Stress Management: A Basic Guide ToStress Management
Stress is how our bodies respond to a physical or psychological trigger, which is a stressor. When this occurs, our bodies enter “fight-or-flight” mode, releasing adrenaline and cortisol, where we either face the stressor and battle it (fight) or run away from it and avoid it (flight).
Stress can be good or bad, also called “eustress” and “distress.”
Eustress can be beneficial to us because it can help us grow as people. If you’re a performer, the anxiety that you get before going on stage might be a good stress because it keeps you alert and reminds you to say focused. If you’re a student, feeling overwhelmed when you wake up on a Sunday morning after a long Saturday of dancing can actually be a good thing because it can drive you into action to complete your homework that’s due the upcoming week.
Distress can be harmful to our health. If you’re having tension headaches due to work, you may be experiencing distress.
There are numerous signs of stress, which include, but are not limited to:
- Digestive issues.
- Issues with thinking/focusing.
- High blood pressure.
- Increased weight gain.
- Memory problems.
- Poor concentration.
- Poor judgment.
- Constant worrying.
- Mood swings.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Vulnerability to both mental and physical health issues.
- Changes in habits that are contrary to your personal norm such as socially withdrawing if you generally enjoy being around people or sleeping and eating much more or much less than usual.
There are also numerous suggested ways for coping with stress, which include, but are not limited to:
- Exercising regularly.
- Eating healthy.
- Doing things that you enjoy.
- Investing in good social relationships.
- Drinking enough water.
- Limiting alcohol intake.
- Practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing and meditation (tips provided below).
- Sleeping adequately.
- Getting organized.
- Developing and executing a plan.
- Finding a mentor to guide you through some of your uncertainties.
- Appropriately altering your attitude, outlook, and sense of control.
In order to cope with stress, we need to stop, monitor ourselves, identify the issue, develop a solution, and execute. Here are some steps to help you cope with stress:
Step 1: Stop.
Step 2: Monitor Yourself. Listen to your body. Do you identify distress?
Step 3: Identify The Issue. What is the cause of your distress?
Step 4: Develop A Solution (And Execute).
Example: You’re stressed out because you have a huge project due. You have a tension headache, and you just want to quit and take a nap. Instead, you decide to drink some water and do some deep breathing to alleviate your headache. Then, you tackle your stressor. Drinking water and breathing is great, but it doesn’t make your stressor go away, and the longer it lingers, the more it will be stressing you out.
So, you look at your major project. You break it down into manageable steps. You give each step a timeline. For example, Goal #1 is due by the 1st Sunday of the month. Goal #2 is due by the 2nd Sunday of the month. You keep completing these small, attainable goals until, eventually, you’ve mastered your entire project.
Of course, you still may feel some stress, but maybe now this distress is eustress that drives you to complete your project. Completing your project gives you a sense of accomplishment which allows you to grow as a person and experience overall greater satisfaction. This contributes to your overall well-being. Because you became better, you start rubbing off on others by mentoring people who are doing similar projects. Mentoring others gives you even greater fulfillment! They master their project, and the ripple continues.
All because YOU decided to take positive action!
Let’s practice, shall we?!
Step 1: Stop.
Literally just allow yourself to pause and separate from any distractions.
Step 2: Monitor Yourself.
Listen to your body. How are you feeling? How do your muscles feel? How does your brain feel? Emotionally, how do you feel? What are you thinking?
Step 3: Identify The Issue.
Now that you know how you’re feeling, what has caused that feeling? What is the root of your distress? Ex: A big exam? Trouble balancing work and family? Financial Issues? Needing to workout more consistently?
Step 4: Develop A Solution.
What can you do to treat your current symptoms of stress?
What can you do to eliminate or lessen the stressor so that these symptoms either disappear or are alleviated?
Step 5: Execute.
This is all you! You’ve got this. Put your plan into action!
Previously, meditation was described as a possible technique for relieving stress. Have you ever considered meditation? The thought of meditating can be intimidating, especially if you’re someone who has a tough time slowing down.
What kind of music should I listen to?
How should I breathe?
What do I think about?
Do I need to light candles?
…Candles? Is incense more appropriate?
How should I sit? (Um, pretzel style with my hands making okay signs? Is that going to be awkward?)
Do I have to do that weird humming?
Figuring out how to simply begin meditating can seem like an endless task, so here are some tips to help get you started:
- Start by sitting for just 2 minutes.
- Once you become comfortable with this, increase in increments that work for you, gradually. Maybe next, you shoot for 5 minute sessions and do that for a week. The next week, you try 10 minutes. Make sure that you master/feel comfortable with each time before moving on to the next. You don’t have to jump into 30-minute peaceful, mindful meditation sessions from the get-go.
- Just do it!
- In the beginning, just find a place and get comfortable. As you begin to meditate for longer, you can start to implement strategies for staying comfortable for longer periods of time. For example, if you’re doing extended sessions, you may want to lay down as opposed to sitting up. Early on, when you’re doing shorter sessions, this won’t matter as much, so just start where you’re at with what you have and do your best.
- Monitor yourself. When you begin to meditate, notice how you feel. What feelings are you carrying with you once you get quiet? If you feel the urge to fight these feelings, accept that they’re okay.
- Focus on your breathing.
- When your mind wanders, simply allow yourself to come back and re-focus.
Now that you’re equipped with the skills you need to begin meditating, here are some potential benefits of meditation to motivate you to actually begin (and stick with) your practice:
- Lower blood pressure (if high).
- Reduce stress and anxiety.
- Reduce tension and tension-related symptoms, such as headaches.
- Increase happiness.
- Meditation can help you feel better by living in the present instead of focusing on other things, such as worrying about or dwelling on past or future events that are out of your control.
- Increase peace of mind.
- Steady emotions.
- Increase memory.
- Increase attention.
- Increase focus.
- Increase concentration.
Do your own research! No Longer Silenced Movement encourages you to do your own research about topics of your interest in order to formulate your own educated opinion.