Many people complain of stress and how it makes them miserable. Stress in itself is not a bad thing. It’s our body’s natural response to danger, and it is important for survival, but it becomes a problem when we are easily triggered and overloaded with what we see as “stressors.” When it feels like work, relationships, financial responsibilities, thoughts about the future, and other situations demand more from us than what we can handle, we become stressed.
When is Stress Harmful
Stress can be both positive (eustress) and negative (distress). When you feel energized to complete a task, that’s a positive kind of stress. Your body’s stress response system returns to normal, and the stress hormones drop when the threat is gone (that’s when you’re done with a challenging task). But when you continuously work on challenging tasks without taking breaks, you become tired and overwhelmed. The stress reaction persists, and it increases your risk for mental and physical health problems like depression, anxiety, heart disease, decreased brain function, weight problems, addiction, and many others. This is why you need to keep stress under control.
How to Manage Stress in 6 Steps
1 Understand stress
Stress is different for everyone. What’s stressful for you may not be stressful for another person. Know what causes stress. The American Psychological Association says the most common sources of stress are the future of our nation, money, work, current political climate, violence, and crime. Look into these areas. On top of these, relationships are also a possible source of stress.
2 Improve your self-awareness
Learn to recognize the signs of stress. The most common symptoms of stress are headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, chest pain, insomnia, nervousness, feeling easily frustrated or moodiness, finding it difficult to relax, inability to focus, and many others.
3 Set boundaries
Stress becomes chronic when we fail to set boundaries. Pause and rest in between tasks. Say no to things that you would rather not do and learn to accept the consequences of doing so. Remember, the goal is not to please people.
4 Minimize to maximize
This is a simple concept that only means getting rid of the excess in your life to be able to maximize your resources. Without you knowing it, clutter around you, and inside, your mind causes stress. Spend your resources on what really matters.
5 Create a recentering anchor
A recentering anchor associates the internal response with triggers. In simple terms, you will train yourself to associate certain feelings and senses with triggers coming from the outside. This will allow you to control your mood better. In this case, you may want to anchor feeling calm.
Remember a situation where you feel calmest. Engage your senses. Recall what you saw, what you smelled, heard, or tasted during that moment of relaxation. Connect this state with a part of your body. For example, you can put your hand on your knee. This will serve as the anchor. Each time you feel stressed, you can place your hand on your knee to recall the feeling of being relaxed.
Breathe in deeply through your nose and feel your belly fill with air. Breathe out through your nose. Do these for at least three times.
You can manage stress by addressing its sources and learning to respond better to what you can’t control.
- Understand what causes stress.
- Be aware of stress symptoms.
- Set boundaries.
- Minimize clutter.
- Create an anti-stress anchor.
- Breathe deeply.