Employee Assistance Program
Wellness Tips » Stress Management
The key to stress management is not to try to avoid stress altogether, but to manage the stress in our lives in such a way that we avoid the negative consequences of stress. You can never totally eliminate all of the stress in your life.
We need to accept the fact that there will always be a certain amount of stress in our lives and work to manage it in a way that we avoid or minimize the negative consequences of the stress.
There are essentially three ways to manage the stress you experience in your life:
- You can manage yourself.
- You can manage your reaction to stressors.
- You can manage the amount of stress.
The central point to managing yourself is taking care of yourself. It is important to regularly remind yourself of your values as a person rather than allowing situations and circumstances to determine it.
It is also important to keep physically fit and exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to work off stress that you have built up during the day as well as a way to increase your energy level. It is also important to monitor your diet. Often when we are busy (and stressed), we give up eating healthy food and grab fast food, soda, and coffee. Avoid excess sugar, salt, and caffeine. Remember that caffeine is a stimulant and does nothing to help you relax and deal with the stress you are under.
Another thing that often happens when we're stressed is that we give up sleep in order to get things accomplished. If we get adequate of sleep, we will be much better able to handle the daily stressors we face.
It's also important to have play time. Leisure is a way to deal with stress, increase productivity, and enhance contentment. Taking leisure time can actually make you more productive when you do return to work.
Perhaps the most important way of dealing with stress is managing your reaction to stress. Don't stress about being stressed! Remember there will always be stress in your life. Work to manage the stress and take care of yourself in the process.
Another way to manage your reaction to stress is to change your self-talk. Self-talk is the set of thoughts that you have about events that happen to you. Remember, events do not cause your feelings and behavior, but rather what and how you think about those events determines how you feel about them. Changing self-talk is a very important way of managing your reaction to stress.
Another way to manage your reaction to stress is to avoid overreacting. If your first reaction is to blow up or overreact, step back and check your negative self-talk.
It may help to try to see the lighter side of the situation. Humor has a great deal of healing power. Some writers have suggested that laughter may stimulate the release of endorphins and thus help alleviate pain and stress.
Also, expect and enjoy the unexpected. View unexpected situations as a challenge or a chance to use your skills and knowledge to solve them. They can also be a way of adding excitement into your daily routine.
You may also try using a "time-out." It is perfectly realistic and healthy to take a time-out from your difficulties long enough to recover your breath and balance. Overnight or weekend trips are great time-outs for relieving stress.
Finally, learn relaxation techniques. Learning meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and muscle relaxation techniques can be great ways of being able to control your stress.
Finally, you can manage the amount of stress in your life. One way to do this is to be realistic. Don't try to put too much stuff into your day, just hoping that there will be 10 cancellations. Structure your time and your day to plan for the unexpected. Most things take longer than we expect them to.
Also, practice good time management. For example, block off time in your schedule for the things that matter most (e.g., family or exercise), but are often the first things that get left out when you run out of time. Don't sweat the small stuff. If you are going to get upset and spend a lot of time worrying about something that has happened or might happen, make sure it is worth spending the time on! Often we spend "dollar time on penny problems." Learn to say "NO" appropriately. It is important to set appropriate boundaries in your life, and to say no when you can't fit one more thing into your day or week.
One last strategy is to manage you money realistically. This is very important. Make sure you avoid debt as much as possible. Tying yourself to extremely high mortgages, car payments, credit card bills, etc., can put you in a place where it doesn't feel like you can take the time off to care for yourself.
Burnout is preventable; you have a choice! You can actively choose to do things differently and take care of yourself or you can choose to put it off until it catches up with you. You can ignore your needs and the stress will eventually lead to burnout. It is your choice! Remember, you have a limited number of coping resources and when those are exceeded by stressors, burnout is inevitable.