Stress is an unfortunate but necessary part of daily life. The stressors you have faced and overcome so far have helped to make you the person you are today — a person who may now have an entirely new set of stressors to handle.
You will probably never be completely rid of stress, but you can learn how to manage it. The key takeaway is that not all methods will work for everyone. Your stressors are unique to you, so your coping strategies should be too. Experiment to find what works, but don’t be afraid to continue exploring new strategies or to take things day by day.
Eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly are good habits that can have a major impact on your day-to-day stress levels. Not only do they boost your energy levels and fuel your body and brain, they also help you to stay calm in taxing situations and to think rationally when you’re presented with challenges.
The best way to add these habits to your routine is to start small and work your way up. For example, you can start by adding a 15 minute yoga routine to your daily routine before you leave for work. As you grow more comfortable with it, increase the time to 20 minutes, then half an hour, then an hour. Eventually, you won’t feel like you’re having to set aside time to fit the activity into your schedule.
Keeping your feelings bottled up can encourage you to hold grudges, turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, or fall into cycles of depression and anxiety. Expressing your feelings, on the other hand, can help you feel relieved, empowered, and capable.
Important: Before you spill your guts, find someone you can trust. Dishing to the people who stress you out will quickly backfire. Instead, talk to a nonjudgmental friend, a therapist, or an empathetic family member. If you feel like you don’t have anyone you can confide in, keep a journal where you can be completely honest about your thoughts and feelings.
Pausing before you handle a stressful situation is an emergency stress stopper. Even if you can only afford a few minutes, take a step back. It can help you calm down from the present scenario, think more clearly, and gain a different perspective on what’s happening.
Depending on how much time you can take, try some stress-relieving options. You can get a massage, take several deep breaths, slowly count to 10, go for a short walk, or set aside a few minutes to meditate or pray.
A little bit like targeted daydreaming, positive visualization involves you picturing yourself overcoming stressors as specifically and successfully as you can. It’s useful both as a coping technique in the moment and as a way to prepare for future stressors.
For example, if you’re nervous about speaking in front of a crowd, close your eyes and picture yourself being eloquent, engaging, and confident. Imagine the hand signals you might use while talking, the professional outfit you will wear, and the clear and authoritative tone you’ll use to speak.
It’s easy to be your own harshest critic, especially when things aren’t going well. Those kinds of thoughts are self-sabotaging. Be patient with yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would approach a person for whom you have huge respect. Instead of thinking, “I’m so awful at this,” think, “I have everything I need to deal with this and I know I’ll make it out OK.”
Treating yourself well also means giving yourself permission to mess up — and then forgiving yourself. No one is perfect, and the only way anyone gets better at anything is by learning from their mistakes.
Everyone reacts to stress differently, so it makes sense that everyone’s de-stressing tactics will also be different. It may take time, but the benefit of trying and refining a wide variety of coping strategies is that you’ll always have a tool that you can use to stay in control when times get tough.