DID YOU KNOW THAT STRESS MAKES YOUR HEART WORK HARDER? TAKE STRESS OUT OF YOUR LIFE WITH THESE HELPFUL STRESS MANAGEMENT TIPS:
There is no single right way to cope with stress. To cope with your own stress, you need to understand what causes you to feel stress and how to control how you respond to stress.
Take the pressure off, reduce your stress
Your first line of defense is to identify your stressors and try to remove them from your life, if possible. For example, you might be able to change your job, alter your schedule or avoid certain people who cause you stress.
One way to avoid stress is to make sure you’re not setting unrealistic goals for yourself. If your goals are too difficult to achieve, you won’t achieve them and you’ll feel stress.
Try setting personal goals using the SMART approach:
Specific: Choose one small goal and write it down. Make sure to include as many details about your goal as you can (when, where and how).
Measurable: Make sure you can count it or check it off a list.
Attainable: If your goal is too difficult, you set yourself up for failure.
Realistic: Make sure your goal is something you are willing to work towards.
Time-limited: Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.
When it’s not possible to avoid excessive stress, you need a strategy to help you cope.
There are three basic types of coping skills:
- Physical/behavioral skills,
- Thinking (cognitive)/mental skills and
- Personal/social skills.
Physical/Behavioural coping skills
These are skills that involve taking care of yourself and staying as healthy. Some examples include being physically active, doing yoga, stretching and relaxation exercises, eating a healthy diet and getting enough rest.
Physical activity can clear your mind, reduce tension and boost your energy. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate- to-vigorous aerobic physical activity per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more. Being active with someone else – a walk, a fitness class or a game of table tennis – is doubly effective. Doing an activity with friends or loved ones is good for your mental health and boosts motivation to be active.
Yoga and stretching
Yoga and slow stretching – even just five to 10 minutes a day –promote relaxation to reduce stress. Here’s how to do it:
- Choose a body part to stretch.
- As you stretch to a comfortable limit, think about the muscles being stretched and imagine the tension leaving your body.
- Exhale as you stretch. Inhale as you release. Breathe deeply and slowly. Do not hold your breath.
- Close your eyes for better awareness of your body’s responses.
There are lots of different relaxation techniques, but breathing exercises are among the most popular and effective. Two simple ones that you can try are exhalation breathing and deep breathing.
Do this exercise for 10 minutes or more to help you calm down.
- Lie on your back with your arms at your sides.
- As you begin to breathe in, raise your arms toward the ceiling (with your elbows bent). Move your arms all the way up and over your head to the floor as you inhale.
- Reverse the order: Breathe out slowly and smoothly as you return your arms to your sides.
- Repeat this motion several times. Then slowly inhale and exhale without moving your arms. Relax and enjoy the peaceful feeling.
Do this exercise for three to five minutes whenever you feel tense. It allows your body to release endorphins which are naturally occurring hormones that re-energize and promote relaxation.
- Slowly inhale through your nose, expanding your abdomen before allowing air to fill your lungs.
- Reverse the process as you exhale.
Your body runs on the fuel in your food. If you eat good foods, your body will work better. But a diet that includes too much caffeine, sugar, salt and fat can make you feel restless, agitated, and sluggish. It will also erode your stress response.
Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy (and dairy alternatives), and lean meat (and meat alternatives). Limit salt, sugar, saturated and trans fats.
Can’t sleep? Then get up. Don’t even try to sleep if your body won’t let you. Clock watching, tossing and turning will only make you tense, and that leads to stress. Instead, relax in a comfortable chair. Read a book, watch television, play cards or do a puzzle. Even if you don’t actually fall asleep, you will be more relaxed. Reducing your anxiety about not sleeping will ultimately make it easier to sleep.
Thinking (cognitive)/Mental coping skills
These skills involve using your thoughts and mind to counteract negative effects of stress. The activities below offer a few ways of coping.
If you feel overwhelmed and panic when faced with a stressful situation try some classic problem-solving skills to solve it.
- Write down a list of every possible solution or way of dealing with your stressful situation.
- Rank the solutions by how possible they are to do and how effective they’re going to be.
- Act on your top-ranked solution.
- Assess whether that action solved your problem. If it did, great! If not, select the next solution on the list and see if that works, and so on.
Sometimes your interpretation of a stressor can magnify it, making you feel more stressful than necessary. If you think that might be happening to you, follow these steps to make sure you haven’t blown the situation out of proportion.
- Identify your thoughts about the situation. Ask yourself: What am I saying to myself about this situation?
- Challenge your thoughts about the circumstance. Ask yourself: Is what I’m feeling realistic? Am I grounded in fact, not fear?
- Reappraise your position. Ask yourself: How can I change my thinking to be more realistic about this situation?
Meditation can help settle your mind, allowing you to think more calmly. It also allows you to live in the moment and observe your thought processes.
Meditation is not a quick fix: It requires patience and practice but it has lots of benefits.
Start by meditating for 10 to 15 minutes once or twice a day. Increase this to 20 minutes no more than twice a day. Avoid meditating just before going to bed because you might become too energized to sleep.
There are many different meditation techniques so it’s best to do some research into which one might work best for you.
Personal/Social coping skills
Taking the time for things that give you pleasure and nurture your spirit, is an important coping tool. Some of the most effective activities are to:
- Spend quality time with your friends and family.
- Explore your spirituality. Get involved in a place of worship, such as a church or mosque. Spend time in nature.
- Develop your hobbies and personal interests.
- Enjoy outings in nature, whether it’s a city park, a beach or a country road.
- Try volunteering, it helps divert attention from yourself and can reduce your anxiety.
- Take a vacation or a break from your normal routine, but only if it doesn’t cause you stress.