Stress Management Tips
It's important for your health and mental wellness that you feel a sense of control over your life. Stress management is a learned skill; successful stress management requires strategic planning. You can make a difference. It simply requires a little concentrated effort. The strategies discussed in this section can help you cope with the stress in your life more effectively.
Effective Time Management
Developing time management skills is critical to successfully manage stress. Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. Some people, however, are more effective managers of their time and priorities. To get organized, first identify your priorities and then identify your time wasters. Maybe you simply don't need to watch as much television as you do, or you can combine your commuting with some other tasks.
Next, make a realistic plan for how long it will take you to get the things that are important to you accomplished. You can use the SMART goal setting process described in Chapter 2. Consider your workout goals in the context of the rest of your life. If you don't have time to go to the gym, don't plan to do it. You'll only set yourself up for disappointment. Instead, spend your time brainstorming how you can add more walking into your normal daily schedule, to the office, on your breaks, and at the end of the day. Fit in some toning and stretching in the morning and in the evening. Do the best that you can, and remember to also leave time for yourself.
Get Help from Friends and Family
Social support is a critical factor in effective stress management. Friends and family can help you to talk over troublesome topics and help you keep your perspective. Take time to spend with your friends and family and to maintain relationships. Even a cherished pet can provide you with companionship and dispel feelings of loneliness and isolation.
If you feel that you need more support, go ahead and ask for help from others in your home, workplace, or community. Don't try to do everything alone. If you ask, you'll realize that many people are there for you and are more than willing to lend assistance.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
If you find that you are often irritated or annoyed, this can be a sign that your stress levels are too high. Learn constructive methods to deal with disagreeable situations. Remind yourself that effective communication can often defuse many conflicts. Make sure that you're not allowing resentment to build up inside you. Over time, denial of anger can lead to unhealthy blowups or chronic negative feelings. The healthiest approach is to learn how to effectively express your feelings in positive and constructive ways.
It may help to remember some simple alternatives to becoming angry or frustrated in stressful situations. If possible, leave the scene of a stressful situation before it gets to you. Talk to someone you trust about how you feel, or take some time on your own to brainstorm nonstressful ways to respond to a stressful issue. Most importantly, remember to breathe deeply, and ask yourself, “In the grand scheme of things, does this really matter?”
Unchecked stress takes its toll on more than just your emotional state. It eventually manifests as physical symptoms — from muscle strains and spasms, to more serious injuries or illnesses. Your body will let you know when it's under too much stress, so listen!
Get Active Outside
A great way to restore calm and your sense of perspective, as well as to fit in some healthy activity, is to get outside and enjoy nature. Studies show that spending time in nature promotes feelings of calm and relaxation. When you look at a beautiful sunset, listen to the sounds of the pounding surf, or take in a beautiful view from the side of a mountain, it helps to put all the small frustrations back in the proper perspective. Find something active outside that you enjoy, and take time to put it in your schedule.
Keep in mind that your exercise does not always need to take place in a gym and it does not always have to be a formal workout. Sometimes, a quick refreshing walk in a park can be extremely restorative as well as provide you with healthful activity. Not only will you feel better, look great, and manage your weight effectively, but you'll also manage stress better by being active regularly. Something as simple as a short walk can be a powerful positive outlet for tension. Use your active time as a stress reliever and not as another pressurized “to-do” on your already loaded schedule.
Make Time for Self-Care
One of the biggest contributors to feelings of stress is the sense that life is out of control. To avoid this, make time for yourself. You deserve time for your own self-care. For one thing, it supports your health, which in turn helps you to better support all the people you care about. Take a moment to identify things that you enjoy, and that are fun and restorative. Make it a point to incorporate these activities into your schedule.
It's never easy to change a habit. Unless stress is managed and the reasons for maintaining the behavioral change are foremost in your mind, old habits prevail. A calm, clear, and focused mind and a healthy, realistic attitude are important for achieving any goal. This holds true for the incorporation of healthy lifestyle habits too. Don't judge yourself or beat yourself up if you find that you're not always exercising. Simply take a deep breath and get back to doing the things that you know will make you feel better and help you to enjoy life more.