There aren’t too many days that don’t hand us a stressful situation. I would actually be confident saying it happens to most of us at least once a day. It’s a part of life. Acute bouts of stress are okay – periods of stress that come and go during a day – for me that’s running a little late to work, having an organic chemistry test (if you’ve taken it, you are right there with me), or having a conflict with a friend. Acute bouts only last a few minutes or hours, and then go away as if we never had the stress in the first place. When we allow these smaller bouts to build up, though, that is when normal, acute bouts of stress become chronic and harmful.
Continuing research shows us that chronic stress can have MAJOR effects on physical, emotional, and cognitive health. Stress does abnormal things to our hormones, which leads to other side effects like increased risk of heart disease, weight gain, and chronic fatigue. And that is just the short list. Allowing chronic stress to take over your life can be debilitating to your health and well-being. The good news when it comes to stress is that it can be managed through different techniques that we can learn. Stress management is a skill, and with practice, can be used to cut down the chronic stress and its consequences tremendously. Here are a few foundations for stress management that you can start implementing and practicing TODAY.
Control What You Can
We can’t control everything that happens in our life. We all wish we could, but there are just some curveballs that life throws at us that we just can’t predict. That is okay, and realizing that this is normal and okay is the first step to being able to control what YOU can control. Start by being honest with yourself and thinking about what really stresses you out. Does a certain person make you stressed out? Do you get stressed out in certain places? What are your triggers? These are the types of questions to start to ask yourself to build up your list of major stressors. It is inevitable that there will be some stressors that will be hard to stay away from. Those are out of your control and require a different stress management technique. Some triggers, though, are in your control. They are triggers, most often, you can avoid. A big key to managing stress is to start by removing these stressful situations from your life. If they don’t happen in the first place, then they can’t stress you out. Control what you can, and avoid the controllable situations that bring stress into your life.
Unfortunately, we can’t avoid all stress. There are things we can’t control and sometimes even the things we think we can control just happen, and life becomes stressful. Enter stress resiliency! Stress resiliency is our ability to deal with the stressful events in our life that we can’t avoid. It is the time where you face the stress head on and use techniques to help reduce it. One way you can do this is through deep breathing and mindfulness. When a stressful situation or day hits, taking 5-10 minutes to meditate and breathe deeply can do wonders. It gives you time to yourself and an opportunity to really take yourself out of the stressful situation. Like almost all aspects of wellness, your stress resiliency techniques need to be personalized. Deep breathing may work for your best friend, but may not work for you. That is okay. There are many ways to build your resiliency and reduce stress in your life. The key is finding the best one that works for you. Some other ideas include…
- Keeping a stress ball around to squeeze during stressful situations
- Exercise or go for a walk
- Positive self-talk
Try one. Try them all. Find what works best for you and start to build up your stress resiliency.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Skills require practice. Stress management isn’t any different. Improving your own stress management and figuring out what works for you should involve mindfully participating in your stress management routine daily. Even if it isn’t the most stressful situation, practice your skills and try to reduce stress in every opportunity. Over time, this will help you reduce chronic stress and save your body from all the harmful effects it can have. Build your skill. Reduce the stress in your life.
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