Are you are too stressed out?

Heart problems, headaches, obesity, anxiety, depression, anorexia and alcohol abuse… the list of problems linked to chronic stress is endless. Luckily, stress can be managed through the application of a stress management methods, softening its negative impact while developing the skill of using it to your advantage.

Yes, stress can be good for us and it is a natural response in our bodies to motivate us towards improving our lives, becoming better or eradicating stressors. Too much stress however, can be detrimental to our health. Chronic stress is the ongoing type of stress and has been proven to cause many diseases, health complications and general unhappiness.

Unchecked stress can negatively impact our thinking or behaviour and you’ll note that those who are stressed out tend to feel moody, tired, anxious, have a low self-esteem, racing thoughts and struggle to sleep at times. Some people indulge in drugs, alcohol or food to cope, while others completely lose their appetite and end up with eating disorders or depression.

The symptoms of stress is your warning light and if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time for you to create a stress management plan.

Implementing stress management techniques into your daily life will help you better manage stress in a rational and planned manner. This article will give you some of the best techniques and tips as proven in psychology and tested in science, to tackle and manage the demands of your daily life.

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Take Responsibility and Make the Change

Most of us cannot drop everything and move to an island to get away from our stressors.

The best way to deal with stress is to learn how to manage it and the reality is that you are the only one who can make the change.

Many people say they would like less stress in their lives, but if they are truly honest with themselves they’ll notice they either get some kick out of ‘being too busy’ or the stress is the price they have to pay for what they want to achieve in life.

Feeling sorry for yourself is another way of not taking ownership of what is happening in your life and if you want something that comes along with the territory of stress, you need to realise that you have chosen this and have the power to minimise its impact through your own thinking and actions.

Communicating clearly with co-workers and family about your stressors and finding ways to cope is an example of taking charge of the changes you can make in your life.

Is there something you can change in your work or personal life that causes you stress? It’s in your hands.

sculpture of blue and red arrows in forest
Your immediate response to high levels of stress will determine whether it will eventually impact your physical health. - Source: Unsplash

Accept What You Cannot Change

We all like to be in control, but sometimes circumstances are of such a nature that we need to accept that it’s not within our power to change or control them. Loadshedding is a perfect example in South Africa; there is nothing you can do about it. You cannot change Eskom’s capacity or poor performance, but you can change how you plan your day or find other ways to get off the grid.

Accepting the things you cannot change will bring greater focus on what you can influence and change, empowering yourself in the process and using your energy towards productive efforts. Situations you cannot control can be accepted with grace, releasing the will to ‘fight it’ and struggle with life when it is actually beyond your control.

It might not be easy or comfortable to let go of these uncontrollables because you'll have no one to blame, but it is another example of how your attitude will make all the difference in building a happier life for yourself.

Know and Befriend Yourself

Mindfulness is the ability to be present, aware of what you are doing and what you are experiencing. It will not only help you to better manage daily life and stressors, but you will also learn more about yourself and find life more interesting as you go.  One thing you cannot escape is yourself and learning to become your own best friend will make you life a lot more fun and relaxed.

How do you do this?

Spend time with yourself, become aware of your feelings and reactions and do things that you love.

Human beings are complex and knowing yourself will ensure you know what drives and inspires you. Your motivators are generally the reason for creating pleasure or pain in your life and if you know them you will be in a better place to make changes and decisions that will serve the outcomes you plan for your life.

Confidence will also come easier to you if you are ok and happy with yourself. You’ll be able to set boundaries, clearly communicating to others when their expectations are too high at the workplace or at home. Learn to say no when you have too much stress as this will be important in keeping stress levels manageable.

Being in touch with yourself also means you’ll learn to understand and manage your emotions better.

You'll find it easier to recognise the symptoms of stress to notice when stress has a hold on you. The process will help you to identify moments where you can change your mindset instead of stressing out about something like you used to do.

Recognise the Signals

You will only be able to notice the impact of stress on your life once you become familiar with it. Having a stress management strategy in place and developing mindfulness and awareness of your body will all contribute to being able to recognise when you are stressing too much. You don’t always want to run away from it, you just want to be aware and ensure that the stress doesn’t endure too long to develop into chronic stress.

