Whether you’re worrying about your finances, health, job, friends, or family, stress manifests itself in many ways that seem impossible to escape.
The American Psychological Association (APA) is no stranger to the problem. Their surveys show that 22 percent of Americans felt extreme stress in 2011, and 39 percent of adults said their stress only increased with time.
Although most people realize stress can cause common health problems like heart disease, obesity, and depression when left unchecked, it can be hard to develop the tools necessary to manage the kind of stress that leaves you lying awake at night. However, developing a successful stress management strategy isn’t rocket science, it just requires a little self-reflection and a few small changes.
- Live a healthy, balanced lifestyle
Some people experience more stress than they need to because their bodies aren’t functioning properly. Some simple changes in lifestyle might get your body back in balance to better manage stress.
- Get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep –If you happen to be one of those people, lack of sleep could be contributing to your stress according to the Huffington Post.
- Exercise – research proves again and again how important physical activity is. Harvard Health Publications reaffirms that aerobic exercise reduces the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. You know the drill – make sure to get in some moderate activity like brisk walking for 30 minutes every day.
- Choose healthy foods and avoid caffeine – when you’re stressed your hormones are busy releasing cortisol and adrenaline, your blood sugar, pressure, and heart rate increase, says the BBC, so it’s important to avoid foods and drinks that’ll make this worse, such as caffeine (sorry coffee, you’ve got to go), and refined foods.
If you follow these healthy living tips, your stress management strategy will be much more successful.
- Identify the sources of your stress and how they affect you
If you don’t know why you feel stressed, or how that stress affects your thoughts and emotions, it’ll be hard to manage. An APA survey of over 3,000 U.S. adults found most people are stressed out by money, work, relationships, health problems, and family responsibilities. While many of those concerns are real, people often overthink them, which leads to anxiety and overwhelming negative thoughts.
- Challenge negative thoughts and emotions
According to an article in the Western Journal of Medicine, when life gets tough, people tend to blow things out of proportion and get trapped in a downward spiral of negative thinking.
- They overemphasize the negative while forgetting positive things
- See the world in black and white
- Make everything personal or blame themselves
- Have unrealistic expectation of how things “should” be or how people “must” act
- Think in worst case scenarios
These types of thoughts are not only irrational, but they’re also harmful. They train your brain to always focus on the bad which becomes a habit. Instead, recognize your negative thinking and kick it out the door by analyzing your thoughts, emotions, and the situation. Try to see things from a different perspective and don’t bash yourself. Instead, focus on your good qualities and capabilities.
- Ask yourself how you manage stress now
If you have a lot of stress, the strategies you’re using now (even if you don’t realize it) aren’t working. Many people turn to alcohol, drugs, sex, food, or cigarettes when they feel stressed, the American Academy of Pediatrics explains, however, these coping mechanisms are harmful to your mental and physical health.
- Find new ways to manage stress
Instead of turning to temporary coping mechanisms, research new ways to manage stress. Although the list is potentially endless, these are some of the most common ways:
- Talk it out with a friend
- Practice deep breathing
- Set goals
- Take a break
- Speak with a doctor or therapist
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to practice positive thinking
- Listen to soothing music
- Hang out with a fluffy animal, like a dog
Try a few out and pick one that works for you.
Everyone has a lot on their plate, but to make it more manageable, you have to prioritize. As the Huffington Post points out, if you start with a plan you can filter out the small things that arise throughout the day to focus on what really matters.
- Document your progress
Keep a journal or download an app to keep track of your emotions, stress, and progress. If you see yourself making gains, it will fuel you on, but if you don’t have anything to show, you might not even know if your stress management strategy is really working and get discouraged. Progress is key.
With these tips in mind, you’re ready to start conquering your stress.
Daisy Grace is a Health & Beauty Consultant, who helps women live a life they love, in a body they live. She enjoys writing on different topics related to health and beauty topics. Daisy’s purpose and passion lies in facilitating health breakthroughs with women who deserve good health, happiness and self-love. She writes on all aspects of women’s health and beauty skin care and also various product reviews.