Stress can really affect your quality of life as it negatively impacts both your mental and physical health. When we’re stressed, we find it difficult to think clearly, function normally, and enjoy our day to day life. This means that we become even more stressed. Unfortunately, when we are feeling like this, small problems tend to seem a lot bigger, which contributes to us feeling even more stressed! The only way to effectively cope with the ongoing cycle is by learning how to manage stress. Here, we’re taking a look at the best stress management techniques.
What Is Causing Stress in Your Life?
Before we dive right into stress management techniques, the first thing you will need to do is identify the causes of stress in your life. This might sound easy, but it will take some time and thought. So, grab a notepad and pen. We all go through tough times at some stage, usually, this is a result of a massive life change. For instance, moving house, divorce, changing jobs, or the loss of a loved one can all be major stressors in our lives. These are known as unpredictable stressors and we’ll talk about them a little more later on.
If you can’t identify a large life event like this, you may need to dig a little deeper to identify your stressors. Think about your own feelings and behaviours that may contribute to your stress levels. For instance, do you tend to procrastinate and then stress when deadlines are fast approaching?
If you can’t identify a large life event like this, you may need to dig a little deeper to identify your stressors. Think about your own feelings and behaviours that may contribute to your stress levels. For instance, do you tend to procrastinate and then stress when deadlines are fast approaching? Do you feel under pressure at work and thus, feel stressed during your commute? These are known as predictable stressors.
Now that we know what is causing stress in your life, let’s move on to stress management techniques to help you. To do this, we will use the 4 A’s approach.
1. Avoid Stressful Situations
The first A of stress management is ‘avoid’. Now, this is not to say that you can simply avoid all stressful situations. Unfortunately, that is not the case and if it were, life would be much more simple. However, sometimes there are stressful situations that you can avoid by changing your behaviours or setting boundaries.
For instance, you may have a lot on your plate at work and you are already feeling under pressure to meet deadlines. Therefore, taking on any more responsibilities is guaranteed to stress you out further. In this case, you need to learn how to say ‘no’ when asked to take on more. Likewise, if you have your hands full with a huge DIY project at home and your neighbour asks you to cat-sit for them. You simply need to say ‘no’. You will need to distinguish between tasks that need to be taken on and tasks that could be taken on. We recommend getting to know your limits and sticking to them to manage stress levels. By setting up boundaries, you can avoid many unnecessary stressful situations.
Avoiding stressful situations is largely down to taking control of your environment. If you have noticed that a friend or family member consistently stresses you out, you will need to take control of the situation and limit the time you spend with that person. Similarly, if you have noticed that listening to the news multiple times over the course of the day adds to your stress levels, try to limit it to once a day to catch up on the headlines. If your to-do list makes you break out in a sweat just thinking about it, you may need to change things up. List out all tasks and prioritise them in order of importance. Remove all unnecessary items or move them to an ‘optional’ list.
2. Alter Your Environment
The next A of stress management is ‘alter’. If you cannot avoid a situation, you may be able to change it. Let’s take the following example: imagine you have a big deadline tomorrow. You’re currently working on finishing the project and you’re feeling quite stressed. As you frantically work, your coworker arrives at your desk and they want to chat to you about their day. To change this situation, you will need to be assertive and explain to your coworker that you’re under pressure to get this task finished so you only have five minutes to catch up. If you don’t voice your feelings, your coworker will not know that you need some time to yourself.
If you are hoping to change a situation, you will need to be prepared to compromise. You are essentially asking another person to change their behaviour, and you need to be willing to meet them halfway. If you are both willing to change a little, you are more likely to find a happy middle ground.
Try to alter your schedule to allow for a work-life balance. Taking some time to relax might be the last thing on your mind if you’re extremely stressed but all work and no play is guaranteed to result in burnout. Try to balance work and home life by clearly dividing the two. You can find more information on avoiding burnout here.
3. Adapt to The Situation
If you cannot change a situation, you may need to change how you react to it. By changing your expectations and attitudes, you may be able to change a seemingly stressful situation into an opportunity for growth. For instance, you might be stressed with the thought of learning to drive. Yes, it can be stressful but the silver lining is that you will learn a new skill and you will have newfound freedom! You may find getting stuck in traffic really grinds your gears but try to look on the bright side. You could use the opportunity to listen to a podcast or an audiobook and enjoy some time to yourself.
Try to think about the situation in the grand scheme of things. Is this important in the long run? Do you think you will still care about it in a month’s time or next year? Is it really worth spending your time worrying about it? If not, focus your energy on something else.
Sometimes we can be our own worst enemies and we put undue pressure on ourselves to achieve certain things. Perfectionism is a surefire source of unnecessary stress as you’re putting unrealistic expectations on yourself. Setting the bar too high is only setting yourself up for failure. Try to break down bigger goals into small steps and take each step at a time. Try to be realistic with the time needed to achieve these goals and try not to be too hard on yourself – we all make mistakes sometimes!
4. Accept What You Cannot Change
Sometimes stressful situations are just unavoidable and there’s very little we can do about it. In this case, you may need to just accept it. This is the only way to cope with unpredictable stressors, such as a global pandemic, the loss of a job or the loss of a loved one. If you cannot control the situation, you can only focus on the things you can change – your reaction to it. Try to adjust your attitude and look for silver linings. Perhaps, you can use these situations as an opportunity for personal growth, as we mentioned above. For instance, you cannot control the pandemic that we are all experiencing at the moment but you can change your reaction to it. You can use your spare time at home to learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.
If the situation is the result of a poor decision or a mistake that you made, you could use this opportunity to reflect and learn from your mistakes. If it is the result of another person’s mistake, try to exercise your ability to forgive. Everyone makes mistakes and it’s not a reason to harbour anger or resentment. Try to let go of negative energy and move on.
Stress Management Comes In Many Shapes and Sizes
When it comes to stress management, there is no one-size-fits-all and it might look different for each of us. What is meant by stress management? It could be some of the techniques that we mentioned above, or it could be any number of healthy coping mechanisms that you use to deal with the everyday stresses of life! We would love to hear how you manage stress effectively – get in touch with us via Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
If you are struggling with persistently high-stress levels over a long period of time, it could indicate anxiety. If you have any concerns about this, we recommend you speak to a medical professional. Webdoctor.ie online doctors are available 7 days a week, including evenings and weekends. To speak to a medical professional about your mental or physical health, book an online consultation through our platform.