Stress Management: People Do Have a Choice
Tips to Help Reduce and Cope With Stress in Everyday Life
Stress can mimic just about any symptom; therefore, it’s important to seek medical attention to rule out any health implications that are not stress related. The body doesn’t know whether or not the stressor is real or perceived. The response will occur regardless of what triggers it. Stress related symptoms can be physical, mental, emotional and behavioral. The signs of stress can be as simple as aches and pains to the more severe heart attack.
Identify the Trigger of the Stress
There are many factors that create stress for people. One of the most prevalent external factors is major life changes. Any time there is a transition in life, there is the potential for a stressful situation. Change is difficult for most people because change takes them into often unfamiliar territory. How these transitions are handled will dictate the degree of stress felt.
According to the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory, the top ten stressful life events are: a spouse’s death, divorce, marriage separation, jail term, death of a close relative; injury or illness; marriage; loss of a job; marriage reconciliation, and retirement. Though some of these are factors over which individuals have no control, they do, however, have a choice about how to react to the stressor.
Ways to Help Manage Stress
How well stress is tolerated is varied and is influenced by both genetics and life experiences. However, first and foremost, the way stress is handled is a choice. The fact is that people cause a good portion of their stress by the choices they make. Managing stress is mostly dependent upon the willingness of the person to make necessary lifestyle changes.
Strengthen relationships. Build strong relationships and keep commitments to family and friends. Ensuring that a strong support system in place is a key to tolerating stressful situations.
Time management. Don’t be a superhero; learn how to say “no.” Take breaks to keep the mind fresh; time outs when a deep breath is needed. It is important for people to not over extend their commitments. Time cannot be made. There are only 24 hours in a day no matter how hard people try to make time for more activities.
Create Predictability. The more routine created in a person’s day, the more predictable it is and thus less stressful. Again, few people enjoy change. Preparing for new things by anticipating what can happen will help reduce stress. Keep in mind that setbacks and problems are temporary and solvable.
Set realistic goals. Realistic expectations help with being prepared and gaining a sense of control. People do better when they expect less from others who can not give what is wanted. People will always disappoint at one time or another. Success will come if individuals keep working towards their goals and take action instead of reacting.
Healthy eating. When the body and mind is in good health, the tolerance for stressful situations is higher. Caffeine is a stimulant and thus does not really reduce stress but rather stabilizes or increases it. Drugs and alcohol can actually worsen the symptoms by making the person less tolerant for further stress.
Exercise. Dissipate the excess energy created by stress by exercising. Exercise will help strengthen the body and mind and will assist in increasing the tolerance level for stress.
Rest adequately. Tired people rarely handle stress adequately. On a continuum, fatigue can be visualized as the middle slider between good stress and distress. When fatigue slides towards the distress end; it is time to rest.
Change the tape. An individual’s belief systems may need to be challenged. Most beliefs are unconscious and individuals may not be aware of them. Reframing can be powerful; look at the situation from another’s point of view. Taking a look at the big picture can also be helpful.
Avoid people and/or topics that create stress. If possible, individuals are better served by steering clear of people or topics that create stress for them. (e.g. politics, religion)
Express feelings. It should come as no surprise that when individuals express their feelings instead of keeping them bottled up; the majority of them tend to release stress and tolerate stressful situations better than those who do not.
Be more assertive. Individuals reduce stress levels when they are willing to be more assertive, willing to compromise when necessary and don’t demand perfection.
Learn how to relax. Participate regularly in relaxation and fun. Laughing releases endorphins. People who are able to laugh at the situations usually tolerate stress more effectively. Relaxing can take many forms; from meditation to simply reading a good book.
Making lifestyle changes in and of itself can be stress reducing if an individual is resistant to the change. In the long run; choosing to make the changes necessary to reduce stress will be temporary and is beneficial physically and mentally.