How to Reduce, prevent, and Cope with Stress
You may thing that there is nothing you can do to reduce
the level of stress in your life. The bills are
not going to stop coming, there will never be more
in the day for all the things you have to do, and
your school, college, career and family and friends
responsibilities will always be demanding. But
you have a lot more control than you might think. In
fact, the simple realization that you're in control
of your life is the foundation of stress management.
Managing stress is all about taking charge: taking
charge of your thoughts, your emotions, your schedule,
your environment, and the way you deal with problems.
The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time
for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun - plus
resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges
Identify the sources of stress in your life
Stress management starts with identifying the sources
of stress in your life. This is not as easy as
it sounds. Your true sources of stress are not
and it is all too easy to overlook your own stress-inducing
thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. You may know
that you are constantly worried about work deadlines
maybe it's your procrastination, rather than
the actual job demands, that leads to deadline
To identify your true sources of stress, look
closely at your habits, attitude, and excuses:
- Do you explain away stress as temporary ("I
just have a million things going on right now")
though you can't remember the last time you
took a breather?
- Do you define stress as an integral part
of your work or home life ("Things are
here") or as a part of your personality
("I have a lot of nervous energy, that's all").
- Do you blame your stress on other people
or outside events, or view it as entirely
normal and unexceptional?
Until you accept responsibility for the
role you play in creating or maintaining
remain outside your control.
Start a stress journal
A stress journal can help you identify the regular
stressors in your life and the way you deal
with them. Each time you feel stressed; keep track
of it in your
journal. As you keep a daily log, you will
to see patterns and common themes. Write down:
- What caused your stress (make a guess if
you are unsure).
- How you felt, both physically and emotionally.
- How you acted in response to
the stressful event or situation.
- What you did to make yourself
Look at how you currently cope with stress
Think about the ways you currently
manage and cope with stress in your
life. Your stress
help you identify them. Are your coping strategies
or unhealthy, helpful or unproductive? Unfortunately,
many people cope with stress in ways that make
the problem worse.
Unhealthy ways of coping with stress
These coping strategies may temporarily
reduce stress, but they cause more
damage in the long
- Drinking too much
- Overeating or under eating
- Zoning out for hours in front
of the TV or computer
- Withdrawing from friends,
family, and activities
- Using pills or drugs to
- Sleeping too much
- Filling up every minute
of the day to avoid
- Taking out your stress
on others e.g.
lashing out, angry
Learning healthier ways to manage stress
If your methods of coping with stress
are not contributing to your greater
it is time to find healthier ones. There are
ways to manage and cope with stress, but they
change. You can either change the situation
or change your reaction. When deciding which
it's helpful to think of the four As: Avoid
Alter, Adapt, or Accept.
Change the situation: Avoid the stressor
Alter the stressor
Change your reaction: Adapt to the stressor
Accept the stressor
Since everyone has a unique response to stress,
there is no "one size fits all" solution to
No single method works for everyone or in every
situation, so experiment with different techniques
and strategies. Focus on what makes
feel calm and in control.
How to avoid the stressor
Not all stress can be avoided, and
it is not healthy to avoid a situation
that needs to be addressed. You may be surprised, however, by the number
in your life that you can eliminate.
- Learn how to say "no" - Know your limits and stick to them. Whether
in your personal or professional life, refuse to accept added responsibilities
you are close to reaching them. Taking on more than you can handle
definite recipe for stress.
- Avoid people who stress you out - If someone consistently causes
stress in your life and you cannot turn the relationship around,
limit the amount
time you spend with that person or if possible end the relationship
- Take control of your environment - If the evening news makes
you anxious, turn the TV off. If traffic makes you tense, take
but busy road
to your destination.
If you get stressed out at the thoughts of going shopping then
do your shopping online.
- Avoid hot-button topics - If you get upset over religion
or politics, cross them off your conversation list. If you
the same subject
with the same people, stop bringing it up or excuse yourself
when it is the topic of discussion.
- Pare down your to-do list - Analyze your schedule, responsibilities,
and daily tasks. If you have too much on your plate, distinguish
"shoulds" and the "musts." Drop tasks that are not truly
necessary to the bottom of the
list or eliminate them entirely.
How to alter the situation
If you cannot avoid a stressful situation,
try to alter it. Figure out what
you can do to change things so the
problem does not present itself
future. Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate
in your daily
- Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. If something or
someone is bothering you, communicate your concerns in an open and
If you do not voice your feelings, resentment will build and the situation
likely remain the same.
