Managing Stress

Whats the old adage about moderation?  “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”  That applies to stress as well. Stress can be a good thing, it can motivate you to get things done, to push harder, to go past limits you thought possible – which leads to growth.  It also helps you avoid danger and keeps you alert.  Then there are the times when stress isn’t such a good thing. There may be times it feels like you have no control over the stressors in your life. This may be true to a point.  You may have no control over what comes your way, but you do have control over the most powerful determinant of how stress manifests in your life – how you respond.

The world will go round, people wake up, they love, they laugh, they work, argue, pay bills, care for others and go on living, no matter what is happening to you specifically.  We may sometimes forget when we are going through difficult times, that the world does not revolve around us. Even though we can’t see beyond our current stressor or life situation that does not mean other things lose their value or purpose in the world.  For example, if I am responsible for a specific task at work and it is due on a specific day, people are relying on me.  No matter what I have going on, that does not negate my responsibilities.  So, I have to be able to create a balance in my life so I can handle my responsibilities, while taking care of myself.  There are moments when I may get so overwhelmed with certain things because I really care about the outcome, but I have to remember that one situation is a drop in the bucket. It’s a small part of a whole, it’s not the whole, and it’s okay if it doesn’t always turn out as I would like. The little things we do absolutely matter, and we should definitely give our full 100%, but if the actions we are taking are wreaking more harm than good in our personal lives, then we need to STOP and gain some perspective.

I liken life’s responsibilities to be viewed from the perspective of a photographer. Constantly zooming in and out. Attention to the job at hand, but keeping the big picture in mind.  Taking the time to evaluate your situation in this way helps you gain perspective, evaluate progress, and balance the stressors in your life.

How do you know when your stressors are getting out of control?  There are several physical signs to be aware of:

  • Dizziness or a general feeling of “being out of it”
  • General aches and pains
  • Grinding teeth, clenched jaw
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion or acid reflux symptoms
  • Increase in or loss of appetite
  • Muscle tension in neck, face or shoulders
  • Problems sleeping
  • Racing heart
  • Cold and sweaty palms
  • Tiredness, exhaustion
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Upset stomach, diarrhea
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Irritability, impatience, forgetfulness

You can learn to manage stress and lead a happier, healthier life. Here are some tips to help manage stress:

  • Keep a positive attitude.
  • Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
  • Be assertive instead of aggressive. Talk about your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
  • Learn and practice relaxation techniques; try meditation, yoga, or tai-chi.
  • Exercise regularly, it removes toxic energy and your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
  • Learn to manage your time more effectively – you can’t do it all, all the time.
  • Set limits appropriately and say no to requests that would create excessive stress in your life.
  • Make time for hobbies and interests, HAVE FUN!
  • Get enough rest and sleep, your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
  • Don’t rely on alcohol, drugs, or food to reduce stress. Ease up on caffeine, too.
  • Seek out social support. Spend enough time with those you love.
  • Seek treatment with a psychologist or other mental health professional trained in stress management or biofeedback techniques to learn more healthy ways of dealing with the stress in your life.

Reader’s Digest also offers some great tips for managing stress.

Bottom line, managing stress is about balancing your life so that you can enjoy the fun parts and navigate the stormy parts.  Happy sailing!

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