It’s unrealistic to believe that you should feel positive and happy 100% of the time and that nothing will make you feel stressed or anxious.
In fact, studies show that there are benefits to stress. It forces us to grow, to step outside our comfort zone and connect with each other for support.
In fact, we can actually use stress to our advantage. I like to think of being able to use stressful situations as stepping stones to something better, to growth.
Instead of resisting stressful situations, and seeing them only as ‘bad,’ we can ask ourselves how we can turn them around and use them to our benefit.
It’s all about how you react or respond to a situation.
How to Effectively Manage Stress
- Identify the source
What, in particular, is causing you stress in this moment? Is it your job? Is it your boss? Is it your relationship with your spouse, children or a family member? Is it a health issue? The first step to changing anything is always clarity - become clear on exactly what you are feeling stressed about and why, because you can’t change it until you acknowledge it. Also, be aware that what you think is the problem is not always the problem!
- Stop fighting what is
Stress is created when we resist what is happening. We say things like “this shouldn’t be happening to me,” or “this isn’t fair.” The reality is that it is happening. The sooner you acknowledge that fact, the sooner you will be able to change it. When you keep fighting something because it shouldn’t be happening or it isn’t fair, you will stay stuck in it much longer.
- Know what you can do now
Your situation may not change overnight, but there is always at least one thing you can do right now. Perhaps that one thing is simply to get clear on what you want to happen. Or perhaps it’s to identify who can assist you and reach out to them for help. It may feel as though there’s nothing you can possibly do, but there is always something. Ask yourself – “what is one thing I can do right now that will help?”
- Monitor your thoughts and re-frame
There’s a quote from author Eckhart Tolle that says: “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.”
Your thoughts about what’s happening in your life create stress and can take you into a downward spiral of negativity. Be aware of what you are thinking and, as much as possible re-frame negative thoughts, turning them into something that feels better.
It’s not always easy to change your thoughts – you can’t tell yourself everything is fine when it doesn’t feel fine and believe it. Here’s one way that I’ve found helpful. Say to yourself: “Even though….. is happening, I choose to find a positive solution,” or you can say “I choose to find a way to feel better about it.” Play around with this until you find something that works for you.
- Pay attention to repeating patterns
If a situation continues to repeat itself, for example, you leave your job because of a difficult boss, only to find that in you next job you once again encounter a difficult boss or supervisor, then there is a message here for you. There’s a reason you keep having the same experiences over and over. Ask yourself what you need to learn from this situation so it doesn’t have to happen again.
- Take time out
Sometimes you just need some time away mentally, emotionally and/or physically) from the stressful situation and/or person to gain some new perspective. Spend some time alone (even 5 or 10 minutes) in a different environment and you’ll find that your thinking and often the situation itself can shift.
- Know your stress tolerance level
Since we all have stress in our lives, it is unrealistic to think there will never be stressful situations. However, each person reacts to stressors in different ways. Are you the kind of person who thrives on tight deadlines, who loves to constantly push yourself to learn and grow and move beyond your comfort zone? Or do you prefer a calmer, more relaxed state and a slower pace? There is no wrong answer, it’s all about knowing yourself and your limits. Don’t expect to be like anyone else – know what works for you.
- Release energy and frustration with physical activity
When you feel tense and overwhelmed and you are finding it difficult to think positively, it’s amazing how much better you will feel when you engage in some physical activity. You can simply go for a walk, or take an exercise class, or even if you simply put on some music and dance around the room, it will significantly shift your energy. Focusing on your breathing (long, slow deep breaths in and out) is also another way to instantly calm your mind and body.
- Get the help you need
Trying to do it all by yourself can be too stressful. You may have to swallow your pride to ask for help but it’s important to know that you don’t have to suffer alone. Find someone who understands what you’re going through. Allow them to help you. You can eliminate much of your stress right away simply by knowing someone is on your side who knows how to help you. Even just talking your problems through with someone is beneficial. When you say things out loud (rather than going over and over them in your mind), you will often find that solutions can present themselves naturally.
- Be honest about your options
You always have choices. You may not like the choices you have, but you always have them. When you think that you don’t have any options then you feel powerless. When you identify the choices you do have (whether you like them or not) it helps you to realize that you are not powerless. There is always something you can do to move forward. Taking some action is the most important thing.
Use Stress Management Techniques
There are many techniques that are helpful. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Being in nature
- Exercising (preferably something you enjoy)
- Breathing exercises (such as: breathe in slowly for a count of 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold for 4, repeat)
- Journaling (writing things out can be very therapeutic)
- Talking things through with a friend or colleague (sometimes just talking about it brings clarity)
- Take a hot shower or soak in the bath
- Give yourself (and the situation) space (walk away or focus on something else for a while)
- Essential oils
- Listening to calming or uplifting music
Find your own favorite techniques and use them regularly. You don’t have to wait for a stressful situation to arise. Using them on a daily basis will help you deal more effectively with stress when it arrives.
Remember that you may not be able to avoid stress, but you can develop healthier ways of responding to it, and learn how to use it to your advantage. Let these strategies help you.
If this is your experience - or if you have trouble finding a system to manage and maintain a clutter-free and organized environment, you’ll want to check out this upcoming Masterclass: Secrets to Overcoming Clutter and Overwhelm.