- Be willing to compromise. When you ask someone to change their behavior,
be willing to do the same. If you are both willing to compromise
at least a little,
you will have a good chance of finding a happy middle ground.
- Be more assertive. Don't take a backseat in your own life.
Deal with problems head on, doing your best to anticipate and
prevent them. If
you've got an
exam to study for and your chatty roommate just got home, say
up front that you
only have five minutes to talk.
- Manage your time better. Poor time management can cause a
lot of stress. When you are stretched too thin and running
it is hard
calm and focused.
But if you plan ahead and make sure you do not overextend
yourself, you can alter the amount
of stress you are under.
How to adapt to the stressor
If you cannot change the stressor,
change yourself. You can adapt to
stressful situations and regain your sense of control by changing your
- Reframe problems. Try to view stressful situations from a more positive
perspective. Rather than fuming about a traffic jam, look at it as
an opportunity to pause
and regroup, listen to your favorite radio station, or enjoy some alone
- Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation.
Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it
matter in a month?
Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus
your time and energy elsewhere.
- Adjust your standards. Perfectionism is a major source of avoidable
stress. Stop setting yourself up for failure by demanding perfection.
standards for yourself and others, and learn to be okay with
- Focus on the positive. When stress is getting you down, take
a moment to reflect on all the things you appreciate in your
and gifts. This simple strategy can help you keep things
- Adjust your Attitude - How you think can have a profound
affect on your emotional and physical well-being. Each
time you think
your body reacts as if it were in the throes of a tension-filled
situation. If you see good things about yourself, you are
more likely to feel
good; the reverse
is also true. Eliminate words such as "always," "never," "should," and "must." These are telltale marks of self-defeating thoughts.
How to accept the things you cannot change
Some sources of stress are unavoidable.
You cannot prevent or change stressors
such as the death of a loved one,
a serious illness, or a national
In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as
they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, it's easier
a situation you cannot change.
- Don't try to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond
our control— particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than
over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you
choose to react to problems.
- Look for the upside. As the saying goes, "What doesn't kill us makes
us stronger." When facing major challenges, try to look at them
as opportunities for personal
growth. If your own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation,
on them and learn from your mistakes.
- Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend. Expressing what
you are going through can be very cathartic, even if there
is nothing you
the stressful situation.
- Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect
world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and
yourself from negative
energy by forgiving and moving on.
Make time for fun and relaxation
Beyond a take-charge approach and a
positive attitude, you can reduce stress
in your life by nurturing yourself.
If you regularly make time
and relaxation, you will be in a better place to handle life's stressors
Healthy ways to relax and recharge
- Go for a walk
- Spend time in nature
- Call a good friend
- Sweat out tension with a good
- Write in your diary
- Take a long bath
- Light scented candles
- Savor a warm cup of coffee
- Get a massage
- Curl up with a good
- Listen to music
- Watch a comedy
Don't get so caught up in the hustle
and bustle of life that you forget
to take care of your own needs. Nurturing
yourself is a necessity, not
Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily
schedule. Do not allow other obligations to take up time set aside
This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge
- Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance
your life. A strong support system will buffer you from the negative
- Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities
that bring you joy, whether it be exercising, listening to
music or dancing.
- Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh
at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight stress
in a number
Learn the relaxation response
You can control your stress levels
with relaxation techniques that evoke
the body's relaxation response, a
state of restfulness that is
the stress response. Regularly practicing these techniques will build
and emotional resilience. To learn more about relaxation techniques
that reduce stress, go to the Relaxation Practices that reduce stress
Adopt a healthy lifestyle
You can increase your resistance to
stress by strengthening your physical
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity plays a key role in reducing
and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes
times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent-up
stress and tension.
- Eat a healthy diet. Well-nourished bodies are better prepared to
cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Start your
day right with
breakfast, and keep your energy up and your mind clear with
balanced, nutritious meals
- Reduce caffeine and sugar. The temporary "highs" caffeine and sugar provide often end in with a crash in mood and energy. By
reducing the amount of coffee, soft drinks, chocolate, and sugar
snacks in your diet, you will feel more relaxed and you will
- Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs. Self-medicating with
alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress,
but the relief is
Don't avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems
head on and with a clear
- Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels your mind, as
well as your body. Feeling tired will increase your stress
it may cause
you to think