Stress is like an iceberg.
We can see one-eighth of it above,
but what about what’s below?
My 18 month old granddaughter has a new favorite expression. “Oh, maaaaan!” Which I can only guess means that things aren’t going as planned or expected in her little life. We each have our own favorite expression when it comes to feeling stressed out, and I wouldn’t bother naming all of those I know. But, for most this feeling of “stressed-ness” is usually related to how they work, or even sometimes to how they choose to relax. Haven’t you ever felt stressed when you know that you should be feeling well-relaxed or even bored? I know that I have.
Since avoiding stress altogether is impossible, it is important for us to find ways to minimize and prevent stressful incidents and decrease the negative reactions surrounding those moments. Whether we like to admit it or not, life is basically a routine we follow like brushing our teeth or eating breakfast every morning. So, planning and preparation go a long way in keeping our reactions, if not the actual stressors under control.
Here are a couple of techniques that work well for me. You can do a few of them in a longer span of time, but as they say– every minute counts.
Time management skills can help you find more time to be with your family and friends and may even increase your performance and productivity. Getting these things under control will also help reduce your stress. We will spend more time in a future post discussing this further, but today, let’s look at some of the basic rules for managing your time well.
- Save time by focusing and concentrating, delegating, and scheduling time for you. Make time for yourself. Make an appointment on your calendar/ day-timer, and keep it!
- Keep a record of how you spend your time, including work, family, and leisure time. If you feel like you can’t get control of things, or you don’t know where the time leak is, do a time-study on yourself. You know what I’m going to say next… Write it down!
- Prioritize your time by rating tasks by importance and urgency. Redirect and refocus your time and energy to those activities that are important and meaningful to you.
- Manage your commitments by not over- or under-committing. Don’t commit to what is not important to you. Learn to say, “No” more often.
- Deal with your own procrastination by using a day planner, breaking large projects into smaller tasks, and setting short-term goals and deadlines.
- Examine your beliefs to reduce conflict between what you believe and what your life is like. Are you living out the beliefs you profess? Are the things you think you believe still important to you?
Develop healthy coping strategies
It is important that you identify and stick to your coping strategies. One way to do this is by reviewing and writing about a stressful event, your reaction to it, and how you coped. With this information, you can now visualize what happened clearly and work to change unhealthy coping strategies into healthier ones; strategies that help you focus on the positive and what you can change or control in your life.
What can you control? Two things.
There are two things in life that we have absolute control over. Well three if you count what you’re going to wear for the day. But I digress…
First, you have absolute control over how you will choose to react to things. If you do not feel that you own that, then you have given all of your power away to others to control you and use you as they see fit.
Secondly, you have absolute control over how you treat other people. You have no control over how others may feel about you. We do have some control over what you will tolerate in how you allow other people to treat you. But you do have control over what you will choose to do about it! Now, granted, this will take some initial work on managing your own expectations, of both people and life in general.
There are some behaviors and lifestyle that people engage in that can have a definite effect on their stress levels. Sometimes they may not cause the stress directly, but they can interfere with the ways that your body seeks relief from the stress and the stressor.
Basic things to do to get some balance back into your life:
- Try to achieve some kind of balance in your personal, work, and family needs and obligations
- Develop and own your sense of purpose in life.
- Get enough sleep, since your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you are sleeping.
- Eat a balanced diet for a nutritional defense against stress.
- Get moderate exercise throughout the week; even if it’s just a walk.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol. If you find that you can’t cut back, then time management is not your biggest issue.
- Don’t smoke. I’m an ex-smoker, having stopped over 25 years, so I know that this is not easy. But it is the right thing and the best thing to do for your own health, and for those around you.
Social support plays a major role in how we experience and deal with stress. Social support is the positive support you receive from family, friends, and the community. It is the knowledge and comfort that you are cared for, loved, esteemed, and most importantly, valued. More and more research is indicating that there is a strong relationship between social support and better mental and physical health.
Change your thinking
When an event triggers negative thoughts, you may experience fear, uneasiness, insecurity, anxiety, depression, rage, guilt, or a sense of worthlessness or powerlessness. These emotions trigger stress in the body, just as an actual threat would. Dealing with your negative thoughts and how you see things, your perspective, can help reduce stress.
- Thought-stopping helps you stop a negative thought to help eliminate stress. Put a full-stop on the negative thoughts as soon as they start to blossom.
- Examine the irrational or bizarre thoughts. Yes, everyone has them. This helps you avoid exaggerating the negative thought, anticipating the absolute worst, interpreting an event incorrectly, or flat-out overreacting.
- Problem solving will help you identify all of the aspects of a stressful event and find specific, and sometimes unique ways of dealing with it.
- Changing up your communication style helps you communicate in a way that makes your views known without making others feel put down, hostile, or intimidated. This reduces the stress that comes from poor communication. We have recently had a series on communication. Communication is an art. Learn it!
Whatever kind of job you have, stress is an unwanted visitor you should love to boot out of your home and life, ASAP!!!
Stay alert, stay prepared, improve your communication, and be realistic in your expectations and your interpretations.
Links to Communication Series: