How to Deal with Stress
Do you ever find that even the simplest tasks and conversations can become overwhelming and too much to handle? Have you ever just wanted to scream or break down and cry because your head is racing with so many unfinished tasks? If so, you may be experiencing high levels of stress. In this day and age, everyone seems to lead very complicated and fast-paced lives filled with what seems like unending tasks and commitments. Often times, it can be hard to see through all the fog, and understand what is and is not important. Learning how to effectively manage stress can help you be happier, healthier, and even more productive in the workplace.
What is Stress? Stress is a person’s normal response to a state of unbalance. That is to say, when something is “off” or doesn’t feel right, your body physically reacts to the outside stimuli. Stress, in itself, isn’t meant to be something positive or negative, it is just meant to be a physical response to excessive stimuli. At times it can be beneficial, but it can also be harmful and detrimental to one’s health and physical well being.
The above diagram shows an outline of varying stress levels and their effect on your performance. For example, when a person feels too much stress they can being to feel tired and exhausted at first, but this is shortly followed by feelings of anxiety, fear, and panic.
Helpguide.org explains that, “The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life – giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.” So, stress can be a ‘positive,’ or beneficial tool.
However, this post is directed toward individuals who experience stress that stops being helpful and starts being harmful. When you become overwhelmed by stress you can become angry, agitated, withdrawn, depressed, tense, or even paralyzed. These responses prevent you from getting anything productive done, and can be harmful to your mental health. Truth be told, stress can have long term harmful effects on your happiness, mood, and physical well-being. If you don’t start to learn how to manage your stress in a healthy and effective way you could really do some damage to yourself and the people around you.
Try using the chart below to see if you’re feeling and experiencing the high levels of stress.
If you’re experiencing any of the signs or symptoms of stress, here are some helpful tips to overcoming stress in the workplace and dealing with stress in everyday life:
Identify Your Sources of Stress
Understanding the source and reason for your stress is the first step to learning how to manage your stress. Try and take account of all your sources of stress, even if you are stressing yourself out, and write them down. Keep track of the different reasons you become stressed and then you’ll be able to track how the solutions and coping mechanisms you’ve implemented have effected your stress.
- What is causing you to worry?Here you really need to be specific and figure out the exact reason you’re feeling stressed, anxious or worried.
- Why is this causing you to worry? Are you stressed because this event, person, or thing has a direct impact on you, or are you just worried for the sake of being worried?
- Do you take responsibility for your stress? Are you blaming other people, events, and circumstances for the way you are feeling.
- Do you define “being stressed” as part of your personality? Do you consider yourself a nervous, anxious or stressed person?
- Do you consider the stress to only be temporary? Do you feel stressed because you “have a lot going on right now?
- How do you currently cope with stress? Do you already have tools and mechanisms in place to help you deal with day-to-day stress as well as situational stress? How are your coping mechanisms working for you?
Understand the Negative Ways of Handling Stress
There are definitely a variety of ways that people handle stress that could be considered unhealthy and even harmful. It’s important to take note of all of the negative ways of handling stress so you can properly manage and deal with your stress. Here are some of the bad ways of coping with stress that you should try to avoid:
- Smoking, Drinking, and Drug Abuse
- Physical Abuse
- Verbal Arguments
- Overeating or undereating
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Taking out stress on others – angry outbursts and violence
- Withdrawing from people including friends, family, and co-workers
Take Care of Your Body and Mind: One of the most important ways to prevent stress and emotional overload is to take care of your body and mind. Did you eat enough today? Have you gotten proper sleep? Are you exercising?
- Exercise: Just thirty minutes a day of exercise can raise your endorphin levels and decrease stress. Working out, going for a run, or lifting weights can help you take out any anger or frustration and leave you feeling much more relaxed.
- Eat Properly: When you don’t eat enough during the day you are putting unnecessary stress on your body, and you’ll start to get headaches and generally feel weak and tired. Make sure you carry snacks with you at all times and eat balanced meals throughout the day.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking water is one of the best ways to keep a clear and sharp mind. When you don’t have enough water in your system you will start to feel weak, tired, and you won’t be able to think clearly. Bring a water bottle to work and constantly re-fill it throughout the day.
Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Are there certain topics or hot-button issues that stress you out and make you feel overwhelmed? If so, avoid those topics and focus on things that help you stay relaxed and prevent you from getting irritated.
- Stay Away from Negative People: Don’t hang out with people who stress you out or have a negative attitude. If someone is negatively impacting your mental well-being it is best to simply not hang out with them.
- Know Your Limits: Know what you can and can’t handle. Don’t do things just because other people are doing them, do them because you want to do them. If you know you’re too tired to go on a hike, then don’t go. If you have a lot going on during the week but your friends want to hang out on the weekend, take time to think if that’s too much for you to handle. Learn how to say no.
- Take control of your life: If watching the news, calling home to your parents, or something else makes you anxious and stressed. Don’t do it. Avoid watching the news, and tell your parent’s you’ll call them during a better time.
Try Various Relaxation Strategies
Everyone reduces stress and anxiety differently, so it’s important to recognize and discover what works for you and your body to reduce stress and boost your mental attitude. Try these relaxation strategies to help keep you calm and relaxed.
- Calm Breathing: Calm breathing involves sitting in silence and focusing on every inhalation and exhalation. Inhale through your nose, pause, and slowly exhale through your mouth. If you need some help with these exercises try these articles: Anti-Stress Breathing Techniques, Anxiety Breathing Techniques , How to Calm Your Nerves
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation: Is meant to help you resolve any tension in your muscles and body. The idea is that you first tense and then relax all the muscles throughout your body to reach the ultimate state of relaxation. For more information and exercises on PMR (Progressive Muscle Relaxation) check out these articles: Health Hint: PMR , Doing PMR, How to Perform PMR
- Guided Meditation: For many people guided meditation is a powerful relaxation tool. When someone (or a voice) is there helping them reach a state of calm and relaxation, they are able to shake off the stresses of the day. If you’re looking for some websites featuring guided meditation downloads, check out the following resources: Guided Meditation Library, Guided Meditation Audio, Guided Meditations
- Yoga or Tai Chi: Both of these activities have been proven to help quiet the mind and aid in relaxation. There are probably numerous fitness centers in your area that offer classes in both yoga and tai chi. If you don’t want to attend a class, try watching a DVD at home or checking out these resources to practice in an area of your choosing: How to Practice Tai Chi and Yoga , Tai Chi Exercises for Mind and Body, Relaxing Yoga Poses
Focus on the Present
Are you nervous because you want to meet an important deadline at work and you’re falling behind, or are you worried at someday you might lose your job because you’re working at a new start-up? If you’re worried that you might lose your job because you’re at a new company that just launched a few months ago, all you can do is try your best and make connections at the company. If your company is performing well, you probably have nothing to worry about and you’re just creating unnecessary stress about something that might not even happen. Try and focus on the present and the cause and effect of actual circumstances. Don’t think too much about the future, but don’t focus too much on the past either. Living in the past can also lead to damaging stress. Try and focus on the here and now.
Are Things Really That Bad?
Are you living in your thoughts or are you living in reality? Make sure that the things you’re thinking, worrying, and stressing about are actually concrete and real. If they are real, then there’s likely a solution to overcoming the stress and making the task at hand less anxiety provoking. You need to make sure thing are actually that bad, and that you’re not creating unnecessary stress or problems in your head.
Recognize Your Negative Thoughts
Often times one of the main reasons we find ourselves overcome with stress is because we have an abundance of negative thoughts and perceptions. When we allow ourselves to think negatively we truly damage our perception of a task. Negative thoughts create negative feelings, which ultimately lead to stress, anxiety, and resentment. When we look at a task or problem negatively and don’t recognize any positive attributes or effects we are automatically setting ourselves up for failure.
I’m not saying that you have to be overly positive and a super amped-up cheerleader, I’m simply saying be more realistic and try and focus on the positive aspect of certain tasks and problems. If you look at them more positively than with a realistic or negative attitude your more likely going to want to accomplish the task.
Do you ever find yourself thinking negative thoughts like those described in the table below? If so, try switching those negative thoughts to a more positive, balanced, and realistic mindset.
I recently read an article about the 51% Percent Rule – the 51% rule means that you don’t have to be 100% positive about a problem or task, just try and reach 51% percent positive thinking. That’s a little bit better than being realistic, but its also not being overly optimistic so that you get your hopes up or become disappointed in the end.
It can be very difficult but it is important to challenge negative thinking everyday. The only way to make true progress and change your mindset is to work at it every day. If you need to put post-it notes around the edges of your compute or on your desk that constantly remind you of positive thoughts, then do it. Whatever you need to do to get into that positive place, do it.
Internet Tools to Help with Relaxation
The internet is truly an amazing place, and there are so many awesome websites on the WWW that can help you with everything from guided meditation to relaxation. I’ve selected a few that I find particularly helpful in combating stress. Hopefully these relaxation and stress relieving tools will help you reach a place of calm.
- MoodTurn: This site provides you with relaxing sounds and images to get you in a state of zen.
- Virtual Bubble Wrap: Sometimes everyone just needs to pop some bubble wrap. Now you can do it online with this handy website.
- Virtual Zen Garden: create a zen garden on your computer screen without the mess of sand throughout your office.
- Virtual Puppet: make a puppet dance and move and have a jolly good time.
- Make Your Own Flowers: design and create cool flower images with this online tool.
- Rainy Mood: Listen to the rain, it makes everything better.
- Calm: Enjoy a short guided relaxation with serene and calm images.
- Do Nothing for 2 Minutes: Literally, that’s all this site does is time you for two minutes so that you don’t do anything.
- Virtual Aquarium: Create Your own virtual aquarium and help your little fish survive.
- Create a Kaleidoscope: Use this fun tool on your computer to create kaleidoscope with cool colors and images.
If all else fails: grab some bubble wrap and a jar of Nutella. That’s what I do…
The Final Word
There are many different ways of dealing with stress, but not every stress management technique works for everyone. Find something that works for you and stick to it. You’ll be happier in the long run if you can learn how to properly manage your stress. When you’re a happier person, that will reflect on those around you. Managing stress can be hard, so take it day by day, and even hour by hour if you need to. Do whatever you need to do to keep your stress at a healthy level, and you’ll be much happier and healthier.
*All the images contained in this post link to their sources. We thank the designers for their inspirational and beautiful images.