Stress is an unavoidable part of life. To be human is to have stress. Almost from the point of birth, we experience some type of stress. As children, we stress about our grades and the social pressures of peers in school. As teens, we stress about trying to figure out who we are and the direction of our lives. And as adults, we struggle with all the above, plus more. That said, the question isn't whether on not we will stress, that's inevitable, but how do manage our stress.
There are many ways to manage stress, and ultimately it varies from person to person. It's key to find out what stress relivers work best for you. There is no right or wrong answer as long as your stress relivers don't evolve things such as drugs, alcohol, over indulging in vices like sex or gambling. Those type of stress relievers may provide temporary relief but long term consequences, which will eventually lead to more stress. Some positive stress relieving strategies are:
1. Be present with your stress
At times it isn't the problem that stresses us out, it's the way we look at the problem. Better yet it its the way we anticipate how the problem will affect us. In other words, our imagination, or the way we envision the outcome of a situation causes more stress than the actual event itself. At times the meaning you ascribe to a situation tends to make that situation seem much more challenging than it really is. We look too far ahead while stressed and tend to suffer more in our imagination, (i.e., thinking about the consequences of a situation than we do in reality). Stay present, try to only think about what is going on rather than looking into the future. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen, no amount of worrying will change that.
2. Figure out what areas of you life can become less of a priority.
One of the main factors to stress is having too much on your plate. When you focus your energy on too many things, there is not enough energy to go around, and you begin to feel overwhelmed. So it is good to take inventory of the various things in your life that you're giving a significant amount of energy to and rank them in order of importance; the one's that are least important can either be put off for a later time or ended all together.
3. Identify what it is you're really stressing about
Sometimes, the reason behind our stress is not so clear. We tend to just accept stress as it comes and do not really evaluate the reason behind it. And for that very reason the stress seems much more formidable. In other words, without really looking at what your stressed about underneath the surface, situations can feel much more problematic than they actually are. Take some time to reflect and ask yourself what am I really stressed about?" Your first thought may be that's a silly question to ask yourself, I already know what I'm stressed about (insert current problem here) but in reality its usually something much deeper than the situation at hand. For example, you may be stressing about not doing well at work on the surface, but beneath the surface you're really stressing about deep rooted issues of inadequacy. Or you may be stressing about relationship problems on a superficial level but the true reason for you're stressed is that you're afraid of being lonely. That said, the next time you're stressed, try to extract a deeper meaning from the stress rather than just only looking at the problem itself.
4. Look for support
Finding support can seem like a tall task for someone who is not used to depending on other people, but strength is in numbers. Having people by your side who have been through the same issues you're going through is priceless. It's easy to fall into the mindset that no one will understand, but you'd be surprised how many people actually overstand your situation. Your circumstances only seem unique because, just like you, people are usually hesitant to talk about their real issues and problems. Nothing under the sun is a new problem, and vulnerability will take you a long way when seeking support from others. Also, support doesn't have to be from a friend or family member, you can enlist the help of a mentor, professional, or even find help in the form of a resource like an app or a self-help book. Get creative when looking for support because you'll never know what will be helpful. But I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, doing nothing will never be a good solution.
5. Practice self-compassion
Stress can be based on a variety of things, but the top factor of stress that comes to mind is being too hard on yourself. Not having self-compassion can multiply stress. When you beat yourself up you not only add to the problem but you take away from the solutions. You cannot produce positive results with negative thinking. If a friend or a family was experiencing the situation you're stressing about would you put them down? Would you point out how they're worthless? I'd hope not. You probably wouldn't be nearly as judgmental or hard on them as you are with yourself. Treat yourself just as you would someone else going through the same situation.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life. The question is not whether you'll deal with stress at some point or another, but how you deal with it. Being able to manage stress is literally a survival skill. And you must learn to master it. When you learn to master your emotions, you become more in control of your life. To me, the ultimate accomplishment in life is to take full control of your thoughts, behavior, and emotions. In order to do so it takes daily practice.