If you feel stressed, you’re not alone. Stress in America has been steadily climbing without much sign of change. Everything from family to politics can lay the groundwork for chronic stress in our lives.
While some types of stress can be healthy, like braking suddenly to avoid an accident, chronic stress is not one of the healthy kinds. Think of it this way: does your stress ease up after the triggering event is over? Or is your stress more of a repetitive, consistent state of being?
If you answered “yes” to the latter, it may be time to focus on finding healthy ways to manage your stress. Finding effective stress management techniques can improve your physical and mental health in the process.
Along with living a healthy lifestyle, like regularly exercising and eating well, try practicing the four A’s for stress management:
Think about where your stress comes from and acknowledge what can be removed. You may be surprised to realize just how much stress you’re able to simply avoid altogether.
- When you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, learn how to say “no” to new projects whenever you can. It likely won’t always be possible, but you’ll be able to cut out at least some of your stress.
- Prioritize your to-do list. On days when you’re struggling to stay afloat, take less-urgent items and either erase them entirely or put them on a to-do list for another day. Rarely does everything have to get done today.
- Give yourself permission to avoid people who cause you stress too. We all have encountered those people who mentally or emotionally drain us. Recognize that and let yourself spend as little time with them as is necessary.
When avoidance isn’t an option, you may be able to alter the situation to be less stressful.
- Own your feelings openly. Let people around you know that you’re stressed and may not be as patient as you usually are. This could help avoid hurt feelings in the moment or later on.
- If a coworker regularly asks you to complete a task at 4:30pm, causing you to stay late, speak up. Use “I” statements to help avoid accusatory language. For example, try “I know sometimes things pop up, but I do my best work with a bit more lead time. If you know a project might be coming my way, do you mind giving me a heads up?”
In addition to externally altering a situation, try to learn how to best adapt to it.
- Rethink your standards and expectations. Acknowledge that you can’t give everything 100% and some things will have to be sacrificed a bit. You might expect to go grocery shopping every Saturday, but if things get too hectic, could you piece together some meals to get you through a few days? If the laundry didn’t get done until next Sunday, would you make it through the week?
- If you have a habit of thinking negative thoughts, learn to recognize and reframe them. Your work event probably won’t be “the worst.” It might be an inconvenience, but you might have a good time or even learn something useful.
AcceptWhen we can’t eliminate stressors, we have to accept them. But acceptance doesn’t mean we have to grin and bear it. There are still things we can change in our perspective to make these situations better.
- Find a support system. That may mean calling a friend just to vent or it may mean working with a counselor to help manage your stress. Think about what you need and seek it out.
- Remind yourself that feelings are temporary. When you’re stressed to the max, remember you won’t always feel this way. You’ve been through tough times before and you’ll get through this one too.
- Consider adopting a mantra. “Accept the things you cannot change” can help when you feel the need to “fix” a situation. Sometimes it’s simply out of our control.
Recognizing what can be changed in a stressful situation, and making those changes, are great ways to start reducing your stress.
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Robinson, Smith, Segal. (2019). “Stress Management.” Retrieved from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/stress-management.htm/
Mayo Clinic. (2018, March 28). “Stress Management.” Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044476