Stress is an unavoidable reality of life, ranging from everyday stressors like work deadlines and family responsibilities to more heightened stressors. Stress is a natural, physical response that, when extreme, can trigger our fight-or-flight response to protect us. Stress can increase our awareness in difficult or dangerous situations, allowing us to act quickly in the moment. Without it, humans wouldn’t have survived this long.
But if stress is constant over time, it can be detrimental to your health. So stress prevention and management are important. It will help you juggle the many things going on in your life. The goal of preventing and managing stress isn’t to completely get rid of stress but to eliminate unnecessary stress and help you cope with unavoidable stress.
Stress is your body’s response to any demand, according to the
- increased heart rate
- faster breathing
- tensed muscles
This stress helps you make split-second decisions and is what helped cavemen either face a threat or flee.
Your body is only meant to handle stress in small bursts. Chronic stress can lead to
- heart disease
- high blood pressure
Everyone responds to stress differently. Identifying what stresses you out can be easier said than done. In most cases, it’s fairly obvious: A bad relationship, a poor work environment, or health concerns, for example. In other cases, finding the root of your stress and anxiety may be more challenging.
Learning to recognize how you react to stress and what specifically stresses you out can be helpful. Keep a daily journal and record when something causes you undue stress or anxiety. Then try to answer these questions when stress arises:
- Is it a particular person or place that causes the stress?
- When do I feel the most “on edge” during the day?
- Do I make bad decisions because of feeling stressed or overwhelmed?
When you start to see patterns, you’ll be able to identify what triggers stress for you, and you’ll be better equipped to handle it.
Some stress is unavoidable, and the best you can do is to manage it. Some things you can manage. For example, if you know that grocery shopping on Sunday evening stresses you out because the lines are always long and everyone’s picked through the best produce before you get there, consider changing your schedule and shopping on another night.
Changing simple things in your life can add up and greatly reduce your overall stress.
Sometimes you may bite off more than you can chew, and before you know it, you’re overwhelmed. It can be hard to juggle the many activities and people in your life, whether it’s work, school, family, friends, or whatever you have going on. Learning how to say “no” is important so you don’t stretch yourself too thin.
It might be hard to turn someone down or not participate in a certain event, but saving your energy and having time for yourself is important. You’ll be more rested and less irritable. And you’ll be able to enjoy other people and activities more.
Be realistic, know your limits, and be firm with them. You’ll be healthier and happier for it.
You have a report due by the end of the day, two memos that need to be written, and an email inbox that’s overflowing. But where do you start?
First, make a list. This helps you see what’s on your plate so you can prioritize what needs attention now and what can wait. Number the items in order of importance and complete them one at a time.
When stress really starts to build up and you begin to panic or feel very overwhelmed, try some stress coping methods to help calm down in the moment. Some examples include:
- Mute your phone and computer notifications.
- Call a friend, family member, or therapist if you have one.
- Use a stress ball or other tactile stress object.
- Go for a walk.
- Try a mindfulness exercise or breathing exercise.
Talk with your partner, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. Let them know you’re working to reduce your stress and ask them for support when you need it. They can help you identify stressful situations before they’ve become too much for you. They can also help you organize your schedule or let you vent frustrations.
Be open to their advice and assistance. It’s possible they’ve faced similar situations and have information that can be of benefit to you. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings. You may also want to consider seeing a therapist or psychologist to talk things out. Talking through a problem or conflict can help you better understand it and how to avoid it in the future.
It’s easy to skip regular activity when you’re stressed, but movement of any type is good for your physical health. It helps counter the negative effects of stress on your body and is good for your mental health.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), exercise and other physical activities, especially those that are fun and joyful, can help relieve stress by releasing endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, into your brain.
Regular movement improves your mood and naturally lowers symptoms of stress and anxiety. It can also give you a much-needed boost of confidence to help you deal with stress in the future. You’ll also probably sleep better. Aim for 30 minutes of getting up and moving each day.
There are other practices that can also help relieve stress and put your mind and body at ease:
- tai chi
- deep breathing exercises
Stress affects us all, no matter what you have going on in your life. It can be the stress of everyday life or the impact of life events, relationship shifts, and world events.
Managing stress is important in juggling the many day-to-day activities of life to help prevent it from having a negative effect on your health. There are many things you can do to prevent stress and manage unavoidable stress.
Talk with a doctor or a mental health professional if you need help managing your stress. It’s always OK to ask for help.