Projects, deadlines, multitasking, work, family, health…combined it can all amount to stress. Every person feels some level of stress, and a certain amount is actually good. The problem occurs when stress turns into tension, mood swings, or other bad feelings that start interfering with your daily life. Stress that depresses your mood or ruins your ability to experience joy may be the result of an anxiety disorder or depression. It is easy to get caught up in stress when trying to balance your work life and personal life. Learning how to manage stress becomes necessary in order for you to enjoy your time at work, as well as live life to the fullest on your personal time.
There are many ways to manage stress, and since stress affects each person differently, some techniques may work better than others depending on your preference. Personally, when it comes to handling my own stress I find I manage my stress best with exercise. Exercise causes the brain to release endorphins, opium-like substances that ease pain and produce a sense of comfort and euphoria. It also encourages the nerve cells in the brain to secrete other neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine, which improve mood. Deficiencies of these substances, particularly serotonin, have been linked to symptoms of depression, anxiety, impulsiveness, aggression and increased appetite. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, when depressed people exercise, they increase their levels of these natural antidepressants. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), exercise also improves people’s ability to relax and sleep, promotes self-esteem and enhances energy, concentration and memory. In addition to exercise, here is a list of other ways to manage day-to-day stress:
|Quiet your mind||Keep in the present|
|Listen to relaxation tapes or music||Relax in a warm bath|
|Avoid caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and all street drugs||Sign up for a team sport or take up a new hobby|
|Get a pet to take care of and love||Get a massage|
|Take time to focus on the spiritual part of life, including nature or religion||Notice when you’re most vulnerable to stress and prepare yourself. Are you most affected in the mornings? On Mondays? In the winter?|
|Identify the things in your life that cause stress. Try to avoid them, but if you can’t, have a plan for dealing with them.||Share some of your responsibilities. A shared burden is lighter to carry — and you may develop a new friendship or learn another way of problem solving.|
|Reduce internal stress by setting realistic goals and expectations for yourself.||Find some humor in even the worst situation — even when you have to force yourself.|
|Organize your time and don’t procrastinate. Focus on the individual steps for getting a job done, so you don’t feel overwhelmed.||Talk with a friend or family member. Sharing your thoughts and fears will make them less overwhelming and easier to handle.|
|Avoid unnecessary changes in your life. Instead, reserve what energy you do have for dealing with the stressor at hand||Help other people. The sense of well-being you receive will help you put life’s events in better perspective.|
|Learn progressive muscle relaxation to relieve tension.
Tense and then relax every muscle in your body. Begin with your head and neck, and work your way down to your toes.
|Take a breather. Stressful situations can make you breathe more shallow or hold your breath. When you have to relax fast, belly breathing can be done in seconds. To do it: Concentrate on making your abdomen move out as you inhale through your nose, then in as you exhale. Using imagery as you belly breathe can help you further deepen and slow the pace of your breathing. As you inhale, close your eyes and imagine the air swirling into your nose and down into your lungs. As you exhale, imagine the air swirling back out again.|
How do you manage stress? Tell us in the comments section below.