Stress is tension and pressure that occurs in our lives because of various demands, responsibilities and concerns.
When our boss tells us to work harder or when our children bug us for attention while we’re trying to get dinner ready – that’s stress.
When we’re caught in traffic or when we don’t have enough money in the bank to cover our bills – that’s stress. Some stress can be healthy. It can give us a challenge or a sense of purpose in our life – like being a father. But when we feel pressure and tension for a long time, it can take a toll on our health and our relationships. For example, being out of work can be very stressful. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that stress is affecting us or our health. If we can learn to watch for its effects and make changes in our life, we will be better able to cope with stress.
No single technique is effective for managing all stressors. You may need to use more than one of the following suggested methods or use different methods at various times in your life.
1. Get up 15 minutes earlier each day. The inevitable morning mishaps will be less stressful.
2. Schedule a realistic day. Avoid the tendency to schedule back-to-back appointments; allow time between appointments to breathe.
3. Get enough sleep. If necessary, use an alarm clock to remind you to go to bed.
4. Eliminate or restrict the amount of caffeine you consume.
5. Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointment times, when to pick up the laundry, when video rentals are due, etc. As an old Chinese proverb states, “The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.”
6. Be prepared to wait. A paperback can make the wait in a post-office or other line almost pleasant.
7. Procrastination is stressful. Whatever you want to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you want to do today, do now.
8. Relax your standards. The world will not end if the grass doesn’t get mowed this weekend, or if the sheets have to be changed on Sunday not Saturday.
9. Learn to say “no.” Saying “no” to extra projects, social activities and invitations for which you don’t have the time or energy takes practice.
10. Eliminate destructive self-talk. “I’m too old to…” or “I’m too inexperienced to…” are negative thoughts that can increase stress levels.
11. Turn needs into preferences. Our basic physical needs translate into food, water, and keeping warm. Everything else is a preference. Don’t get attached to preferences.
12. If an especially unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day, and get it over with. Then the rest of the day will be free of anxiety.
13. Have a forgiving view of events and people. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world.
14. Do something that you enjoy every day.
15. Have an optimistic view of the world. Believe that most people are doing the best they can.
16. Take time for yourself. Develop a belief that everyone needs quiet time every day to relax and be alone.
17. Become more flexible. Some things are worth not doing perfectly, and some issues are good for compromising.
18. Talk it out. Discussing your problems with a trusted friend (or calling your EAP) can help clear your mind of confusion so you can concentrate on problem solving.
19. Use your time off for a change of pace. If your work is slow and patterned, make sure to build action and time for spontaneity into your weekends. If your workweek is fast-paced and full of appointments and deadlines, seek peace and solitude during your days off.
20. Writing your thoughts and feelings down (in a journal or on a paper to be thrown away) can help you clarify things and provide you with a renewed perspective.
21. Do something for someone else.
22. Try the following yoga technique whenever you feel the need to relax: inhale deeply through your nose to the count of eight. Then, with lips puckered, exhale very slowly through your mouth to the count of 16 or for as long as you can. Concentrate on the long sighing sound, and feel the tension dissolve. Repeat ten times.
23. Unplug your phone. Want to take a long bath, meditate, sleep or read without interruption? Drum up the courage to temporarily disconnect. (The possibility of there being an emergency in the next hour or so is almost nil.)
24. Shrug your shoulder, roll your neck. Anyone who has ever had a tension headache knows just how knotted up the muscles in the back of the neck can get. Stretching this vulnerable area can help ease tension.
25. Get up and take a break from your work area. A change of scenery can rejuvenate you and help to spur creativity.
26. Don’t take yourself too seriously or no one else will.
27. Don’t let negative people get you down. Keep a positive attitude.
28. Live each day one at a time. “Worry about the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves.” This is another way of saying take care of today as best as you can, and the yesterdays and tomorrows will take care of themselves.
29. Change in yourself what you don’t like in others.
30. Do one thing at a time. When you are with someone, concentrate fully on that person. When you are busy with a project, concentrate on doing that project and forget about everything else that you have to do.
31. Focus on understanding rather than on being understood, on loving rather than on being loved.
32. Inoculate yourself against a feared event. Just as a vaccine containing a virus can protect you from an illness, if you expose yourself to one or more of the dreaded aspects of an experience beforehand, you often can mitigate your fears.
Stressed in traffic photo available from Shutterstock