We all know that stress is a part of life, and you can’t always avoid it. We are also aware that prolonged periods of stress can negatively impact your physical and mental health. One of the best ways to manage the effects of stress- because avoiding it completely is not a realistic option -is to try to avoid situations that can cause it, as well as learning to control how you respond to it.
The first step is tracking your stress to record stressful events, your response to them, and how you coped. After you know what is causing your stress, try making some changes in your life that will help you avoid stressful situations or manage them better in future. Here are a few ideas:
Learn how to best manage your time.
Time management is a way to find the time for more of the things you want and need to do. It helps you decide which things are urgent and which can wait. Managing your time can make your life easier, less stressful, and more meaningful.
Find better ways to cope.
Look at how you have been dealing with stress. Be honest about what works and what does not. Think about other things that might work better. Consider partaking in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to learn new tools and effective ways to manage how you deal with stress and anxiety. You can access CBT through a therapist or by reading one of many books on the subject.
Look at your lifestyle.
The choices you make about the way you live affect your stress level. Your lifestyle may not cause stress on its own, but it can prevent your body from recovering from it. The following are things to you could build into your every day life to make you more resilient:
- Find a balance: Establish a balance between personal, work, and family needs. This isn’t easy. Start by looking at how you spend your time. Maybe there are things that you don’t need to do at all. Finding a balance can be especially hard during the holidays.
- Have a sense of purpose: Many people find meaning through connections with family or friends, jobs, their spirituality, or volunteer work.
- Get enough sleep: Your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you sleep. If your worries keep you from sleeping, keep a notepad or your mobile phone by your bed to record what you are worried about. Doing this can help you let it go while you sleep. For example, if you are worried you might forget to run an errand the next day, make a note so that you can stop worrying about forgetting.
- Adopt healthy habits: Eat a healthy diet, limit how much alcohol you drink, and don’t smoke. Staying healthy is your best defence against stress.
- Exercise: Even moderate exercise, such as taking a daily walk, can reduce stress. Consider a form of exercise that incorporates mindfulness practices such as Yoga or Thai Chi.
Support in your life from family, friends, and your community has a big impact on how you experience stress. Having support in your life can help you stay healthy.
Try out new ways of thinking
When you find yourself starting to worry, try to stop the thoughts. Or write down your worries, and work on letting go of things you cannot change. Learn to say “no” to things that you do not really want to do, have the time for or that you know will drain you unnecessarily.