Stress-management-tips sharing _We all experience stress in our lives. Because the vast majority of health problems are caused or influenced by stress, it’s important to understand how stress affects your body and learn effective stress management tips to make stress work for you rather than against you.
What Is Stress?
Stress is your body’s response to changes in your life. Because life involves constant change (ranging from changing locations from home to work each morning to adapting to major life changes like marriage, divorce, or death of a loved one), there is no avoiding stress. This is why your goal shouldn’t be to eliminate all stress but to eliminate unnecessary stress and effectively manage the rest. There are some common causes of stress that many people experience, but each person is different.
Causes of Stress
Stress can come from many sources, which are known as “stressors.” Because our experience of what is considered “stressful” is created by our unique perceptions of what we encounter in life (based on our own mix of personality traits, available resources, habitual thought patterns and more), a situation may be perceived as “stressful” by one person and merely “challenging” by someone else.
Simply put, one person’s stress trigger may not register as stressful to someone else. That said, certain situations tend to cause more stress in most people and can increase the risk of burnout. For example, when we find ourselves in situations where there are high demands on us; where we have little control and few choices; where we don’t feel equipped; where we may be harshly judged by others; and where consequences for failure are steep or unpredictable, we tend to get stressed.
Because of this, many people are stressed by their jobs, their relationships, their financial issues, health problems, and more mundane things like clutter or busy schedules. Learning skills to cope with these stressors can help reduce your experience of stress.
Effects of Stress
Just as stress is perceived differently by each of us, stress affects us all in ways that are unique to us.
One person may experience headaches, while another may find stomach upset is a common reaction, and a third may experience any of a number of other symptoms. While we all react to stress in our own ways, there is a long list of commonly experienced effects of stress that range from mild to life-threatening. Stress can affect immunity, which can impact virtually all areas of health. Stress can affect mood in many ways as well.
If you find yourself experiencing physical symptoms you think may be related to stress, it is important to work on managing that stress and talk to your doctor to be sure you are doing what you can to safeguard your health. Symptoms that may be exacerbated by stress are not “all in your head” and need to be taken seriously. Creating a stress management plan is often one part of a plan for overall wellness.
7 Tips for Stress Management
Before discussing stress management techniques, there are a few factors we must first consider.
The following 7 tips have been adapted from The American Psychological Association (“Check Out the Stress Tip Sheet”, 2018)to support individuals in getting the best out of a stress management plan:
- Understand your stress
How do you stress? This can be different for everybody. By understanding what stress looks like for you, you can be better prepared and reach for your stress management toolbox when needed.
- Identify your stress sources
What causes you to be stressed? Be it work, family, change or any of the other potential thousand triggers.
- Learn to recognize stress signals
We all process stress differently so it’s important to be aware of your individual stress symptoms. What are your internal alarm bells? Low tolerance, headaches, stomach pains or a combination from the above‘Symptoms of stress’
- Recognize your stress strategies
What is your go-to tactic for calming down? These can be behaviors learned over years and sometimes aren’t the healthy option. For example, self-medicating with alcohol or overeating.
- Implement healthy stress management strategies
It’s good to be mindful of any current unhealthy coping behaviors so you can switch them out for a healthy option. For example, if overeating is your current go to, you could practice meditation instead, or make a decision to phone a friend to chat through your situation. The American Psychological Association suggest that switching out one behavior at a time is most effective in creating positive change.
- Make self-care a priority
When we make time for ourselves, we put our well-being before others. While this can feel selfish to start, like the old plane analogy we must put our own oxygen mask on before we can help others. This is also true for effective stress management. The simplest things that promote well-being, such as enough sleep, food, downtime, and exercise are often the ones overlooked. Make time for you.
- Ask for support when needed
If you’re feeling overwhelmed reach out to a friend or family member you are comfortable talking to. Speaking with a healthcare professional is also an effective way of reducing stress, learning new strategies and preventing burnout.