Freedom from Stress - Part 3: Effective Ways to Manage Your Stress
Today we are going to discuss effective methods of managing stress. In my previous articles I've discussed what stress is and some less-than-helpful ways we typically deal with it.
Now it’s time to learn some of the best ways to manage stress. You have abundant choices for learning how to effectively manage your stress.
Try these strategies:
- Take time for physical activity. It’s important to have consistent exercise in your life. Not only does physical activity do great things for your body, but it also works magic on your soul. Exercising regularly is a great all-around stress reliever.
- Practice meditation, relaxation, or yoga. Look into meditation, progressive relaxation, or yoga. Yoga is one of the most soothing ways to exercise and release tension at the same time. Regardless of which of these methods you choose, you’ll be amazed at their powers to reduce your stress level. Make a habit of any of them, and you may rarely experience much stress at all!
- Enjoy some down time. Everyone needs to just chill occasionally. Plan some time every week to let your do what relaxes you most. Read a book, watch television, or go see a movie. Take time to enjoy the things you love to do. Nobody ever looked back at their life and said, “I wish I’d spent more time on my projects for work!”
- Step away from the technology! If you find you’re on the computer or playing with all the apps on your smartphone or tablet all evening, take some time to engage with life without all the electronics. Gadgets are awesome, and they can be great tools. However, they might also increase your stress level because of the amount of input they bring to your life. If you believe that you’re getting over-involved or wired by your technology, maybe it’s time to put down the gadgets, at least for the last hour or two before bedtime.
- Take up a hobby. Hobbies have a wonderful way of balancing out our lives. If you’ve had an idea in the back of your head for a long time, why not make it happen? Join the local tennis league or book discussion group. Regularly enjoying your hobbies and activities will help you manage your time and stress.
- Focus on your health. If you have a chronic health condition like asthma, allergies, obesity, or diabetes, you’ll want to do everything you can to successfully manage it. To keep your stress level minimized, keep your conditions under control.
- Practice healthy eating to stay strong and vital. Look around you. You’ll see that your friends who take good care of themselves nutritionally are often dealing with their jobs, loved ones, and selves in healthy ways. Because they nourish themselves properly, they have the energy to deal with life’s ups and downs and the confidence in themselves that they’ll always be okay.
- Reduce caffeine consumption. If you require a couple cups of coffee to get going, your caffeine intake is most likely contributing to your level of stress. Although this commonly used drug is considered relatively harmless in small doses, it does contribute to tension and anxiety.
- Get your rest. You know what not getting enough sleep feels like. The day seems to drag by, and you feel a bit punchy. Concentration can be challenging. To deal with ongoing stress, get good sleep for seven to eight hours a night.
- Practice a healthy nighttime routine. Bedtime rituals are great stressbusters. Ensure that you have a bedtime routine that works for you and follow it. For example, try to eat no later than 8:00 p.m. Take a bath or shower at 9:00 p.m. and apply moisturizers and lotions. Next, read for 30 minutes to an hour. Then, lights out.
- Edit your schedule. What can you get rid of? To reduce your feelings of tension, worry, and anxiety, trim down the tasks and errands you must do.
- Prioritize. One of the best ways to handle stress is to have a handle on your tasks, and which ones are most important. Which things need to be done right away? Circle them in red and put a star by them on your list. Moderately urgent jobs that can wait a bit but not for weeks or months should be highlighted in yellow. For the tasks that are the least important, place no special markings by them. This method will help you see at a glance what you must do first (all the tasks with stars in red). After doing the most urgent priorities, you’ll complete the highlighted jobs. Finally, finish up those listings with no marks. When you know that you have your tasks prioritized, you’re free to focus on the one at hand. This reduces your stress by minimizing mental clutter. Instead of feeling stressed about how to get everything done, you can stay fully present with what you’re doing in the moment.
- Delegate. If you’re in a position where you can distribute some of your work tasks to others, exercise that right. This can also be done at home. Can your children or partner help with parts of the cleaning or the dishes?
- Get educated. Whether you’re learning to use new software that types out your spoken words for you, or figuring out how to send group emails to reduce time spent on the computer, take steps to reduce your stress by using technology efficiently. You’ve been there before: you’ve spent hours on a repetitious task that you eventually learned to do in minutes with the right software program or organizer app. Ensure that your technology works for you instead of the other way around.
- Communicate. Discussing whatever is troubling you helps to dissipate challenging feelings. Give your best friend a call and pour out your heart. Get in touch with your brother and tell him about what’s bugging you. Use communication to appropriately express how you feel and get those emotions out of your head and onto the table, where you can look at them objectively.
- Just say “no.” An often overlooked but effective method of managing stress is declining to take on more tasks or do more favors for others. Exercise your right to choose how you’ll best spend your time by starting to say “no” more often. The more you say “no,” the easier it will become. Look at it this way: wouldn’t you rather say “no” and always do your best work, than say “yes” to a task when you’re overloaded and not able to perform as well as you’d like?
- Write down your feelings. Journaling is a wonderfully effective, inexpensive, and simple way to learn to understand, articulate, and therapeutically deal with your feelings. Why not try it?
- Seek professional assistance. Although you might tend to avoid calling counselors or coaches until you’ve exhausted all your other options, consider doing so before you’re totally buried under with stress. There’s no shame in taking necessary steps to help you feel better and live more productively. Getting professional assistance shows you’re smart. You can recognize when you’re spinning your wheels and you know that there are people who can help you regain traction in your life.
You have a lot of choices when learning to successfully manage your stress. Try some of the approaches above as soon as you feel those feelings of tension and worry coming on.
“In times of life crisis, whether wildfires or smoldering stress,
the first thing I do is go back to basics...am I eating right,
am I getting enough sleep, am I getting some physical and
mental exercise every day.”
Understanding stress and that a certain amount of tension is positive is your first real step to recognizing the impact of stress in your life. Knowing some of the main causes and being aware of how your stress expresses itself will help you avoid dealing with it in unhealthy ways.
When you practice awareness of your inner state, you’ll be better able to identify the best methods to successfully manage your tension, anxiety, and worry. Use some of the tips and techniques listed above to successfully defuse any pressure in your life. You can find freedom from stress!
If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity,
I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension.
And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it.”