Friday, May 31, 2013

Best Stress Management Tips

In my May 17th post about toxic stress, I promised to share my favorite article on stress management. Last year, when my stress levels were over the moon, I read everything I could find about stress management, hoping to find some way to cope when I could barely breathe. Some articles were simplistic and obvious, others condescending. The advice I found at is helpful, practical, non-judgmental, and spot-on from my perspective. I'll summarize it here but highly recommend you read the complete article yourself.

The authors, Melinda Smith and Robert Segal, begin by recommending a stress journal to help identify the sources of stress in your life. I was fully aware of the source of my stress, so I skipped over that section. However, if you are feeling stressed in general, this might help pinpoint the causes. Next, they advise looking at the ways you currently cope with stress, including a laundry list of unhealthy behaviors. Since I tend to internalize my stress, none of those behaviors directly applied either.

Then we get to the most valuable section, the part we've all been waiting for: healthy ways to manage stress. In it, the authors describe the Four A's of dealing with stressful situations.

Change the situation:                     OR                       Change your reaction:
1. Avoid the stressor.                                                  3. Adapt to the stressor. 
2. Alter the stressor.                                                    4. Accept the stressor.

They offer six stress management strategies.

#1: Avoid unnecessary stress.
      Seems obvious, right? Even in the face of chaos, you'd be surprised how much you can still control. After reviewing the following list of strategies, I discovered several ways to reduce some of the non-job-related stress in my life. I bet you will, too.

  • Learn how to say "no" to excessive tasks and responsibilities.
  • Avoid people who stress you out or limit your interactions with them.
  • Take control of your environment - Look at the small, stressful interactions during your day and adjust or eliminate them where possible.
  • Avoid hot-button topics - This was a major source of stress for me, particularly leading up to the last election. OG has very strong opinions, and while I may share them, listening to too many political rants of any kind is hard on me.
  • Pare down your to-do list.
#2: Alter the situation.
  • Express your feelings - I would recommend being somewhat careful with this. Depending on how and to whom you express your feelings, you might end up increasing your stress instead of decreasing it.
  • Be willing to compromise - Try to look at your situation from different perspectives.
  • Be more assertive - Again, temper this with reason. An assertive confrontation with a bad  boss might make things worse. However, a take-charge approach to managing your own life will give you a greater sense of control.
  • Manage your time better.
#3: Adapt to the stressor - These are standard approaches used in cognitive behavioral therapy and can be very useful, depending on the sources of your stress and the available options.
  • Reframe problems.
  • Look at the big picture.
  • Adjust your standards.
  • Focus on the positive.
#4: Accept the things you can't change - Important life lessons for us all.
  • Don't try to control the uncontrollable - I need lots of work on this one!
  • Look for the upside.
  • Share your feelings.
  • Learn to forgive.
#5: Make time for fun and relaxation.
  • Set aside relaxation time.
  • Connect with others - This is critical during stressful times. Stress is isolating. We often hesitate to dump our troubles on family and friends. But even if you don't share the details, you need the support of loved ones.
  • Do something you enjoy every day - You need to pamper yourself during tough times, even if it's just taking time to read a good book or cook a favorite meal.
  • Keep your sense of humor - Try to find ways to laugh. Watch a funny movie. Go to the zoo.
#6: Adopt a healthy lifestyle.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Reduce caffeine and sugar.
  • Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
  • Get enough sleep -  Sometimes easier said than done, but we have to at least try.
You can read the complete article HERE and let me know if it resonated with you the way it did with me.

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