Stress management offers a number of strategies for dealing with the stresses and difficulties (adversities) of your life in a more positive way. Effective stress management helps you break the stranglehold that stress has over your life, so that you can be happier, healthier, and more productive. Whether you had a rough day at work, or are feeling stressed out by how much you have to do, these strategies can provide some immediate relief from your stress.
A quick walk around your office, or just getting out of bed and stretching for a while during a work break, can provide immediate relief from a stressful situation. Standing up to briefly stretch your muscles may release tension in your muscles and help you to feel relaxed throughout your busy workday. In the privacy of your own home, there are a number of stress-relieving strategies that can help you quickly unwind. Or, consider seeing a therapist or counselor, who can help you discover other ways to manage stress.
Assess if it is possible for you to change the situations that are causing your stress, maybe by taking on less responsibility, relaxing your standards, or asking for help. It is not always possible to avoid a stressful situation or to escape the issue, but you can work on decreasing the amount of stress you are feeling. Learning healthier ways of coping, and getting appropriate treatment and support, may help to decrease your feelings of stress and symptoms. While nobody can escape all the stresses, you can try to manage them in healthier ways that improve your chances of recovery.
Fortunately, there are a number of science-based tools that help you counteract stresss negative effects in a healthy manner. It is important to build a lifestyle that helps you push back against stress and handle challenges in healthy ways. That is why it is important to have effective stress relievers to help you keep both your mind and your body at ease.
Increased levels of stress can, if not addressed soon enough, cause burnout or worse mental health problems. When you are under prolonged stress, your brain is exposed to increased levels of a hormone called cortisol.
Acute stress can be highly distressing, but passes quickly and usually responds well to coping techniques such as breathing deeply and taking up a quick exercise. How your body reacts to stress, and your response to stress, can be good in short-term situations (like helping you to get around that huge pothole on the highway, or finishing that last-minute paper), but prolonged stress takes its toll on your body and your mind. It may keep you alerter and help you work better in certain situations.2 However, stress has only been found to be helpful if it is short-term.
We mentioned before that moderate amounts of stress help us perform better in difficult situations,34 but excessive or long-term stress may cause physical problems. Negative stress can prevent you from feeling and performing at your best–mentally, physically, and emotionally. While we usually think of this as being bad, stress can also stem from good changes in your life, such as getting a promotion at work or having a new baby.
Feeling miserable with how much time you are spending on work, and ignoring other aspects of life due to work, may make you more vulnerable to stress. Sometimes, we can feel particularly stressed about an unfortunate interaction with someone, overwork, or daily nuisances such as getting stuck in traffic. Feeling emotional and stressed, or having problems sleeping and eating, may be all normal reactions to feeling stressed. When stress is frequent and intense, it puts strain on your body and makes functioning impossible.
If you are getting less than seven or eight hours of sleep, your body is not going to be as good at handling stress as it can. Taking the time to unwind each day helps to manage stress and to keep the body safe from stress effects. Getting away from everything may reboot your stress tolerance, increasing your mental and emotional outlook, making you a happier, more productive person when you come back. Taking good care of your long-term mental and physical health is a crucial part of managing stress.
In addition to having physical health benefits, exercise has been shown to be a strong stress reliever. While almost any type of physical activity helps to burn off tension and stress, tempo activities are particularly effective. In addition to exercising regularly, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that may boost your stress tolerance.
Stress may lead to all sorts of negative physical and emotional consequences, but there is a growing body of research into simple stress-management techniques that may prevent or lessen negative side effects, and may help to increase our quality of life and our overall well-being. By addressing our stress a little, trying to better understand where it comes from and how we can manage it effectively, we can prevent some negative effects down the road. While we cannot always control the stress that comes our way, we can control how we handle it and respond to it.
While it might feel like you cannot do anything about the stress you experience at work and home, there are steps you can take to reduce stress and take back control. These tools are great ways to handle stress in the short-term, but do not beat yourself up if it does not work in the long-term. They might feel like they are helping, but it is likely that it is creating more problems, adding stress that you are already feeling.
Alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine can relieve stress temporarily, but have negative effects on your health that make the feeling of stress worse over the long term. Avoid using substances like alcohol to quell your stress response because substances will not address the underlying cause of your problems and may have severe health effects. Nicotine actually puts even more stress on your body, increasing physical arousal and decreasing blood flow and respiration.
When the stressor is negative and cannot be countered or avoided–such as being laid off from a job or experiencing a loved ones health crisis–or the stress experienced becomes chronic, our physiological responses to stress may harm our mental and physical health. Even intense stress caused by serious illnesses, loss of work, death in the family, or painful life events may be a natural part of life. Whether you are going for an interview at work, or feeling crushed about the behaviour of your kids on the playground, it is important to have a few tools for reducing stress to help reduce stress in the moment.