Does stress take up most of your day? If it does, know that you’re not alone. No matter who you are, where you live, or what type of work you do, there’s a good chance that stress is a regular part of your life. To some extent, stress can help you stay motivated and focussed on achieving your goal. But when stress becomes long-standing and intense, it can cause you to feel overwhelmed – and can even interfere with your functioning and performance.
While you may not be able to avoid the experience of stress, you can engage in certain activities that can help you build resilience and better manage stressful situations.
Here’s what you can do:
Take a break
Focussing on a problem for too long without moving forward can disrupt productivity. When you feel like things are too much to handle, do something that will take your mind off of your troubles. Meditate, read a book, listen to music or simply drink a warm beverage to soothe your mind. It may seem difficult, but when you allow yourself to move your mind away from your stressors, you can give yourself a much-needed break.
Use positive self-statements
During hard times, go a little easy on yourself. No one is perfect or built to withstand extreme pressure constantly. Remind yourself that you are doing your best – and that’s what’s important. Whenever you notice yourself becoming irritated, ashamed or angry, repeat positive statements to yourself. You can say something like, “I can get through this,” or “Things will get better”, or “I am capable and calm”.
Remember that it is okay to make mistakes
Trying to be perfect or being afraid of making mistakes can make you feel anxious and on edge. Mistakes offer a valuable chance to learn and grow. So, rather than trying to avoid making any mistakes, accept that you might make some and that it is okay. Being compassionate towards yourself will make stress easier to deal with.
Smile and laugh
Did you know that the way the muscles of your face move is linked to the way you think? When you’re stressed, you might frown and your face is likely to tense up. In contrast, when you feel happy and relaxed you may notice your face light up with a smile. This also works the other way around. Research shows that making a conscious effort to smile and laugh can help let go of some of that stress.
Live in the present
When there’s a lot on your mind, focussing on the present moment can be difficult. But you can start with something small. Use your senses to ground yourself to the present. Notice what you can see, hear, feel and smell around you. You can even focus on your breathing and how each breath flows throughout your body. Negative thoughts may try to invade your mind and that’s okay! Avoid suppressing them; instead, let your thoughts pass without judgment.
Communicate better and maintain good boundaries
At times, stress can occur as a result of poor communication or misunderstanding. Improving your communication skills can help you express what you feel and solve the problem in a constructive way. Be careful about the commitments you make, and evaluate whether you can actually live up to them or not – be it with work or household chores. This will help you in setting boundaries and saying ‘No’ when required.
Share more and ask for help
Contrary to popular belief, talking about how you feel doesn’t make you weak. Being able to share your thoughts and feelings with someone who understands you can help you feel more equipped to deal with a problem at hand. Create a safe space for yourself to talk about your concerns with someone you trust – whether that’s connecting with a family member or even a friend on call. Simply sharing your stress can sometimes make it easier to bear.
Creativity can lead to the release of feel-good hormones in the body that can make you feel happier. Do something you’ve always wanted to do but have been putting off for a while. This could be sketching, painting, meditating or even learning how to cook a new dish. Remember that there are no rules. You don’t have to be perfect at it – simply get started and watch your stress melt away!
Take good care of yourself
No matter how rushed life gets, make time for yourself – even if it’s through simple things like taking a warm bath or writing in a diary. Make sure to get the basics right – eat healthy food, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and don’t forget to exercise regularly. Even a 15-minute yoga or dance session in the comfort of your room can have positive effects that last for several hours. Avoid unhealthy habits that might get worse in times of stress, like drinking or smoking.
Remember that change takes time and requires patience. You might struggle to stay consistent with these techniques at first and that’s okay! With time, you will notice a difference in the way you think, feel and act.
A beginner’s guide to meditation. (2017, October 17). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858
Five tips to help manage stress. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx
The power of the relaxation response. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/2008/10/relaxation.aspx
Tartakovsky, M. (2018, July 08). Cultivating Self-Compassion. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/06/22/cultivating-self-compassion/