Top 4 ways to manage stress
In our last article, we discussed the difference between Positive and Negative stress and how some stress can serve you.
How can stress serve? By activating your nervous system and flooding your bloodstream with hormones that raise your blood pressure and increase your heart rate, triggering your fight, flight or freeze response. This has the ability to serve you in major situations, like escaping a burning building or avoiding a car accident. But most common chronic stressors that are long-term, low-grade stress are the culprits, such as finances, work or challenges with relationships often trigger the same response and keep your body in that intense state and it is crucial to your health that you know how to turn off or deactivate it.
In this article, we want to narrow in on Negative stress or distress and offer some tools to better manage and perhaps even eliminate those stressors. When you experience relationship issues or a deadline approaches, how do you respond?
Stress management techniques can help reduce or eliminate the hold stress has on you, so you can improve the quality of your life. But there is no one-size-fits-all to stress management. That’s why it’s important to experiment and find out what works best for you.
The following stress management tips can help you do that.
Tip 1- Start a Stress Journal
A stress journal can serve you by identifying the daily stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Every time a stressful situation comes up, keep track of it in your journal or note it on your phone. Keeping track will enable you to see patterns and common themes. Jot down:
- What’s the stressor? (Not sure? Take a guess)
- What feelings or emotions did you experience?
- How did you respond?
- What you did to make yourself feel better.
Effective stress management begins by identifying the stressor(s) in your life. Not something that is always as simple as it seems. While it’s easy to identify major stressors such as the first and last day on the job or planning a major event, pinpointing the sources of chronic stress can be more challenging. It’s easy to overlook how your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours contribute to your everyday stress levels.
Perhaps it’s the procrastination, rather than the actual job demands, that is causing the stress. To identify your true sources of stress, look closely at your habits, attitude, and default behaviours by noting them.
Tip 2- Mindful rhythmic exercise
Rhythmic exercises are especially effective at burning away tension and stress. Examples of rhythmic exercises include walking, running, swimming, dance, yoga, tai chi and cycling. Whichever one you decide, make sure it is one that you like, as consistency is key.
While exercising, focus on coordinating your breath with your movement. Make a conscious effort to notice how you feel physically and emotionally as you move. Mindful rhythmic movement can help break the cycle of thoughts that often come with stress.
When we aren’t feeling our best, sometimes the last thing we want to do is get up and move. If that is ever the case, remind yourself that getting to it can be the most challenging part but once there, it is all downhill. Begin small.
- Dance to a feel good playlist.
- Take a walk.
- Use the stairs.
- Get an exercise partner and hold each other accountable.
Tip 3- Time management
Subpar time management causes a lot of stress. Whether you are running late or stretched too thin, it is difficult to remain calm and focused. Naturally, you will dip into your ‘healthy habit’’ time bank to compensate, like not socializing or getting adequate sleep, which will worsen your state. If this sounds like you, implement the following techniques for better balance.
Don’t overbook your schedule. Avoid scheduling things back-to-back. All too often, we underestimate how long things will take. Instead, leave a little time buffer in between tasks.
First things first. Make a list of tasks you have to do, and complete them in order of importance. Everything that absolutely needs to get done, do those first. Especially the unpleasant or stressful things. From there, you will complete everything else with a sense of peace and ease.
Build momentum. If a bigger project is overwhelming, make a step-by-step plan. Focus on one manageable item, rather than taking on everything at once.
Tip 4- Connect with others
Community is a natural stress buster. Spending quality time with another person that makes you feel safe and seen is calming and soothing. In person interactions create a ripple of positive hormones that turn off the fight, flight or freeze response. This is proof that we are in fact social beings and we rely heavily on being safe amongst one another, again even if it is just one person. You can remind yourself and the people you connect with that they do not need to solve your stressors, that all you need is someone to open up to. Make sure that they are emotionally capable of holding space for you to open up as well.
- Reach out to a colleague at work.
- Have a coffee/ tea date with a friend.
- Ask a loved one to check in with you regularly.
- Meet new people by taking a class or joining a club.
If vulnerability is an obstacle for you, it might not be a reflex to seek out others. Maintaining a consistent relationship can help so that when life becomes challenging and we resort back to our default habits, those who often share space with you will be able to tell by the chance in energy.
Distinguishing between positive and negative stress, along with stress management can be challenging. Nonetheless, do not forget that you still have the power to positively handle negative stress and more importantly, take the time to turn off your stress response.
Peace + Love,
The Grove Campus Team