Have you ever felt overwhelmed by stress and asked yourself the question how you could possibly get all your work done without neglecting your personal responsibilities? Sometimes even a 28 hour day wouldn’t be enough to accomplish every task and due to the fact that we only got 24 hours a day (deducting sleep) it’s time for some efficient stress management techniques.
Stress Management Definition
Stress is a physical response to threatening and dangerous situations, which helps us to survive. However, we experience also stress whenever we cannot cope with our daily demands or when we are facing hectic and problematic situations in our work life. Stress management techniques help you to cope more effectively with hectic and difficult situations, when there is no mortal peril for you and your family. The following stress management techniques will help you to reduce and prevent stress in order to reduce mental pressure and life a balanced life.
Identification of Stress
I always accepted stress as an unpopular part of my daily work, because I didn’t seek for the reasons that were causing stress; especially not within myself. However, the very first step to reduce and prevent stress is to realize that you have a lot more control over your life and your stress level than you thought. Stress management means that you will have to leave the role as a victim (“I’m so stressed”) and start to take control of your life and reduce your stress level continuously. Furthermore, it is essential to accept that stress is not only caused by your environment, e.g. by a work overload, but also by yourself.
Identify the Sources of Stress
In order to reduce and prevent stress it is essential to identify the sources that cause you to feel stressed. Only a slight fraction of these sources might be obvious such as work overload and hectic working environments; however there are a lot more sources that are caused by your own anxieties, thoughts, feelings, imagined threads or simply by procrastination, distraction and improper time management. Besides identifying the sources of stress it is important to categorize what type of stress you are experiencing. We can differentiate between acute stress, which is the body’s immediate response to threatening and dangerous situations and chronic stress, which continuously occurs during long periods of time. Acute stress might be essential for your survival in really dangerous situations and could be experienced every once in a while when you are facing a flood of work in your job. Chronic stress, however, can lead to severe health problems starting with headache, hypertension, but also heart attacks in the worst case.
Here are some important questions that shall help you to identify the sources of stress:
- Do you tend to procrastinate things?
- Do you easily get distracted and spend time inefficiently?
- How much time do you spend for lunch, cigarette and coffee breaks?
- Have you considered applying time management techniques?
- Have you identified yourself as the main source for stress?
- Do you make outside influences responsible for the emergence of stress?
- Do you consider stress as an integral part of your personality and your life?
Start a Stress Log
A stress log can also help you to identify what stresses you continuously, but even more important: it helps you to find ways on how to reduce and avoid these stressors in the future. Feel free to write down what caused you to feel stressed, the level of stress you experienced and how you reacted in this situation. The utmost important section of such a stress log is the section where you think about possible solutions that could help you to avoid similar situations in the future and let you respond in a better way.
Reduce and Prevent Stress
Stress Management Technique #1: Self-control
The majority of stress we experience in our lives is self-imposed stress caused by having too high expectations, the ambition to get much more done than possible and the inability to avoid unnecessary and stressful situations. Same goes for choleric people as they tend to lack self-control and let even slightly negative situations influence their stress level.
Avoid Stressful Situations: We are facing a lot of stressful situations in our everyday lives and many of those could be avoided easily. These situations vary from work overload to traffic jams and stressful television news. In order to avoid as much stressful situations as possible it is important to reflect your daily life and what situations emerged stress. If you notice that watching the news disgruntles and upsets you try to avoid them and watch something funny and relieving instead. Another stressful situation many people experience is being stuck in traffic. Whenever I’m in a traffic jam I see so many people that are panicking of arriving too late at work, which causes them to be even more stressed, rather than people that turn on their favorite music and relax.
Expectations and Ambitions: Whenever you have set yourself outstandingly high expectations you will start to feel stressed as soon as you realize that you cannot accomplish these. It’s great to have some ambitious goals, but sometimes you will have to drop not absolutely necessary tasks that are mainly responsible for stress. Furthermore, it is important to differentiate between important tasks that have to be accomplished and voluntary tasks that could be neglected for a while.
Stress Management Technique #2: Reframing
A very effective method to deal with stress is to reframe stressful situations. Reframing is a technique of changing the meaning of a situation or an event with the purpose to relief tension, which helps you to avoid stress. A person who is being stuck in a traffic jam could reframe this stressful situation by turning on his favorite music and accept the fact that he cannot change the current situation. Here is how you can cope with stress by reframing a situation:
Unbiased Point of View: Stress emerges in situations whenever it stirs negative emotions within us. In order to reframe a stressful situation we need to treat the situation as unbiased and emotionless as possible, e.g. try to realize how ridiculous it is to scream at others and to honk while being in a traffic jam.
