Turning to emotional props such as chocolate, alcohol, smoking or drugs may offer immediate relief but is never a long-term solution. Short-term distractions do not deal with the underlying issues. The source of your stress will still be there in the morning and be even more difficult to cope with if you have a hangover.
It is better to analyze your feelings, name their causes, and then take practical steps to deal with them. You can never completely avoid stress. However, learning to manage stress means you can overcome it and move on as quickly as possible.
Sometimes the cause of stress is easy to identify. Losing or changing your job, moving house, bereavement and illness are significant life changing events associated with stress. Other causes of stress such as damaging childhood experiences, relationships, and unrealistic expectations, can be more difficult to discern. Often, a situation doesn't lead to stress, but the way you think and feel about it. Talking things over with a colleague, friend or counselor can help you discover what makes you stressed.
There are four aspects to effective stress management: developing emotional resilience; taking back control; social engagement; and positive thinking. Developing these aspects will take time and dedication. Every person will be stronger or weaker in different areas. The key to success is to get started and be willing to learn as you progress.
How to Develop Your Emotional Resilience
The first step to develop your emotional resilience and fight stress is to take plenty of exercise. Physiological changes in the body cause emotions. A group of chemicals called hormones control the way you feel. Excessive production of the hormone adrenaline, for example, creates anxiety and stress. Research has shown that physical exercise helps re-balance hormone production and increase your sense of clarity and well-being.
Don't bottle your feelings up and allow them to fester in your mind. Learn to express your emotions appropriately as they arise. You can show strong, negative emotions such as anger in a clear and respectful manner. Don't be afraid to make your emotional needs known to others. Even those closest to you may not know of your feelings unless you tell them.
Try to let things go if they are not that important. Learn to forgive other people when they hurt you. Remind yourself of all the good experiences and relationships your life offers and be grateful for them.
How to Take Back Control
When stressed, people often feel as though the events in their lives have gone beyond their control. The first step in rebuilding a sense of control over your life is to make a realistic assessment of the things you can control and the things you can't. Once you've identified the things you can't, let them go. If there's nothing you can do about it, no amount of anxiety will make any difference. Letting go can also help your sense of control because you eliminate that negative influence from your life.
If you feel out of control, could you manage your time better? Ineffective time management can lead to a heavy burden of stress. Look at ways you could re-prioritize your activities, both at work and home. Could you delegate responsibilities to others? Could you plan further ahead and reduce the element of the unknown? There are many good books, counselors and even apps which might help you improve your time management.
Often, you can take back a sense of control by changing your perspective on a situation. For example, if your train is late, rather than spending the time feeling stressed, could you use it as an opportunity to prepare for a meeting, catch up on work or call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while?
How to Increase Your Social Engagement
Even if you can't do anything practical to change a situation which you find stressful, talking about it to others can be a great relief. However busy you are, make time to meet up with friends and colleagues outside of work. Even meeting up for a coffee and moan about your boss with a trusted colleague can make all the difference to your stress levels.
Social situations also allow you to listen to others. Sometimes hearing how bad another person's life is can help put your own problems in perspective. If you can help a friend out with a friendly word, a listening ear, or sage advice, that can also boost your own self-esteem and reduce stress.
If you are feeling stressed already, inviting other people to go out or into your home can seem like just another burden on your time. But it's important to reach out and keep contact with your family and friends. It can be as simple as a telephone call or inviting someone back for a takeout meal.
How to Develop a Positive Attitude
Giving in to stress can be like going down a rabbit hole. The further you go, the harder to get out. Take a look at the bigger picture. Try to put things in perspective. Will the thing you're worrying about now still matter in a few days, or weeks, or months, or years? Perhaps you need not take it so seriously now.
Perfectionism is produces negativity. You will never be satisfied if you always want everything you do and experience to be perfect. Sometimes lowering your standards can make you less stressed and a lot happier. Learn to accept that sometimes things are okay if they are just good enough. Look for the positive aspects of what you have achieved and stop criticizing yourself for the things you didn't get right this time.
Research shows that people who make time for fun, dancing, sport, games and other pastimes are happier, healthier, and deal better with stress than people who don't. Identify the people, places and activities which make happy or make you laugh. Then find time to engage with them.
Everyone experiences stress. Don't let it take over your enjoyment of life. When stressed, life can seem overwhelming. But acting on the suggestions above could help you reduce your stress and regain your sense of happiness and control.