A Few Changes for Better Stress Management

A Few Changes for Better Stress Management

Since stress is unavoidable in life, it's important to find ways to decrease and prevent stressful incidents and decrease negative reactions to stress. Managing stress comes down to our habits, behaviors, thoughts, and how we manage our lives. 

Managing time

Stress frequently comes from feeling like there is too much you need to make happen in not enough time. Time management skills can help you have more time for both what you need to do and what you want to do, like spending time with your family and friends. Learning how to manage your time will also increase your performance and productivity - which will help reduce your stress.

To improve your time management:

  • Save time by focusing, delegating, and scheduling time for yourself.
  • Keep a record of how you spend your time, including work, family, and leisure time.
  • Prioritize your time by rating tasks by importance and urgency. Redirect your time to those activities that are important and meaningful to you.
  • Manage your commitments by not over- or under-committing. Don't commit to what is not important to you.
  • Deal with procrastination by using a day planner, breaking large projects into smaller ones, and setting short-term deadlines.
  • Examine your beliefs to reduce conflict between what you believe and what your life is like.

Building healthy coping strategies

It's important that you identify your coping strategies when stress hits. Do you inhale a pint of ice cream? Do you get testy with your family members? Do you curl up and nap it away? One way to figure out your coping strategies is by recording the stressful event, your reaction, and how you cope in a stress journal. With this information, you can work to change unhealthy coping strategies into healthy ones-those that help you focus on the positive and what you can change or control in your life.

Making helpful lifestyle choices

Some behaviors and lifestyle choices affect your stress level. They may not cause stress directly, but they can interfere with the ways your body seeks relief from stress. Try to:

  • Balance personal, work, and family needs and obligations.
  • Have a sense of purpose in life.
  • Get enough sleep, since your body recovers from the stresses of the day while you are sleeping.
  • Eat a balanced diet for a nutritional defense against stress.
  • Get moderate exercise throughout the week.
  • Limit your consumption of alcohol.
  • Don't smoke.

Get social support

Social support is a major factor in how we experience stress, and it's the biggest factor in successfully making healthy changes. Social support is the positive support you receive from family, friends, and the community. It is the knowledge that you are cared for, loved, and valued. Research indicates a strong relationship between social support and better mental and physical health. Make sure you have a network of people who support you and at least one person you can talk to.

Changing your thinking

When an event triggers negative thoughts, you may experience fear, insecurity, anxiety, depression, rage, guilt, and a sense of worthlessness or powerlessness. These emotions trigger the body's stress, just as an actual threat does. Dealing with your negative thoughts and how you see things can help reduce stress.

  • Thought-stopping helps you stop a negative thought to help eliminate stress. When you recognize a negative thought, deliberately tell yourself to stop and shift your thinking.
  • Disproving irrational thoughts helps you to avoid exaggerating the negative thought, anticipating the worst, and interpreting an event incorrectly.
  • Problem solving helps you identify all aspects of a stressful event and find ways to deal with it.
  • Changing your communication style helps you communicate in a way that makes your views known without making others feel put down, hostile, or intimidated. This reduces the stress that comes from poor communication. Use the assertiveness ladder to improve your communication style.

Even health coaches like me can let stress take over. That's why it's called stress management, and not stress elimination. Stress can be good, as it keeps us on our toes and performing better and better, but too much can add up and take a toll on us mentally and physically. 

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