Change your Attitude: As soon as you realized how unnecessary it would be to behave stressed in a certain situation you should try to change your attitude towards this situation into a more positive one. Try to identify opportunities and chances that arise out of such a situation; even if you just start to listen to music in a traffic jam: you changed your attitude towards a more positive one!
Evaluate the Importance: People tend to become stressed even in the most unimportant situations (e.g. traffic jams) that have little to no influence in their future lives, which is why it is helpful to evaluate the importance of a stressful situation. I’m sure you might remember an awkward or stressful situation where you wanted to disappear off the face of the earth at that time; however you might be laughing nowadays about it with your friends. Same goes for stressful situations; just ask yourself the question if the situation has a major importance for your future life in several months or in a year. If you come to the decision that it is unimportant there is no need to get stressed.
Stress Management Technique #3: Time Management
Stress and time management are related topics as proper time management allows you to reduce your stress level drastically. Time management would go beyond the scope of this article, which is why I would recommend you the following article, that can help you to manage your time more efficiently, which will allow you to reduce stress: Time Management
Stress Management Technique #4: Anger Management
Anger is, besides inefficient time management, one of the root causes for stress, which is the reason that proper anger management can help you to reduce your level of stress effectively. Here is how:
Get rid of frustration and anger: During a regular workday you might bottle up a lot of anger, which should be avoided by immediately communicating your concerns, worries and doubts in a respectful manner. Tell others why you feel upset and what is bothering you and try to find a solution that everyone can accept.
Forgivingness: You will always have the option to choose between being angry at someone for making a mistake and forgiving them. Being angry at someone and blaming them for minor mistakes is not just a waste of time but also increases your stress levels, which is really not necessary. Forgive others, be happy that nothing worse happened and move on.
Relaxation Techniques to Eliminate Stress
Meditation is a great relaxation technique that allows you to slow down your heart rate, normalize your blood pressure and relieve stress in a very effective way. Meditation takes some practice and patience to make use of the stress relieving benefits. In the following you can find a instruction for a stress relieving meditation:
1. Get into a relaxed and comfortable sitting position
2. Close your eyes, breathe in and exhale deeply
3. Try to focus your mind on your own breathing or on a sound like “ooommm”
4. Let go of thoughts, try to silence your inner voice
5. The aim is to experience absolute inner silence, without distractions
Many people experience some difficulties, when trying to meditate, which is why I would recommend you in such a situation to listen to music that allows you to relax. This could be lounge music, chill out songs or simply just nature sounds of tropical rainforests or rainfall. Here are 7 of my most favorite relaxation songs:
- ATB – Circular Symmetry
- Blank & Jones – Loneliness
- Deadmau5 – I Remember
- Jack Johnson – Losing Keys
- Moby – Love of Strings
- Moby – Porcelain
- Paul Kalkbrenner – Sky & Sand
A Stressful Lifestyle
The above focused on techniques that allowed you to reduce stress, however I believe it is also important to point out what different kinds of food and drinks can cause you to become stressed. It is important to note that all of these strategies are able to reduce stress temporarily, but in the long run they cannot reduce stress nearly as effective as substantial stress management techniques and might even be damaging for your health.
The majority of people blame their hectic working environment as the main source of stress, without knowing that they set the fundament for their stress with their breakfast. The following two chemicals are part of nearly anyone’s breakfast:
Caffeine: When I was I child I wondered myself why my parents were drinking at least one cup full of ugly tasting coffee in the morning, voluntarily. Nowadays I know that caffeine is a stimulant that raises our level of attention and enables us to get started. However, it can also be the source for stress as too much coffee will make us nervous and stressed.
Sugar: Part of nearly everyone’s breakfast, no matter if it is the sugar in the coffee, in marmalade, in chocolate or peanut butter or in cornflakes. Sugar provides short-term energy for our body; however it causes our body to secret insulin, which after all increases our stress level.
I deliberately did not add nicotine to this list, as not everyone smokes. However, it is important to know that nicotine allows you to relax in the short run, but in the long run it will increase your heart rate and the demand to smoke again (addiction), which will increase your stress drastically, whenever you did not smoke for a while.
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