We all face stress daily. Some days, it’s completely manageable. Other days, it feels like it’s going to overwhelm us completely. If you’re not careful, chronic and extreme stress can take a severe toll on your physical and mental health.
Fortunately, most of us can keep stress well under control with effective stress management techniques. There’s no way to eliminate stress from our lives – and we wouldn’t want to, since stress can sometimes be beneficial – but we can take more control over how much stress we face and how it affects us.
The Perks of Stress Management
Better stress management comes with many benefits, including:
- Higher quality of life. Stress is an unpleasant feeling that can practically ruin your day. Eliminating or managing that stress will lead to a higher quality of life.
- Better sleep. Excessive stress makes it difficult to sleep. Sleep deprivation leads to increased stress. It’s a vicious cycle you can break with the right combination of management strategies.
- Improved health. High levels of stress impact both your physical and mental health. Management can reduce your health risk profile.
- Greater resilience. When you’re less stressed, you’re more resilient. You have more patience, more emotional stamina, and you’ll feel calmer when making big decisions.
So how can you better manage stress?
Identify Your Stressors
Your first job is to identify your stressors proactively. What are the situations, responsibilities, or main sources of your stress? Do you struggle to deal with a demanding boss? Are you overwhelmed by parental responsibilities? Are finances tight? In some cases, you can rearrange your life to reduce the impact of these stressors altogether.
Delegate and Collaborate
Most of us are most stressed when we’re overwhelmed with responsibilities. You can minimize the impact of this by delegating and collaborating more frequently. Depending on your situation, this could mean hiring an assistant, working with freelancers, contracting with a property management firm, or simply asking your spouse to tackle a greater share of household responsibilities.
Physical exercise is one of the most reliable and consistent ways to relieve stress – especially if you exercise regularly. Set aside at least 20 minutes a day for vigorous exercise, whether it’s lifting weights, biking, jogging, or just briskly walking around the neighborhood. You can even take a break from work to stretch or do some sit-ups by your desk.
Mindfulness meditation has the power to melt your stress away. The catch is, it takes lots of practice to get “good” at meditating. Use a mantra, a deep breathing exercise, repetitive counting, or an object of focus to concentrate in a room free of distractions. Then allow your thoughts to pass without judgment. This present-focused mentality will help you clear your mind and return to a Zen-like state.
How often do you take breaks? If you’re like many over-stressed people, you work long hours and push yourself too hard. Throughout the day, you should be taking short breaks to decompress and reset your mind. And periodically throughout the year, you should take vacations to relax even more completely.
Schedule Time for Yourself
Stress dissipates when you have time to engage in your favorite hobbies – whatever they happen to be. Maybe you like playing guitar, woodworking, or solving Sudoku puzzles; whatever it is, you should schedule time for it the same way you’d schedule time for any important meeting. Give yourself at least a couple hours per week for personal things.
Sometimes, merely accepting a bad feeling or a bad situation can instantly make you feel less stressed. You may be angry; accept that you’re feeling angry and acknowledge this feeling. You may be faced with an awkward situation; accept that this is awkward and that the situation will eventually pass. You’ll feel an immediate sense of relief.
Improve Your Self-Talk
Stress is made worse by negative self-talk. Flip it on its head by looking at the bright side of every situation. Instead of lamenting that you’re stuck in traffic and you’re going to be late for your appointment, express gratitude that you get a chance to finish your favorite podcast or catch up on voicemails.
Talk to Someone
Talk to people you trust about your stress. Venting about your problems and sharing with loved ones can make you feel more supported – and help you put your stress-inducing problems in a better context. If you’re still struggling, consider talking to a professional therapist.
Stress management looks a little different to each individual. Some people prefer a direct approach, eliminating stressors and leading a stress-free life naturally. Others prefer to tackle their stress levels with reduction strategies like exercise and meditation. Whatever you choose, make sure you keep a close eye on your stress levels and ensure they remain in check.