Practical Strategies For Managing Stress
Stress is a part of everyone’s life. In fact, many believe we need a certain amount of stress in life in order to accomplish anything worthwhile. Stress adds flavor, challenge and opportunity to life.
However, unmanaged, on-going stress may lead to serious physical and emotional health problems.
100 years ago people who died prematurely, died primarily as a result of communicable diseases for which there was no known medical cure. Today, those causes have been replaced by stress-related disorders.
The American Medical Association has stated that approximately 85% of health problems in America are stress-related. These include coronary heart disease, cancer, stroke and alcohol and drug abuse.
Each year, Americans receive millions of prescriptions for stress-related health problems.
Stress is with us all the time and is generally not harmful when kept under control.
However, if the stresses in your life seem overwhelming and insurmountable, it may be time for you to take some steps to manage your stress.
(If your stress levels are intense and prolonged, you may even find it beneficial to talk to a professional counselor who can help you identify and better manage those aspects of your life.)
Here are some strategies that you may find useful and that may help you regain your lost energy and enthusiasm for life.
1. Recognize your own stress signals. Learn to pay attention to your physical symptoms, your relationships, your eating and sleeping patterns, smoking and drinking patterns. Physical symptoms are like the warning lights on the dashboard of your car-they may not tell you exactly what is wrong, but they let you know that something needs your attention.
2. Avoid self-medication. Many chemicals, including alcohol, can mask stress symptoms but not help you deal with the real source of the stress itself. In fact, they may add to it.
3. Limit the amount of change you take on within a certain period of time. Create as much stability or sameness as possible in your life. Spread out changes whenever possible.
4. Talk to someone. Find someone you can trust and respect. It may be a friend, family member, clergy person, professional counselor or support group, but it is important for you to find an outlet for your feelings, anxieties and pressures. Knowing when to ask for help may avoid more serious problems later.
5. Keep yourself physically healthy. Get regular medical check-ups. Pay close attention to the amount of rest and sleep you afford yourself. Make special efforts to balance work and recreation. Concentrate on the nutritional content of the foods you eat. Avoid foods that are high in fat, salt, refined sugars and flours. Also avoid caffeine, junk food and fast food.
6. Increase your physical activity. Exercise has been called “nature’s tranquilizer.” It is the first thing you can do which will bring the most immediate and beneficial results. When we study the human body, we realize it works best when it is moved regularly. Because of their active lifestyles, many of our parents and grandparents did not need to exercise. However, regular movement and exercise have become essential ingredients in the healthy life-style today. First, check with your physician. Then, whatever forms your exercise may take, it must be vigorous and it must be regular.
7. Examine your belief system. Learn to accept what you cannot change. Recognize and stop negative (”poor me”) thinking. Concentrate on the present instead of focusing on mistakes and regrets of the past or anxieties of the future.
8. Limit your availability. Don’t be available or accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Learn to say “no” to unreasonable expectations and demands. Take vacations that are relaxing. Select a relaxing hobby. Read a book. Go to a movie. Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself.
9. Slow down. Make a conscious effort to decrease the rate at which you live your life. Slow down your driving speed, your walking speed, even your talking speed. Don’t try to do everything at the last minute.
10. Laugh. Give yourself permission to have fun.
11. Congratulate yourself. List the things you have accomplished and allow yourself to feel good about them. Pat yourself on the back enthusiastically and unashamedly!
12. Do something for someone else. Focus on the needs of someone else and how you may be helpful to them.
We find ourselves in a very fast-paced, hectic, remarkable and exciting time in history. The rate of change is constantly increasing. Our opportunities are truly extra-ordinary. None of our ancestors experienced anything like what we do today.
We are better informed, more active, more aware, more well traveled than any generation in the history of the world.
However, if we are going to survive (literally), we now need to learn a whole variety of new coping skills-skills that will help us get through these high-pressure times and maintain the quality of life we desire