If you are feeling stressed out these days, you are not alone. Trying to manage the demands of daily life – job, finances, parenting, etc. – can be very difficult. Although stress is a natural part of life, there are times when we can start to feel overwhelmed with the demands. How well you understand the sources of your stress and how you perceive the situation has a lot to do with your ability to handle that stress.
Short-term versus Long-term
Some stress is short-lived. For example, if you have a deadline approaching at work or if you have a minor car accident, once the situation is resolved, then the stress goes away. Other stress may be long-term, such as caring for a parent who has Alzheimer’s or living in a situation of domestic violence that has been going on for quite awhile. This type of stress is much more dangerous to your health and well-being.
What can you do?
Learn what triggers your “stressed out” feelings. Make a list of the situations or concerns that trigger stressful feelings. Or keep a stress diary. In this diary note your stress levels and how you feel throughout the day. In particular, make note of specific stressful events and what you were thinking about at those times. Once you know your triggers and how you respond to stress, then you can begin to do something about it. Here are some suggestions:
- Be aware of your thinking and learn to recognize the connection between your thoughts and feelings. Sometimes our thoughts can become distorted or exaggerated (e.g., “I never get anything right!”), so we need to able to challenge these thoughts with ideas and beliefs that are more positive and realistic.
- Take a walk. Exercise is a proven way to manage and reduce stress and you don’t have to devote hours out of your day in order to reap the benefits. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise 3 – 5 times a week can help reduce your anxiety, alleviate depression and decrease your risk for illness.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eating smarter is an effective way to improve your overall health. Be sure to eat a balance of fruits and vegetables. Also, you may want to avoid certain foods – particularly those that may be stimulants (e.g., caffeine or sugar).
- Take care of yourself. Schedule some time during the day that is just for you. Turn off your phone, shut the door and take 10 minutes that is just for you (e.g., drink a cup of your favorite tea, listen to some soothing music).
- Ask for help when you need it. Counseling can provide you with a safe place to express and talk through your fears and anxieties, and a good therapist will help you learn strategies for decreasing your anxiety or depression.
For more information and resources on handling stress and anxiety, check out these links: