One way to manage stress is to identify one’s stressors. People get stressed by different things and also respond to the stress differently. While stress is often as a result of too much pressure and things outside the circle of one’s control, stress can also be as a result of one’s own thoughts and behaviour. It is important to identify what might be stressing you as well as to acknowledge the role you might be playing in your own stress. Once acknowledged it becomes easier to avoid, prevent, or at least manage stress. Since stress is often an issue of (the feeling of) loss of control, it would be very helpful to create an organized system that works for you and stick to it. This system should obviously keep in mind anticipated and/or previously identified personal stressors.
Another helpful way to manage stress is to practice the four A’s of stress management (Lawrence Robinson, 2019). The four A’s are: avoid, alter, adapt and accept. This simply means that
- stressful situations, people and unnecessary stressful activities should be avoided;
- where stressful situations cannot be avoided, one’s schedule should be altered in order to adjust to it (play and downtime should not be excluded from said schedule);
- one should adapt to the situation by changing the way you view it and your attitude towards it (choosing to view a negative situation in a more positive manner helps one regain control over the situation and as aforementioned, stress is a thing of control);
- lastly, one should accept the unchangeable (this is sometimes the only way to cope with stress).
One way to cope with stress that people rarely think of is to take a break. Rest and relaxation is often viewed as optional or as something that happens only after all one’s work is completed. In reality, working while sleep deprived or whilst one is tired has been scientifically proven to be ineffective. So take more breaks. Actively include rest and down time in your daily schedules and “me-time”, or time solely devoted to recharging one’s batteries, during the week. People shy away from taking breaks, especially when they have a heavy workload, because they view it as a form of procrastination. Rest, however, is equally as important as activity or work. Too much of a good thing brings about negative effects though. It is important to remember that taking too many breaks is counter-productive and could increase or create stress.
Related to the last point, another way to manage stress is to take care of oneself in general. It is very tempting to drop all else and focus on that one stressful thing, but this is not very helpful in feeling less stressed in the long run. In fact, maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle can in itself be a stressor, so it is important to take care of oneself. Apart from resting when necessary, one should also exercise regularly, consume a balanced diet and make sure to keep in touch with friends and family. Exercise is a known stress reliever because it releases a “feel good” hormone called dopamine; maintaining a healthy diet helps one feel balanced and maintains one’s energy levels; and regular connection with others is also a natural stress reliever (amongst other things, it makes people feel less anxious and anxiety is well associated with stress). Taking care of oneself, although it may not always seem that way, is a key step in managing one’s stress.
Perhaps the most helpful way to manage one’s stress is to manage one’s time. It’s easier to take care of oneself and to actively relax when one is not pressed for time. Sticking to an organized system is also easier when there is actually time to do so. Time management is key for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It can be done by doing the important things first and on time (minimize procrastination). It can also be done by delegating responsibility where possible. Whilst stress is a thing of control, not everything has to be done by you (trying to exert control over every little thing not only compromises your priorities, it also contributes to stress). Another way to manage your time is to limit the amount things you have to do (it is important to not over commit).
As aforementioned, stress is not always negative. Positive stress can actually help you learn and increase productivity. It is also not possible to completely remove all stress from your life. It is however possible to reduce negative stress to the barest minimum. This is probably best for one’s mental and physical health. Stress management, as a life skill, should therefore be continuously worked on and improved so as to have the greatest quality of life.
- Lawrence Robinson, M. S. (2019, October). HELPGUIDEORG INTERNATIONAL. Retrieved from www.helpguide.org: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm