Our lives are full of stressful situations, and there’s no way around it.
Without knowing how to deal with stress properly, it can feel as though life is becoming a downward spiral.
Stress can cause a lot of unpleasant reactions such as tiredness, insomnia, lack of focus, headaches, and migraines.
People often tell us “don’t stress”, but that is easier said than done.
If you’re experiencing severe stress (or any form of stress), what can you do?
You learn some stress management techniques to help you remain calm.
But learning stress coping techniques involves taking control over many areas of your life. To prevent stress and minimize the effects when you are stuck in the middle of it, you must understand how stress works.
The tips we’re about to share in this guide are backed by scientific research and can help you relax and ease the tension in your life.
But before we dive into the practical stuff, let us first define stress.
What is Stress?
In a nutshell, stress is the result of your body’s “fight or flight” mode.
When it detects a potential threat, your brain releases a mix of hormones – cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine to name a few – to prepare your body for situations and events that you interpret as threatening. It could be anything from crossing a shaky rope bridge to working under a strict deadline.
While under stress, your body has various reactions including blood diversion to your muscles and shutting down functions such as digestion. In other words, stress gets your body fired up and ready to face whatever you interpret as dangerous or threatening.
From this perspective, stress can be a useful mechanism, as it prepares you to face whatever life throws down your path.
Unfortunately, there are times when stress gets entirely out of control. And when that happens, it can quickly ruin your personal and professional life.
The Risks and Dangers of Unmanaged Stress
The effects of stress can range from minimal to severe.
Headaches, upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, sleep problems, and appetite changes all can occur from being too stressed.
Stress can even bring on or worsen certain symptoms or diseases!
For example, stress can also increase anxiety and cause depression. In fact, stress fuels about 50% of depression cases. On the extreme end of the spectrum, stress can cause lifelong interferences with daily living.
When we are faced with stressors, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), also called the body’s “major stress hormone.”
ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to release stress hormones called corticosteroids, which include cortisol, which travels to various regions of the body to producing arousal reactions. For many people, once the stressor resides, so do the reactions.
However, for others, the arousal, and other symptoms persist well after the situation has passed and can lead to two disorders: Acute stress disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Acute stress disorder occurs as soon as the stressful event happens, with symptoms that last for less than a month. If symptoms occur for more than one month, PTSD is likely the cause. Symptoms of PTSD can begin at any time after the event.
Some of the symptoms of acute stress disorder and PTSD include:
- Recurring thoughts, memories, dreams, nightmares or flashbacks of the event.
- Avoiding thoughts, feelings, or conversations related to the event.
- Feelings of detachment from people or loss of interest in once pleasurable activities.
- Feeling dazed and having trouble remembering or concentrating.
- Increased arousal, negative emotions, guilt.
To avoid the risk of developing a severe form of mental illness, you need to learn how to deal with stress before it’s too late.
Fortunately, we’ve prepared a set of bulletproof techniques to help you relax and enjoy a stress-free life.
9 Practical Tips for Managing Your Stress Like a Boss
Realizing you are in control is the first step in managing stress.
Taking charge of your emotions, thoughts, and lifestyle is key to managing daily stressful situations.
Effectively dealing with stress allows you to be happier, healthier and even more productive. When you learn how to handle stress properly, you will be able to live a much more balanced life.
Here are some practical tips for coping with stress so that you can live a much more enjoyable life:
Tip 1: Find your stressors
The first and most important aspect of dealing with stress is figuring out what is stressing you in the first place!
It can be easy to figure out that a relationship, job, or significant life change is stressing you to the point where you feel like you’ve lost all control over your life. It may, however, be much more difficult to figure out the little things that are causing you to stress, such as your thoughts or behaviors.
For example, you may be stressed because you have a lot of work to get done in what seems like a little bit of time, but have you been scrolling through social media or binge-watching TV shows on Netflix?
If so, it is likely that these behaviors are causing the loss of time which is resulting in your stress.
Those foundations of stress are much more difficult to identify. It is important to accept your role in creating the stress in your life before you can deal with it.
Some things you can do to identify the root of your stress are:
- Question Your Behavior. Ask yourself: “Am I doing something that is getting in the way of my productivity of happiness?”
- Examine the Things You Blame Your Stress On. Is it work? A relationship? And then figure out if you are contributing to those factors in any way.
Learning to identify your stressors is the first step of effective stress management.
Tip 2: Change Your Coping Mechanisms
After you identify the things that are causing your stress, it’s time to look at how you have previously been dealing with them.
Do you procrastinate, withdraw, or use alcohol?
There are plenty of unhealthy mechanisms people use to deal with stress, but now it is time to change those mechanisms and begin to handle your stressors healthily.
In a study on stress management techniques, 70% of people claimed they meet with friends to deal with stress, and 58% of people joke about the matter to relieve their stress.
If you feel like stress is becoming unbearable, perhaps you should:
- Pick up the phone and talk to someone who understands the problems you’re going through.
- Go for a quick walk around the neighborhood to clear your head.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Find ways to joke about your situation.
Keeping stress in check is all about learning how to cope with events that might trigger it.Keeping stress in check is all about learning how to cope with events that might trigger it. Click To Tweet
Tip 3: Get Moving!
Exercise provides some of the greatest benefits to our minds and bodies. The natural endorphins that are released during physical activity act as “feel good” hormones which lower stress and help you relax.
Even though when you’re stressed you probably don’t feel like getting up to do anything; it is essential that you challenge yourself to get more physically active.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, healthcare professionals recommend physical activity as one of the most effective natural remedies for stress.
There are various things you can do to get a bit of exercise – you do not have to be an athlete or spend hours in the gym to experience the benefits of exercise.
Here are some ideas to help you get started:
- Dance to music
- Take a walk
- Clean out a room in your house
- Go shopping
- Go for a bike ride
These activities can become big-time stress relievers. As you are moving, try to notice what goes on inside your head. Feel the tension and stress melt away.
Tip 4: Develop Robust Time Management Skills
Perhaps, a reason for your stress is that you are always tight on time for the important things you need to do, and do not get the chance to relax.
When you’re constantly feeling worn thin, and behind on your responsibilities, it can be hard not to feel stressed.
Luckily, time management is an essential key that will be helpful in allowing you to not only get your priorities straight but also free up some space on your to-do list for the fun things in life such as socializing with friends or catching up on some movies.
Here are some tips to help you create the balance that you need in life:
- Create a To-Do List. A to-do list is a for-sure way to know exactly what you need to accomplish. There’s even a bit of extra satisfaction – that is sure to relieve your stress – in ticking off each task as you complete it. A to-do list will ensure that you never forget the things that need to be done.
- Prioritize Your Tasks. Once you create that to-do list, number your tasks from most important to least important. Also, take an estimate of how much time each task will require. That’ll make it easier for you to tackle them. If there is something that you know you really don’t feel like doing, do it first. This will help the rest of your day be more pleasant.
- Avoid Over-Commitment. Make sure you’re giving yourself time to get things done and time for recreational activities. Try to avoid filling your schedule so tightly that you no longer have time to enjoy a relaxing activity.
Manage stress by managing your time!
Tip 5: Build a Healthy Lifestyle
Stress can be a result of the things we are not doing for ourselves. It is our body’s way of telling us that we are not taking care of it the way we should.
Unhealthy habits such as not getting enough sleep, skipping meals, vegging in front of the TV, or using alcohol to cope with unpleasant emotions can have a profoundly negative impact on your overall health and well-being.
As a result, you become less resilient to stressful situations that you would have otherwise been able to handle.
One of the ways to prevent stress from becoming unbearable is to keep your mind and body in tip-top shape. That means making some serious changes to your day-to-day habits.
Here’s what you need to do to build a healthier lifestyle:
- Eat a Balanced Diet. Consuming nutritious foods will help keep your mind clear and focused throughout the day. Ginger is a well-known stress relieving food, and tea contains a lot of herbs that can help calm you down.
- Get a Full Night’s Sleep. Adults need to get around 8 hours of sleep daily to receive the restorative power that sleep Anything less than that can result in irritability, a hard time concentrating, and feeling sluggish all day.
- Avoid Alcohol, Cigarettes, and Drugs. Not only are these poor coping mechanisms but they also have unhelpful side effects. They can leave you feeling tired, irritable, and unfocused. If you are using these substances to self-medicate, it is vital that you use the tips suggested in this article to find other ways to deal with stress.
Healthy lifestyle choices build resilience to stressful situations!Healthy lifestyle choices build resilience to stressful situations! Click To Tweet
Tip 6: Take a Break From Technology
I know what you’re thinking.
There’s no way possible I can live my life without technology. I’ll go crazy!
Stop right there!
Technology use is related to your stress in a way different than you may suspect. Almost as a reverse effect, the light from technology screens interferes with melatonin production which can result in sleeplessness and therefore, stress.
Also, social media tends to be a platform of comparisons, and when constantly flooding our minds with other people’s lives, we become unhappy with our own. This creates unnecessary stress to be doing something other than what we are doing because it is not enough.
Technology has been linked to depression and anxiety as well for similar reasons.
To keep stress in check and also avoid having to deal with other related problems, occasional technology breaks are more than welcome.To keep stress in check and also avoid having to deal with other related problems, occasional technology breaks are more than welcome. Click To Tweet
Tip 7: Practice Breathing Techniques
Breathing exercises are among the most effective natural remedies for stress.
By focusing on our breath, we can take our mind off those worrying thoughts and enjoy a well-deserved moment of calm.
There are different techniques you can try, but the basis is to fill your lungs with air and hold it there for a few seconds.
When you begin to feel stressed, all you need to do is breathe in for five seconds making sure you consume a large amount of air, hold it in your lungs for five seconds, and then release for five seconds. You can repeat this as many times as needed until you begin to feel calm.
Here are a couple of simple, yet effective breathing techniques that you can implement right now
Hungry for more? We’ve written an entire article dedicated to breathing techniques for stress relief.
Tip 8: Start a Stress Journal
You probably think nobody journals anymore, but the old pen and paper method still has its uses.
Journaling is a great way to unplug from technology and plug into your own life.
Writing can help to quiet your busy mind by allowing you to explore your thoughts and feelings.
The organization of your thoughts on paper can aid you in problem-solving and analyzation thus reducing stress associated with difficult situations or emotional troubles.
Writing also helps you gain perspective on your life to make better choices that can change your life. It is a literal metaphor to remind you that you are the author of your life.
In a nutshell, the journal is an essential ally in your fight against unhealthy stress.
Tip 9: Try Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is a practice used to remain focused in the present moment and decrease the “chatter” that is usually in our minds.
Meditation is a practice used for relaxation and to create a quiet mind.
Putting the two together, mindfulness meditation is used to remain relaxed and tranquil during stressful times but focused enough to be aware of the present moment.
It helps quiet the thoughts that generally distract us from our daily goals. Meditation will give you a sense of calmness, peacefulness, and balance that will improve your overall mental, emotional, and physical health.
As little as 10 minutes a day has been proven to be effective.
Here’s a simple 2-minute mindful movement practice that you can implement now to help relieve stress (By Cara Bradly of mindful.org):
According to Cara, this short mindful movement practice can help you synchronize your mind and body so you can then “pause,” and focus inward. Once you do that, you can take back control of your thoughts and achieve a state of relaxation.
To Sum Up
Stress is a burden to anyone who experiences it, whether in big or small amounts.
It is not always easy to deal with stress, and sometimes you have to create a routine that involves many stress relieving techniques.
In order to create a routine to help alleviate your stress, it is crucial that you first find your stressors.
Explore all options to ensure that your behaviors and thoughts are not causing you to stress. If you find that they are, you must change your behaviors and thoughts.
You can do this by finding healthy coping mechanisms such as talking to someone or finding the good in your stressful situation.
If you find that it is just your busy schedule that’s keeping you from being able to relax, try to be more productive by creating to-do lists, and managing your priorities.
Take a break from technology and begin writing down your thoughts and emotions for clarity as well as relief. Create a healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, a good night’s sleep, and mindfulness meditation. Your body and mind will thank you for using these tips to deal with stress.
So, what do you think about our nine tips on how to deal with stress? Have you ever tried one of the strategies mentioned earlier? Which one did you find most useful? Are there any other techniques that have worked well for you?
Tell us everything in a comment below!
Clinical Psychologist, Licensed CBT Therapist.
I’m a Clinical Psychologist and a licensed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy practitioner. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to manage and prevent the most common mental issues – anxiety, depression, and stress.
When I’m not busy with my therapeutic practice or other work-related activities, I enjoy going out for a jog or hit the nearby gym.
You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via LinkedIn (link below), or through the Contact Us page.