go for a walk
- Take a long bath
- Cuddle up with a good book
- Call and confide in a good friend
- Light scented candles
- Work in your garden
Want a few bonus stress relief tips? Start your very own stress toolkit!
ACTION STEP: Start taking steps today to attack your stress by implementing these techniques and tips. Your body and soul will thank you later!
Final Thoughts on Stress Management
For most of us, there is stress in the workplace, at home, and other areas of our lives. Learning different ways to deal with stress can help you start managing stress, and not letting it manage you!
Be confident that you can get in control. Take these techniques and tips to heart and start handling stress in your life… the right way.
Learning how to handle stress is a key life skill that will put YOU in control…and once you have that control, then you truly have POWER OVER LIFE!
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