It’s April and certainly the signs of spring are all around but did you know it is Stress Management Month? This is a good opportunity to bring attention to stress management and promote taking time to unwind, relax, renew and rejuvenate.
Stress happens. From our jobs, careers, family and simply daily living; stress sometimes seems unavoidable. It’s just there and is a normal emotional response to demands of life. But stress not only afflicts your mind it can also affect a person’s cellular level. Did you know that 75 to 90 percent of all illnesses are stress related? In fact, long term stress has been found to lead to a wide range of illnesses; from headaches to stomach disorders to depression. It also may put you at an increased risk of strokes, heart disease and even cancer.
Stress management is so vital to good health. It’s important to learn and practice successful stress coping strategies which can in turn help someone live a healthier a longer life. Research recommends that a starting point is identifying the sources of stress. Look at your habits, attitudes and excuses to see what may be creating stressful situations. Do you define stress as an integral part of your life by saying, “It’s always crazy around here?” Do you blame your stress on other people or outside events? Until you accept responsibility for the role you play in creating or maintaining stress; your stress level will remain outside your control.
It’s helpful to start a stress journal and every time you feel stressed, keep track of it in a journal to help you see patterns and common themes. There are unhealthy ways of coping with stress. While these may temporarily reduce stress, they won’t cure the cause and may be more harmful in the long run. Smoking, drinking, overeating or undereating, using pills, sleeping too much, shopping too much or procrastination are just a few coping techniques people may turn to but with disappointing results. The stress still exists.
In stress management strategies there is avoiding unnecessary stress, altering the situation that creates the stress, adapting to the stressor, accepting the things you can’t change, making time for fun and relaxation and adopting a healthy lifestyle.
Research recommends a number of ways to manage stress and I try many of these techniques.
- Get regular exercise. You can exercise by going for a walk or bike ride or joining a gym and following through. It’s just important to get up and get moving. I enjoy walking my dogs and enjoying nature, with no cell phone or iPod. They keep me honest, since they have to go out; it keeps me committed every day. How can you turn down 3 pairs of big brown eyes? During these walks I am able to turn off the office and be in the moment.
- Stress and diet are closely linked. When we are stressed, people tend to reach for unhealthy high calorie, high fat, and high sugar foods. Improving diet with healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables and protein helps reduce stress.
- Keep a positive outlook and try to look on the bright side. Identity things that are going well or that went well. Write in a journal.
- Leave work at work. With today’s technology, it is so easy to stay connected. Recommended is disconnecting for a while. It’s amazing how much of a stress reliever this can be.
- Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for something that brings you joy. It may be a few minutes stargazing, playing with your children, knitting or listening to music.
- Create a support network. Stress may make someone want to withdraw but it’s very helpful to spend time with friends and family who are supportive. Avoid people who stress you out or limit the amount of time you spend with a person who makes you feel stressed.
- Make time for fun and relaxation. Everyone needs to nurture themselves. Whether you savor a hot cup of coffee or tea, play with a pet, work in a garden or curl up with a good book; making time for relaxation is an excellent way to handle life’s stressors.
- Keep a sense of humor. The ability to laugh at yourself is a great stress reducer.
- Try to always look at the big picture. Sometimes, I ask myself how important this will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worthy getting upset over? This helps keep things in perspective. It doesn’t mean relinquishing responsibility it’s just keeping something in perspective.
What stress management tips do you find helpful?