Life is full of stressors. In just a single morning, you might get a flat tire, spill coffee on a new shirt, and lose a work presentation to a computer virus. And all of these curveballs could occur before lunch.
For those difficult days, it's important to know how to manage your stress. Stress management techniques can give you the skills you need to tackle whatever challenges you face. Honing those skills and knowing that you can rely on them can help to provide reassurance on those rough days that you can weather the storm.
Stress Management Definition
According to the American Psychological Association, stress management is any tip, trick, or technique that a person can use when they are confronted with a stressful situation. There are many different kinds of stressors out there. And, there are many different ways that people manage their emotions when they face these challenges head-on.
For example, when you feel stressed, you might call your friend on the phone and vent. Or, you might step away from the situation and take a few deep breaths. Both of these choices are stress management strategies that can help you cool off and re-center.
9 Stress Management Strategies
You are probably already practicing stress management techniques. These are just some of the types of stress management tools that you might implement when the going gets rough.
Face the Issue
Some people are hands-on and manage their stress by confronting the situation. When you acknowledge a stressor, it can allow you to take control of the situation and come up with steps on how to move forward. In addition, taking an active role in problem-solving can also boost a person's confidence and, they might even learn to trust these skills more and more over time.
Some ways to face the issue include:
- Check in with yourself.
- Identify what is causing you stress.
- Analyze what aspects are within your control.
- Make a plan to solve issues that are manageable.
- Follow through with your commitments.
Although not all stressors can be handled with a change in mindset, sometimes a shift in perspective can go a long way. Stressful events can cause negative thoughts such as worry and rumination that can impact a person's mental health. If you face a stressor that is not within your control, it can be helpful to focus on the elements that you can actually change.
For example, imagine that you get to work and realize that your shirt has a hole in it. You can't change the fact that there's a hole. However, you can shift your attention. Perhaps you can find a jacket or sweater to cover it up. You might even approach the situation with humor and make a joke about it with your colleagues.
When you take a step back from the stressor, it can remove some power it has over you. And, it can help you realize that it might not be as difficult of a challenge as you first perceived.
Break Down the Challenge
Some stressors can seem so big or challenging that it leaves people wondering where to even start. When stressors pile up or snowball into something bigger, they can be overwhelming. One way to manage this type of stressful event is to break it down into smaller tasks that are more achievable.
For example, say you're struggling with finding a new place to live. This can be a huge task. However, you can break it down into achievable steps to set you on the right path. You can analyze your savings, create a budget for your new home, and then browse listings in your area that fit your needs.
The more small goals you achieve, the greater your confidence in tackling other goals may become. And, you might just find that limiting what you put on your plate also keeps you motivated.
Get Your Body Moving
Stress can take a toll on both the mind and body. Some people find that it can be hard to stop their worrisome thoughts, so they might focus their attention on their bodies as a way to find some stress relief.
Research shows that exercise has many benefits. For example, it can reduce fatigue, boost energy, and help you get a better night's rest. And, some physical activity can even reduce your symptoms of anxiety and depression, and help people manage stress.
You don't have to sign up for a marathon. But, you can lace up your running shoes and walk to the mailbox. Or you can hop on your bike and ride around the neighborhood with a friend. Anything that you do to let off some steam is a good way to relieve stress. Some other ways to get your body moving include:
- Go for a run
- Play with your kids or pets
- Stretch when you wake up in the morning
- Take a walk around the neighborhood
- Try a yoga flow
Give Your Mind A Break
Not only can you work out your body to relieve stress, but you can also work out your mind. Practices like mindfulness and meditation allow people the opportunity to take a break from the world, silence their thoughts, and sit with the physical sensations in the body.
Meditation has been found to have many positive wellness effects. For example, it can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, lower stress levels, and even relieve some physical pain symptoms. It can also improve your sleep.
Meditation might seem difficult, especially if you're new to the practice. However, all you need to do is set aside some time and focus on your breath. Some free guided meditation resources include:
- Breathing Meditation (5 minutes)
- Common Humanity Meditation (10 minutes)
- Gratitude Meditation (10 minutes)
- Loving-Kindness Meditation (7 minutes)
- Mindful Breathing Meditation (5 minutes)
Take a Step Back
Sometimes you might not need to face the stressor head-on. In fact, what you might really need is to take a break from the situation to help yourself relax. For example, you might decide that it's time to take a vacation or simply go for a walk during the workday when things get tough.
When you feel stressed or overwhelmed, it's okay to give yourself a break. You might think that taking a step back is like running away from your problems. However, this is not true. It's okay to take breaks whenever you need them. And, you aren't going to deny the existence of the stressor forever. You're just going to allow your mind and body to focus on other things and regain their strength for a while.
You can plan how to move forward after you allow yourself to rest. And, you just might find that taking a step away from the situation will give you a new perspective on how to proceed.
Learn Your Triggers
What aspects of your life cause your stress? Do you feel pressure when you go to work, when you manage your financial situation, or when you spend time with family members? When you think about these aspects of your life, it can actually help you understand what is triggering your stress.
Learning your triggers is just the first step. However, once you know which situations cause you to feel stressed, you can plan ahead and mentally prepare yourself beforehand. For example, if work meetings are stressful for you, you can plan to take a five-minute break before and after to help yourself unwind from the pressure.
You might not be able to avoid all of your triggers, and that's okay. What's important is that you have coping strategies you can turn to to help yourself relax after you encounter one.
When you start to feel stressed, it can be easy to blame yourself for feeling any of the emotions that arise. However, everybody experiences stress at one point or another. It's a natural human emotion that protects us. People might have different stress levels and triggers, but almost everyone still feels stressed.
When you start to feel overwhelmed by stress, be gentle with yourself. Talk to yourself the way a friend would. Try to understand where your stress is coming from, and what you can do immediately, as well as in the future, to help yourself get through the situation.
For some people, managing stress means putting blame on someone else. Externalizing the stressor helps a person feel better because they are able to let go of any responsibility or guilt for it.
Find Creative Outlets for Release
Another way to manage stress is to find a creative outlet. These activities allow you to express how you are feeling, process your emotions, and move forward from them. And, as a big bonus, you might discover that they actually help you have some fun.
For example, you can take singing lessons, join a dance group, or start journaling from the comfort of your own home. These activities can take your mind off of whatever stress is present in your life by giving you something else to focus on. You can channel your emotions into an old hobby that you miss, or find a different passion and learn something new.
Some ways to get your creative juices flowing are:
- Knit or crochet
- Make jewelry
- Write poetry or short stories
Stress management isn't defined by just one activity. Whatever you do to help reduce your anxiety levels is how you should define managing stress. Not every activity of mindset will be a good fit for you. Try out the ones that interest you most and then monitor how they make you feel. Stick with the ones that are a good fit for you, and let go of any that don't serve your needs. If there is an activity or way of thinking that helps you relax, you can use it as a stress management strategy.