With time you’ll be able to list the things that stress you too much and decide whether you can change or accept them.

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Breathe and Meditate

Wellness and wellbeing are some key phrases in today’s society, because people are so stressed out and out of touch with their bodies. Meditation, breathwork and relaxation techniques are easy ways to become present in your body and release any feelings of tension and stress.

It’s been proven that these techniques will help you to manage stress effectively, but they will also influence your mental state in a positive way. A habit of meditation will quieten a busy and stressed mind and experts recommend daily meditation to rebalance hormones in the body, including cortisol, the stress hormone.

Breathwork is something that can be used throughout your day. A 5-10 minute breathing session can help you to quickly disconnect from a previous stressful situation and focus on something new. Close your eyes and take deep breaths through your nose to send oxygen to your brain and bring more clarity to your thoughts. It has also been proven that these techniques are great for boosting the immune system and developing a general positive outlook on life.

Breaks From Stress

Tea breaks and lunch breaks are important for your mental health, but so is taking a break from work every now and then. You have to find moments in your daily life where you can relax over a cup of coffee and create a bit of distance between you and the things that stresses you out.

Ensure no one from work disturbs you when you are on leave and find activities and hobbies that will help you relax, especially those that are not in front of the television. Pottery, painting, dancing, playing a musical instrument or listening to music are all great and relaxing pastimes.

latte art
Use a 10 min break every two hours to reduce work pressure and bring relaxation or self care into your day. -Source: Unsplash

Express Your Feelings

Bottling up your feelings will eventually just lead to emotional outbursts. A talk with someone about the challenges you face, might take some pressure off and give you new perspective on the issue.

Be sure you express your feelings to loved ones and be honest with yourself when you are going through a tough time. Self-compassion is important in the process, so be gentle with yourself and realistic about what you can and cannot do. Most of all, be ok to ask for help if you feel overwhelmed, we all need a helping hand every now and then.

Journaling about experiences and emotions has been one of the most effective tools used in therapy. It helps to declutter your thoughts and see the issues and challenges you face for what it is.  You will also read back how the same issues might be running your daily mental program and this will inspire you to change or make adaptations around it.

Seek Out Fun

Is it possible for you to create fun in a stressful situation? Knowing how stress can aid you is important, but you also need to recognise it will only be beneficial in small durations. South Africans are very good at seeing the lighter side of our problems. This is a useful coping mechanism, especially if we cannot change something, but we should always try and learn from that and see if we can view the positive side of every situation.

Seeking out fun also means creating happy moments in life, even in your work life, where you set out to just relax, let go and have fun. Socialising with work friends can be fun, but try and steer clear from creating more stress by keeping people from doing their work.

Do Regular Exercise

group of friends running on beach
Physical exercise is one of the best coping strategies for stress. It will help reduce blood pressure and improve your sleep, mood and overall health. -Source: Unsplash

Having a fitness regime will not only keep you healthy, it will also minimise the impacts of stress and make you happier. Hundreds of studies have been done to prove how cardiovascular exercise can help with heart problems, blood pressure, issues around weight management and even chronic mental conditions like anxiety and depression.

Going to the gym with a friend, taking a run to spend more time outdoors or attending a group yoga class to socialise are all ways that you can make your fitness more fun. Most people feel more confident and better about themselves once they pass the 21 day mark of doing frequent exercise. So don’t give up and try stick to a balanced and healthy diet, your body and your mind will thank you for it.

Knowing and exploring ways to manage stress will help you build a toolbox of skills you can use in your daily life. Some of our suggested techniques will work perfectly while others might appeal less to you. Your attitude and willingness to become better at managing stress and your life will ultimately determine whether you seek and find the answers to become a less stressed and happier person.

We also have personal development coaches on Superprof to help you better manage stress. They will guide you through asking those tricky and important life questions, while you develop a program to help you achieve your personal goals.

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Mauritz

Writer and qualified yoga instructor, who is passionate about health and well-being.