Stress: A Three Part Series | Part 3: Stress Prevention & Management
Throughout the past few weeks I have examined the effects of stress, ways to cope with stress, and in my last blog of this series, I will discuss how to prevent oneself from becoming overly or chronically stressed. Stress is inevitable, but it is how we deal with it and prepare for it that can make a big difference. Here are five stress management tips that you can follow in order to prevent yourself from becoming chronically stressed or overly stressed with a particular situation.
We often spend much of our day multitasking, thinking of what we need to do next, or having a dialog of everything we have on our plate. We do not spend much time in the moment, focusing on the one thing we are doing. The latter is mindfulness. We should take time out of our lives daily to accomplish this. The following is a quick example of a way to practice mindfulness:
Take a walk during your lunch hour. Maybe do a relaxation technique or two. Try to clear out your brain. During your walk, you are going to focus solely on the walk itself, using as many senses as you can. Start with what you are seeing around you. Examine your surroundings; focus on the nature, the cars, the sidewalk. Next, focus on the sounds you hear. Is it quiet? Can you hear the breeze in the trees? What noise does your show make hitting the pavement? Using your sense of hearing, try to pay attention on the sounds occurring around you. Next, move on to smells. Depending on the time of year, you might have different smells in the same place. Try to place your concentration on what you smell around you. Finally, we come to touch. With this sense, examine your bodily sensations. What does the ground feel like beneath your feet? How does the air feel on your skin? In this mindful walk, try to engage as many senses that you can. During your walk, leave the day behind and simply focus on being in the moment.
We always seem to be taking care of others, our kids, our friends, our family. We help out in any way we can. In doing this, we often forget about ourselves. If we are not taking care of ourselves, we can get to a point where taking care of those we care about is difficult to impossible. Self-care could mean regularly engaging in a hobby, socializing with friends, exercising, finding something to relaxing or meditate, even for a few moments, each day.
3. Maintain a Healthy lifestyle
People deal with stress in many different ways. There are some that tend to turn to food for comfort, some people don’t eat. To ward off stress, some try to numb themselves with alcohol or drugs or sleep it away. These choices can be harmful to ourselves, often creating new stress. Making healthy choices can be a great way to keep your body strong and ready to handle whatever comes its way. This means eating healthy food, to give your body proper nourishment, getting regular exercise, which could be as simple as an evening walk to family or friends. Not only do we need to do healthy things for our bodies, but also our minds. We need breaks, we need self-care.
4. Write Down To Do Lists
We often have running lists in our head to keep track of all of the tasks that we need to complete. In order to not forget them, we can find ourselves thinking about them all of the time. This can be overwhelming and lead to stress. One thing that you can do to prevent this is to write it down. Keep lists of your daily/weekly/regular tasks. Focus on one task at a time. When you complete it, cross it off. It can feel good at the end of the day to see a paper full of crossed out tasks. It can help you feel accomplished. Anything that is left on the list does not need to be carried around and remembered because when you get time for the next task, it is on paper to remind you. Lists help us to remember our tasks, focus on what we are doing, as well as create positive rewards and satisfaction.
5. Understand what you can and cannot control
This one is tough. In life, there are things that we have control over like what time we wake up in the morning, what we choose to eat for breakfast, and there are things that we cannot control, for example traffic on the highway, and sometimes how people react to us or our situations. Often times we focus on what we cannot change, which creates much stress because we just have to live with the circumstances. If we begin to work on creating solutions for what we have control over, it can make stressful situation seem less so. As an example, maybe your boss reprimands you because you are always late for work. What can we not control? Traffic that makes us late, the coffee shop for being extra busy and getting your order wrong, twice, or how your boss handles the situation when you do finally arrive. You could focus on how your boss doesn’t understand the factors that caused you to be late, or you could ruminate on being reprimanded first thing in the morning. You could also focus on how much you hate traffic and how it really spoils a lot of things in your life. What you could also focus on is what control you do have. Maybe you could get up earlier in the morning and leave a half hour earlier. Possibly you could make breakfast at home. Finding the control you have in a situation and trying to let the rest go can go a long way in creating a less stressful environment for yourself.
Written by Cara Metz, Ed.D., LPC
Assistant Professor Counseling Program, Interim Chair of Counseling, Forensic Psychology, & I/O Psychology Programs at Argosy University, Denver