Welcome back! Last time we took a look at what stress is; where it comes from; and how too much stress can be unhealthy. This week we are going to take a look at some evidence-based methods for managing stress.
Avoid Stress In The First Place
I know, I know: Easier said than done! But, knowing that avoiding stress can make a real difference in your health, try to prioritize it. Try to avoid overscheduling yourself; make time for self-care, rest, and relaxation. Leave a little earlier for things, so you don’t need to stress about being late. Try to identify the major causes of stress in your life and see what you can do to reduce them.
If you’re not able to avoid stress outright (and nobody is able to do that all the time), here are some steps recommended by David Allan, editorial director of CNN Health and Wellness, for managing stress:
Step one: Breath. Deeply.
You might be pleasantly surprised at how effective just focusing on your breath can be. When you feel stress coming on, pause, focus on your breathing, and focus on breathing more deeply. Breathing deeply has been shown to aid in relaxation, stabilize blood pressure, and deliver more oxygen to your body. You can also add
Step Two: Try A Mantra
A mantra is a word or simple phrase you repeat to yourself in order to center your thoughts and aid in reflection and maintaining calmness. Combining a mantra with deep breathing can be a powerful technique to remain calm during life’s minor annoyances.
Step Three: Talk Yourself Through It
Naming your emotions and articulating the reasons you are feeling them can help get those emotions under control. Saying to yourself what you feel and why can be surprisingly powerful. Try filling in the blanks in this sentence: “Right now, I am feeling _________ because ________.”
So, as you run into stressful situations this week, try these techniques. Next week we will take a look at more advanced techniques for dealing with more serious stress.
Step Four: Imagine Things From The Other Person’s Perspective
This can be deeply helpful if you are experience conflict with someone you know and can talk to, but even if you are not able to actually know why another person did what they did, it can be helpful to imagine they had a benign motive or at least didn’t know they would be upsetting you by doing what they’re doing. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you may as well assume they did it by accident as assume they did it on purpose. You’ll probably never know the truth, but it will likely be less upsetting to imagine it was an accident.
Step Five: Imagine Yourself As A Role Model For Calm
You can’t always control the source of your stress, but you can control much of your response. Imagine yourself from an outside perspective and visualize how you want to be seen responding to stress. This can be particularly important if you have children, because they will learn how to deal with stress by watching the adults in their life.
Step Six: Remember Time Is On Your Side
Whatever stress you’re dealing with may be very upsetting in the moment, but remind yourself that moment will pass. Ask yourself, “Is this going to bother me in a year? Am I even going to remember this happened a year from now?”
Step Seven: Remind Yourself About The Big Things That Really Count
Most of life’s daily hassles pale in comparison with the good things in life. Remind yourself of those good things in your life. Friends; family; pets; health; a meaningful career; love of art or nature; whatever it is that makes you deeply happy: Bring it to mind. Keeping a photo or other token of what makes you deeply happy with you all the time can help with this.
Step Eight: Laugh When You Can
While it’s not always possible or appropriate, try to find the humor in difficult situations. Even if it’s only a joke you keep to yourself, making it can help diffuse tension.
Step Nine: Do What You Can; Know What You Can Do
If you are able to take action to improve the situation, even if you can’t totally fix it, that can often feel better than not doing anything. It’s also problems that seem intractable at first might begin to seem more manageable once you take a few steps towards solving them.
Having said that, no one can solve every problem, and it’s important to be realistic about what you can and can’t do.
Step Ten: Look Back To Go Forward
Think about times in the past when things seemed really bad, but got better. Remind yourself of all you’ve been through and overcome in your life up to this point.
Step Eleven: Get Help When You Need It
Everyone needs help sometimes. If you find you are not able to manage a particularly difficult situation on your own, reach out to someone who can help. This could be a parent, a friend, a partner or spouse, or a mental health professional.
Come work with our Health and Behavior Coach on managing your stress.
Greg Bing, M.Ed., A.C.E. Certified Trainer, Youth Fitness Specialist