Since this is the last day of stress relief articles, I want to leave you with some ways stress management and coping ideas. The pandemic and the accompanying social turmoil have sent stress levels soaring to all-time highs. More people than ever report feeling high amounts of stress. More people are also admitting that they have a hard time managing it. Not managing stress properly can have serious long-term consequences, including the development of chronic illnesses and death. Regardless of the kind of stress or its reasons, there are three basic steps to managing it. They are discussed in order below.
1.) Identify the Cause
The first step is to identify the source of the stress. This might seem basic, but it can often be difficult to connect the symptoms to one stressor or stressors. Stress causes identifiable physical and mental symptoms in the body. Furthermore, the mind can play tricks where the conscious pretends to be worried about one thing while the subconscious is concerned with another.
What’s causing the symptoms? Is it work? Relationship problems? Financial issues? The pandemic? Is there more than one stressor causing problems at once? Figuring out the underlying cause is key to effectively managing stress.
2.) Brainstorm Ways to Solve the Problem
Sometimes the problem can’t be solved. The pandemic is an excellent example of this; nothing any one person does will end it. But many problems have solutions that will eliminate the source of the stress. Some solutions are simple to implement. For example, being overwhelmed at work can be solved by delegating or asking for help. Overbooked schedules can be cured by canceling events and saying no.
Other stressors may take a while to resolve. For example, a bad relationship can be ended with divorce or separation, but this usually involves time and planning. Getting out of debt takes time and commitment. Finding a better job is hard work. However, creating a plan is the first step in solving the problem and managing the stress it causes.
Even problems that can’t be solved can be mitigated by planning a way to deal with them. Work and family schedules can be changed to reduce stress caused by the pandemic, for example.
3.) Practice Good Self-Care
The final step in effectively managing stress is to enact good self-care methods that are shown to reduce stress. This means eating a well-balanced diet and not skipping the gym, even on busy days. It also means implementing stress reduction techniques such as meditation and breathing exercises. Finally, it means prioritizing sleep and creating time for hobbies and enjoyable personal activities.
Extremely stressful situations can be overwhelming. No matter how hard you try, you can’t avoid all stress, but you can deal with it. It’s hard to remain calm and maintain our composure in the face of what feels in the moment like a catastrophe. However, there are many strategies you can use to ground yourself and reduce your stress and anxiety. Try these to help you cope.
The 54321 Method
This stress and anxiety-reduction technique forces you to focus your mind on something other than the cause of your worries and helps you ground yourself. First, take some deep breaths and look around you. Next, find five things you can see. Name them one by one. Next, look around again and find four things you can touch. Name these as well. Now find and name three things you can hear, followed by two things you can smell, and finish by finding one thing you can taste.
Use a Breathing App
These apps help you calm down through the power of breath control. Each is slightly different, but they all give you instructions for how to breathe and how to time your breath to reduce stress and anxiety levels. Don’t wait until you’re under a lot of stress to look for one; instead, try a few different apps when you’re not feeling overwhelmed and pick the one you like to keep handy for future use.
I don’t use a breathing app, but when I was studying to become a health coach, Dr Andrew Weil was one of the teachers and he taught us a breathing technique that I still use to this day. You can find Dr. Weil demonstrating it here:
Positive Attitude and Self Talk
What they say about attitude is true: it does determine how we react to negative situations. Having a positive attitude can go a long way towards coping with extreme stress and avoiding a breakdown. Positive self-talk is a large part of having a good attitude. Practice positively talking to yourself, especially when you’re under stress. Some good expressions to try are “You can do this,” “You’re capable,” and “You’ve got this.”
Take a Break
Sometimes one of the best ways to deal with a stressful situation is to step away from it for a few minutes. It’s hard to handle things properly when you’re overwhelmed with stress and anxiety. So, take a break, walk around, and clear your head for a few minutes. This will calm you down and allow you to focus constructively when you return.
Some situations are just too stressful to deal with on our own. When this happens, reach out for help and support. If the cause is a situation at work, ask for help from a coworker. If it’s personal, call or text a friend or family member for support. If they aren’t available, reach out to a professional. Finally, in an extreme situation, call a crisis line. They’re free and available 24/7.
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Taken together, these three steps are an effective method for managing stress. However, all three steps must be followed for the process to work. Stress is unavoidable in today’s world. How we manage it is up to each of us.