How much stress is too much stress? Are you the victim of frequent panic attacks or do you struggle to keep up with your rushing thoughts? The effects of stress can play out in just about every facet of your life, but you don’t have to be done in by your anxiety. If you think you are experiencing any of the symptoms of stress, don’t panic (more) – we have a handy guide to reducing the stress in your life.
Symptoms Of Anxiety: How You Know You’re Too Stressed
People are often quick to dismiss stress, but it can affect your body, your mind, and your behaviour in drastic ways. Are you experiencing any of the following effects of stress?
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Stomach cramps / Nausea
- Fertility problems / Erectile disfunction
- Low sex drive
- Muscle tension/pain
- Irritability / Anger
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lack of motivation/focus
When you’re caught up in the thick of anxiety, it’s easy to believe that you’re out of control. But you might be surprised to learn that there are quite a few ways you can take back the reigns in your brain and manage your stress in a healthy way.
Stress Management Techniques To Help You Keep Your Cool
Most (if not all) stress management techniques can be summed up in “The Four A’s”: Avoid, Alter, Adapt, and Accept. These strategies can play out in the following ways:
Stress management strategy #1: Avoid the stressor
First of all, understand that you are allowed to say “no”. Know your limits and recognise that these are not weaknesses – they are just another part of who you are. Whether in you personal or professional life, don’t take on more responsibilities or activities, when you become aware that you are reaching those limits.
Avoid people who cause or add to your anxiety. If you consistently walk away from an interaction with a particular person feeling deeply upset or unsettled, you may want to re-evaluate this relationship. If you cannot address your issues and reach a compromise with this person, consider limiting the time you spend with them or end the relationship entirely.
Take control of your environment. While not necessarily the central cause of your anxiety, there are a number of external factors that may be leaving you stressed out. If listening to the news on the radio makes you fearful, turn it off or switch to a station that plays relaxing music. If traffic wears you out, consider taking the longer, but less-traveled, route.
Avoid provocative topics of conversation. There’s a reason our mothers warned us not to talk about politics and religion. If hit-button topics like these get you too riled up, don’t bring it up, change the subject or walk away from the discussion.
Take a look at your responsibilities and cut back on your to-do list where you can. Poor time management is often cited as a common cause of anxiety. Take a look at what tasks you have on your plate and make the hard decisions about what to put in your schedule. With a solid plan in place, you can ensure you don’t over-extend yourself and keep your head about you.
Stress management strategy #2: Alter the situation
Sometimes we can’t avoid a stressful situation, but we can still manage our stress by altering it.
Communicate your feelings openly and respectfully. Do not bottle up your emotions. This may result in you being likely to experience building feelings of resentment, while affecting no change to the stressful situation. It might not seem too appealing at first but talking through any disagreement you may have with another person will help you to take back your power in that situation.
Be willing to compromise. If you are asking someone to change their behaviour towards you, consider that you may have to do the same. It takes two to tango, and you may both have to bend a little before you are able to find a happy middle ground.
Being more assertive and dealing with your problems head-on – though a little scary at first – can go far in helping you prevent stressful situations. Know your priorities and then go after your goals and your responsibilities. They are your own, after all.
Time management skills can also prevent a lot of anxiety. If you plan out your tasks, you know what to focus on and when. This simple practice can save you a lot of anxiety.
Stress management strategy #3: Adapt to your stress
Reframe the problem. Try to put a positive spin on your situation. Are you stuck in traffic? Or is it a welcome opportunity to sing along to your favourite tunes louder than you do in your shower?
Look at the big picture. Yes, things look bad at the moment, but will it really be that important in the long-run? Will it matter in a month? A year? If you don’t see yourself still feeling as strongly in future, focus your time and energy elsewhere.
Reconsider your standards. There is a good chance that you are being too hard on yourself, after failing to meet an unrealistic, self-imposed standard. It’s time to let go of your perfectionism. You’ll be happier for it.
Focus on positive things. You might have heard this one before, but at the core of this piece of advice is “gratitude”. It’s easier to see things in a better light, when you consider what you are grateful for in a given situation.
Stress management strategy #4: Accept what you cannot change
Don’t try to control what is beyond your control. You will never be able to control other people’s thoughts, feelings and actions – that is outside your sphere of responsibility. Rather concentrate on the things you can control such as your own reactions to situations. It might take time to get used to thinking this way, but you are bound to find it incredibly empowering.
Talk through your feelings either with a trusted friend, a close family member, or a psychologist. Anxiety can easily leave you feeling trapped in your own head. However, a sure-fire way to get out of your brain is to share your feelings with another human. Even if they cannot offer any sanity-saving advice, just talking can be very cathartic.
Learn to forgive – others and yourself. Embrace that we live in an imperfect world and everyone makes mistakes, even you. Unforgiveness (see: grudges) is a waste of energy and your emotional wellbeing. So, let go of your anger and resentments, and move forward feeling lighter and happier.
Hopefully, you’ll find ways to apply these stress management techniques in your work and personal life. These are small things that can help you to build a more positive, less anxiety-inducing life overall. You may find plenty of opportunities to practice these techniques in the office. But there are a few other things you can do in your personal time that can help to support these efforts. For one thing, you can take time for fun and relaxation – nurturing yourself in a healthy way. Enjoy the small things like taking a walk, keeping a journal, or savouring a cup of tea.
The final tip for managing and reversing the effects of stress is to adopt healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise; a healthy diet; reducing caffeine and sugar; avoiding alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs; and getting enough sleep. Not only will this help you reduce your stress overall, but it will also save you on your health insurance in the long-run