Stress may be inevitable. But how you deal with it is largely up to you. Here are some tools to help you manage the stress in your life.
Recognize your symptoms
Your signs of stress may be different from someone else’s. Some people get angry. Others have trouble concentrating or making decisions. Some feel worried or depressed. For some, stress leads to physical symptoms such as headache, upset stomach or trouble sleeping.
Identify the sources
What situations trigger your stress? Your stress may be linked to your family, health or work. Keep in mind that stress is often caused by a change in your life, negative or positive. Marriage, divorce, job loss or a promotion may all increase stress.
Evaluate your coping strategies
Examine the ways in which you deal with situations that cause you stress. Responses like smoking, drinking alcohol or eating too much may feel good at the time, but can cause long-term harm.
Learn to say "no"
Sometimes the best way to deal with stress is to avoid it. Know your limits and refuse to take on more responsibilities than you can handle.
Don’t let your to-do list get out of control. Think about your day and decide which tasks are the most important. Do those first. Let other tasks drop to the bottom of — or even off — your list.
Create time to relax
It’s not always easy, but it’s important to make time for yourself. Take vacations or other breaks. Make time to read a good book, listen to music or just have a warm cup of tea. Some people find deep breathing exercises helpful for relieving stress.
A brisk walk, a bike ride and a trip to the gym are just some of the physical activities that can help prevent or reduce stress. Aim to get 2.5 hours of exercise each week. Talk to your doctor before increasing your activity level.
Eating balanced, nutritious meals throughout the day can help you cope with stress by keeping you energized and focused. Also, cut back on caffeine. You’ll feel more relaxed and will likely sleep better.
Talk to family and friends
Simply talking with supportive people can often bring stress relief, even if the stressful situation doesn’t change. Also, limit the time you spend with people who only add to your stress.
If stress seems overwhelming, consider talking to a mental health professional. He or she can teach you helpful ways to deal with stress.
- American Psychological Association
- Greeson JM. Mindfulness research update: 2008. Complementary Health Practice Review. 2009;14(1):10-18