Stress management is something we as people should take a lot more seriously than we really do. Whenever I tell someone that they need to learn how to control their stress they always tell me they need their stress. They are right, they do need their stress, we all need a certain amount of stress in our lives. No stress is almost just as unhealthy as too much stress. Just the right amount of stress is called Eustress. Eustress is a healthy stressor because it helps to keep us motivated. Unhealthy stress is called Distress. Distress is unhealthy because it can cause all sorts of health problems such as anxiety attacks or high blood pressure. There are two different kinds of stressors, an internal stressor and an External stressor. An internal stressor is self-generated stress. For example, spending more money than you have therefore getting yourself into debt, or procrastination. An external stressor is something that stresses you out that you have no control over. For example, sick or dying relatives or your car breaking down. Since most of the stress we suffer from is internal distress we usually think that it’s something that a pill can fix. Hey isn’t that Americas answer to everything, “Take a pill”. Did you know that 80% of health care is spent on stress related disorders every year? (According to the centers for disease control and prevention.) You can easily avoid going to the doctors due to a stress-related disorder by simply learning to manage or relieve your stress. This is very important for students because stress will cause a vicious cycle of unhealthy behavior patterns. Once you become distressed it can cause sleeping disorders, unhealthy eating patterns, and immune deficiency. These will all cause a student to become quite unproductive in their studies. Here are some stress management strategies that one can implement quickly and without turning to a doctor.
Nothing beats aerobic exercise for relieving stress. The stress reaction in the body consists of tightened muscles, increased heart rate, Increased blood pressure, and heavier breathing . The result is our bodies go into a state of high energy but there is usually no place for that energy to go. Exercise is the most logical way to dissipate this excess energy. In turn relieving stress.
“Humor is the best medicine.” Laughter reduces the heart rate and arterial blood pressure to below their original levels and causes the chest, abdomen, and shoulder muscles to contract, thus providing release from stress. Do the quiz in one of my humor potential quiz books located in the back of this report to test yourself and see if you should be laughing more than you do.
A common source of stress is unrealistic expectations. People often become upset about something not because it is innately stressful but because it is not what they expected. For example, If you get caught in slow moving traffic during rush hour you may not like it but it won’t surprise you or necessarily upset you. However if it occurs on a Sunday afternoon it is more than likely to stress you out considerably. When expectations are realistic life seems more predictable and therefore more manageable because you can plan ahead and prepare yourself. As for expectations of others; expect less from people who cannot give you what you want. It makes it easier- not great, just less upsetting.
Reframing is a technique used to change the way you look at the things in order to feel better about them. The key to reframing is to recognize that there are many ways to interpret the same situation. Its like the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” The answer depends on how you look at it. If the glass is half full you are an Optimist. An optimist is someone who usually sees the positive side in a given situation. If you see the glass as half empty you are a Pessimist. A pessimist is someone who usually sees the negative side in a given situation. The purpose to reframing is to be an optimist in any given situation. Therefore as a result you will most likely feel better about the situation. Remember though that reframing doesn’t change the external reality but simply helps people view things differently and less stressfully. (“Better late than never”)
The word Leisure is actually derived from the Latin word “licere” which means permission. You need to give yourself permission to take some time out to have fun. Leisure time and levels of distress are proportional – the less leisure, the more stress. Leisure time should be taken in intervals throughout the day. A ten-minute break every few hours will do wonders for someone who is stressed out. Take a walk around the office, at school, or just at home. Get your muscles stretched out and relieve some tension. Leisure is one of the most pleasant stress relievers ever invented.
Sleep is an important way of reducing stress. People who are tired do not deal with stressful situations very well and this is where that vicious cycle I was talking about begins. It eventually leads to loss of concentration in your studies at school and can even affect job performance. When distressed people get more sleep, they feel better and can deal with day-to-day events more readily. Pay attention to your body cycle, If you wake up groggy in the morning you may need more sleep.
In an attempt to relieve some of the distress I experience from day to day I employed three of the strategies that I listed above. I decided to start exercising regularly and found that it really did help. When I went to the gym after a long stressful day lifting weights and taking a little jog on the treadmill relieved a lot of my stress and frustrations. I guess that’s why some people say that the gym is where they like to go to “get away from it all”. I often found that on my way to work I would get extremely frustrated with all the other people on the road so I decided to use the realistic expectations exercise on my way to work every day. I simply told myself that everyone on the road was going to be slow and do a lot of really stupid things like cut me off or ride their brakes for absolutely no reason. The simple fact that I expected those things to happen actually made me laugh when they did happen! I also found myself leaving earlier for work because I expected everyone to be slow. Which in turn meant that I got to work with plenty of time to spare. That also relieved a lot of stress because I didn’t stress out about being late for work. My favorite exercise was leisure time. I found that taking ten-minute breaks every couple of hours to take a walk or sit down and go over my schedule and to-do list helped me to stay more alert throughout the day. It also helped me to be able to concentrate better because I wasn’t thinking about what I needed to do that day. I also used my breaks to do little things that needed to be done like make doctors appointments, drop my bills off in the mailbox, or just to run a quick errand. All in all I am very satisfied with the exercises that I tried out and I highly recommend you give a few of them a try for yourself.
I learned a lot in my research of stress management but the biggest thing I learned is that the main principle in stress management is change. You have to figure out what you are doing that is contributing to your problem and change it. I found that these changes usually fell into one of four categories: change your behavior, change your thinking, change your lifestyle choices, and/or change the situations you are in. By getting to the root of the causes of your stress, you can not only relieve those problems but also prevent recurrences. I feel that this has been a very time worthy assignment for me because I can continue to use everything I have learned throughout my life. I can also help others by teaching them some of these helpful strategies in managing their stress.