Friday, September 3, 2010

Stressed out? Part 2: Tips and tricks to manage your stress

Tips to Manage Your Stress

In Part 1 of this series, we examined stress: what it is, how it develops and the way our bodies respond to it.  When we are stressed, we often feel as if we are out of control of things in our lives, finances, family, work, and our environment. This sometimes leaves us feeling paralyzed and helpless to change things; when we feel helpless, we feel STRESSED OUT.  Here are some helpful tips and tricks to identify and manage your stress.

The importance of balance - When your life is "out of whack", without a balance of work/play, relationships/time alone, stress/fun, you can begin to feel that old familiar feeling of increased anxiety and stress. It is important to plan time to have a variety of activities and to be sure to allow enough time to sleep, eat well, and relax. Many people underestimate the important of sleep and diet, and it is clear that you must get enough sleep and the right nutrition, or your physical and mental health will suffer.

Know your sources of stress and frustration - It can be tricky enough to manage stressors we know about, but many people do not fully realize what their sources of stress are.  One of the keys to stress management is to take stock in your situation. This will allow you to effectively identify and label your stressors. A few key points:
       * Sources of stress are not always apparent
       * Sources of stress are not always negative
       * Sources of stress are sometimes - well, YOU.

Keeping track of times that you feel more stressed (i.e., a journal or chart can be helpful with this) can help you identify sources of stress. When you look at these events objectively, you might begin to see a pattern. Or, you might see some things that surprise you.

Identify the ways you currently cope with stress -  Learning more about your own style of stress management can help you develop healthy habits. Many of us use unhealthy coping strategies, that can help decrease stress temporarily, but will cause lasting long term problems. These include:
     *Smoking, drinking or using drugs to relax
     *Overeating or not eating when stressed
     *Spending all of your time alone
     *Sleeping too much
     *Taking your problems out on those around you.

Choose some healthier ways to manage your stress - It is important to remember that there are as many ways to handle stress as there are people, and no two are alike. You have to find the stress management strategies that best fit your personality, lifestyle and interests. For example, some people find yoga and meditation relaxing and use this an an effective tool to manage stress. For some, the thought of sitting on a mat is like torture; or may prefer to be active and use exercise to relieve stress. The best plan is to try a variety of different techniques to see which ones fit you best. Once you find your preferences, be sure to MAKE TIME FOR THEM ON A REGULAR BASIS. For example in her blog, Blogger Barbara Kosciewicz discusses how yoga practice can reduce stress.

The following links provide more tips to manage stress, include a more extensive list of suggestions you might try. If you still need help, or your unhealthy stress management habits are negatively affecting your life or those around you ASK FOR HELP.


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