Stress is not all bad. In fact, a certain amount of stress can make life interesting and engaging. We cannot escape every deadline or every commitment, so, rather than trying to eliminate stress entirely, we need to attempt to control stress as best we can. Interestingly enough, if we don’t have enough stress, we may end up feeling tired and hopeless.
It would be wonderful if we could come up with a mathematical formula for stress—the amount of stress an individual could conceivably accept without going into overdrive. However, optimal stress levels vary from person to person and from situation to situation. In fact, a situation that might make your skin crawl might be invigorating for another person. Likewise, a person who thrives on constant change would be stressed out in a job that is mundane, while an individual that hates change would be stressed out in a position that is constantly in a state of flux.
Experts believe that many illnesses are directly tied to stress. If you find yourself becoming constantly ill, or you feel nervous much of the time, you need to develop strategies for coping. It should be noted, however, that stress management is a practiced art—you can’t expect to master it in a single day. However, if you keep at it, chances are you will learn ways to deal effectively with stress.
One of the first things you should do is to learn what your primary stressors are. Is it cooking dinner? Preparing for a presentation? Driving to work? While you cannot necessarily eliminate these chores, you can make them more manageable. For instance, if cooking dinner stresses you out, consider ordering takeout once a week in order to take a break from your normal routine. If preparing presentations is a problem, learn to divide up the project so that you’re only focusing on a section at a time. If your morning commute leaves you frazzled, try leaving for work fifteen minutes earlier. The idea here is to recognize your stressors and come up with ideas for limiting their impact.
You should then try if at all possible to lessen your emotional reactions to stressors. You may notice that stressors cause you to think negatively, focusing on the worst aspects of a situation. Instead, consider a stressor an opportunity for improving your life. Try to determine whether you are overreacting to certain situations. It is entirely possible that every stressor you encounter is not urgent—that you can take your time to assess the situation and therefore reduce your stress level. Also, think of yourself as being in control of your emotions. While you may not be able to do anything about a certain situation, you can control your reactions to it.
Pay close attention to your physical reactions to stress. For instance, adopt deep breathing techniques in order to decrease your heart rate. If your physical reactions to stress are severe, you should consult your doctor to see if you should be on medication. However, a simple reaction to stress is to simply take a break from the action. This way, you can get some valuable “alone time” to think through a situation and see if you can find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Another effective way to fight stress is to strengthen your body. You should engage in aerobic activity at least three times a week. You should also make sure you’re eating nutritious food. Try to avoid stimulants such as sugar and caffeine, and make sure that you get enough sleep each night. These simple strategies can help you to cope when situations seem overwhelming.
You have to recognize that stress is an inevitable part of life. You cannot go through life coasting from one situation to the next and not expect to encounter some stress. However, with effective management techniques, you can turn stressful situations into opportunities for growth. The more strategies you invoke to deal with stressors, the happier and healthier you will be. But remember to start slowly and build up your emotional reserves. A gradual approach works best when it comes to stress management—otherwise, you could actually become stressed out by the pressure of it all.