Stress is an inevitable part of any job. At times it seems like there’s nothing you can do about stress. There is never enough time for a project, and your responsibilities are always demanding.
People living with high-stress levels are putting their entire well-being at risk. Stress wrecks our emotional equilibrium, as well as our overall physical and mental health. It also significantly hampers the capability to think, function effectively, and enjoy life.
Prolonged exposure to stress can cause burnout, anxiety, and depression. And these are all negative influences on productivity and mental health. It is critical to manage stress at work to maintain a healthy work life.
Effective stress management helps you become happier, healthier, and more productive. The end goal is to achieve a balanced life, with sufficient time for work, relationships, and fun, WITH the strength to hold up under life’s burdens and meet challenges head-on.
Like any other form of management, stress management does not have a universal formula for success. It is essential to try different solutions to find out what works best for you. The following stress management tips can help you do that.
Identify the sources of stress in your life
Stress management can only be successful once we know the sources of stress. This is not as simple as it sounds. While major stressors like changing jobs, or a divorce, are easy to point out, identifying the causes of chronic stress is much more complicated.
For instance, you may know that you’re constantly worried about work deadlines, but maybe it’s procrastination rather than the actual job demands that cause the stress.
A stress journal can help identify the regular stressors in your life and how you deal with them. Note it in your journal, or use a stress tracker on your phone when you feel stressed. Keeping a daily log will enable you to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (guess if you’re unsure)
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally.
- How you acted in response.
- What you did to make yourself feel better.
Cut out unhealthy ways of dealing with Stress
When many of us feel stressed, we use unhealthy and unproductive coping methods. A lot of these strategies can temporarily reduce stress, but in the long run, they usually cause even more damage:
- Smoking, drinking, or using drugs to relax.
- Bingeing on junk or comfort food.
- Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or phone.
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and social activities.
- Sleeping too much.
- Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems.
Practice the 4 A’s of stress management
Stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, and many stressors are due to predictable things, like a long commute to work, a challenging meeting, or family issues. When handling such predictable stressors, you can change the situation or your reaction.
When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.
Avoid unnecessary stress
Learn to say “no.” Whether in your personal or professional life, taking on more than you can handle is a recipe for stress.
- Avoid people who stress you out. If someone consistently causes stress, reduce the time you spend with that person, or end the relationship.
- Take control of your environment. If the news makes you anxious, turn off the TV. If traffic makes you tense, take a longer route. If going to the market is an unpleasant chore, do your grocery shopping online.
- Avoid hot topics. If you get upset over religion or politics, stop talking about them. If you argue about the same thing with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself when it’s the topic of discussion.
- Cut down your to-do list. Analyze your schedule. If you have too much on your plate, distinguish between what is necessary and optional. Remove all tasks that aren’t truly necessary.
Alter the Situation
If you can’t avoid a stressful situation, try to alter it. This usually involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your life.
- Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns respectfully. If you don’t, resentment builds, and the stress increases.
- Be more assertive. Don’t accept the backseat in your life. Deal with problems directly. If you have an exam to study for and are expected to socialize, state a time limit and walk away.
- Find balance. Find a balance between work and family life, social activities and solitary pursuits, daily responsibilities, and downtime.
Adapt to the Stressor
In cases where you can’t change the stressor, change yourself. You can adapt to stressful situations and regain control by changing your expectations and attitude.
- Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, take it as an opportunity to listen to your favourite music or enjoy some alone time.
- Look at the big picture. Take perspective by asking yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
- Practice gratitude. When stress is getting you down, take a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your life, including your positive qualities and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things in perspective.
Accept what you can’t Change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable. You can’t stop stressors like death, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance is difficult, but in the long run, it’s easier than railing against a situation you can’t change.
- Look for the upside. When facing significant challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If your poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from your mistakes.
- Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentment. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on.
- Share your feelings. Expressing what you’re going through can be very cathartic, even if you can do nothing to alter the stressful situation. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist.
When you’re stressed, the last thing you want to do is get up and exercise. But physical activity is a huge stress reliever. Exercise releases hormones called endorphins that make you feel good and can also serve as a valuable distraction from your daily worries.
While you’ll benefit most from regularly exercising for 30 minutes or more, gradually building up your fitness level is okay. Even minimal activities can add up over the course of a day. The first step is to get yourself up and moving.