Stress is inevitable. Controlling stress sometimes feels impossible. We’re here to help.
Every single human being will experience stress at different points across his or her lifespan. While we often associate stress with negative feelings, sometimes, stress can be a good thing to help us be more productive and efficient in reaching goals and deadlines. Yet we need to be able to recognize when good stress becomes bad stress — when productivity becomes overwhelm. Below we map out how to assess your stress, how it might affect you personally, and some helpful tips to coping with stress and controlling stress levels.
First Step: Assessing Your Stress
When it comes to stress, we’re all different. Something that fills you with anxiety and fear may exhilarate and inspire someone else. Before you can decide how to handle your own stress, it’s important to know what, specifically, affects you negatively and how you tend to cope with it.
Recognize your reactions to the most trying times
Trauma (death, divorce or job loss) affects everyone differently. Reflect on how you tend to react to the most difficult circumstances. Do you shut down? Do you avoid dealing with it by filling your schedule to the max? Do you confide in a friend? Would you characterize your reactions as healthy? Avoidant? Destructive?
Notice your boundaries
Take note about how you handle the stress of others – do you take on your best friend’s relationship problems, getting just as upset as she gets when her boyfriend cancels at the last minute? Do you have a clear sense of boundaries when those around you share their troubles, or do you allow yourself to get wrapped up in the drama?
Assess your sense of self-efficacy
Take a good look at how you perceive your sense of control over your own life. Do you believe that you have the power to change aspects of your life that you’re unsatisfied with, or do you view your life as the hand you were dealt? Would you characterize yourself as optimistic? Do you view your ‘bad habits’ as unchangeable? The more we feel in-control of the outcomes of our lives, the more resilient we are; which ultimately sets us up to be better at controlling stress in our lives.
Take a spiritual inventory
Spirituality can have a profound effect on your outlook on life. Do you believe in a god? Do you believe that the energy you put out into the world disperses and has an effect on those around you? Perhaps you believe in some form of karma – what goes around comes around? When was the last time you stopped to assess your personal relationship with your beliefs — or how your beliefs affected your relationships? People who feel a sense of spiritual purpose tend to seek and find what is most important in their lives, removing the need to stress over things that are out of their control or ultimately unimportant in the long-run. This sense of purpose and perspective through spirituality positively affects our ability to handle stress.
Second Step: Understanding How Stress Affects You
Does stress make it hard to fall asleep? Does it affect your memory? Cause anxiety? Affect your appetite? It’s important to be aware of how your body reacts to stressful situations so that you will know how best to cope. Of course, this is different for everyone. Take the time to listen to how your body is reacting to stress and how it’s affecting your daily interactions, presence, and productivity levels. If you aren’t sure about your own reactions, Livzo has a tool that can help. Using the Mood module in your Health Diary will help you understand how stress affects your lifestyle and even your food choices. Sometimes controlling stress means controlling your food choices and sleeping habits — sometimes the opposite is true!
Third Step: Stress-busting Steps to TakeToday
Since stress affects us all differently, no two people need the exact same remedy. But understanding a few basic causes and options for relief will help you tailor the response that’s best for you. Below are a few quick, fool-proof solutions to coping with stress that you can implement into your daily routine today:
- If lack of sleep is causing you stress and exhaustion, try practicing some basic healthy sleep hygiene techniques. Shut off the TV and smartphone an hour prior to getting into bed. Try and go to the bed and wake up at the same time everyday to regulate your sleep-wake cycle. If all else fails, consult your doctor about the possibility of taking a natural sleep supplement, such as melatonin or an herbal blend with chamomile, valerian root, and passionflower, to help initiate drowsiness.
- If you feel like you’re working too much and are stretched thin with too many obligations, consider trying a checklist app like Wunderlist or go old-school with a piece of paper to help you organize and prioritize all your current obligations. Which of these are absolutely mandatory and which can be let go, delayed, or delegated? Learning to say no when feeling overwhelmed is an extremely difficulty, yet necessary skill we all need to master in order to maintain a healthy mental state.
- Find a way to release trapped, negative emotions. Passionate feelings like anger, fear, sadness and even jealousy can overwhelm your happiness and cause you to lose your sense of self. Whenever you feel these emotions taking over, try to refocus your mind on something more positive. Try repeating a mantra like, “I am at peace,” while you take slow, deep breaths until the negative feeling passes.
- Journaling is a strategy for discharging emotions, clarifying your thoughts and feelings, and getting to know yourself better. Sometimes when you’re stressed your thoughts can be all jumbled up in your brain, only causing you to be more stressed. Taking a few minutes to jot down your feelings might help you make sense of them, and can even show you that your problems might be more easily resolved than you originally thought.
Tailor Your Approach
Being able to assess your stress and finding the right stress coping strategy that works for you can take time. Be gentle with yourself. If your friend’s recommendation didn’t work for you, move on to the next technique or idea! It’s nearly impossible (and not even necessarily desirable) to eliminate all stress from our lives, so finding a coping strategy that works for YOU when stress creeps in is key for coasting through it. If you’re still unsure of how to control stress levels, reach out to a Livzo Health Expert to help get you started.