I don’t know one person who has not experienced stress at some point in their life.
If we don’t manage that stress however, it can lead to all kinds of physical and mental problems.
It’s well documented that constant exposure to stress causes fatigue, anxiety, decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and even depression.
For most of us, it is definitely not an option to move into a cave to avoid getting exposed to stressful situations.
So instead, we continuously find ways to regulate our own emotional health.
Over time, you might find that you always end up doing the same type of thing to help relieve the pressure you feel. Like eating too much even though you want to be healthier. Or putting off tasks around the house to binge watch tv instead. Or stalking everyone with their fabulous lives on social media.
Call it your own personal build-in survival mechanism. This mechanism is really the unconscious coping strategies that we resort to when things get a bit much for us.
These habits are not really a healthy way to cope with stress and actually, I don’t need to tell you that they simply end up making you feel worse.
So how do we manage stress and still show up for what is important in our lives?
1. Love yourself more
We usually like to spend time with the people we love. But many of us don’t like being alone with ourselves. And yet, it is in the alone time that we can hear our deepest thoughts.
Those thoughts might scare you. Maybe you don’t feel as if you deserve to be heard, or that what you think or feel doesn’t count. But make it count for yourself even if you think it’s not important to anyone else.
Your resilience to manage stress is built on layer upon layer of connecting to yourself, soothing your fears and treating yourself with kindness and compassion.
Spending time investigating your thoughts will highlight some of your beliefs around your own self-worth and your ability to cope with life.
2. See each day as a new beginning
Yes, it might sound like a cheesy bumper sticker, but it is true.
Each day gives you a new chance to choose differently. To behave differently. To start a new habit. To stop an old habit. To rekindle relationships. To do better. To speak more kindly to your partner. To speak up at work and share your ideas. To make new connections. To start over.
While our outside world might stay the same, we have the freedom to choose a new way on the inside every day.
So, if you take a look at your life – what you can choose differently to create a better experience for yourself.
Make this belief that you can start each day new, part of your mindset. Write it down somewhere that you can read it every day until you really believe it.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
It is normal to compare yourself to other people. It’s one way to figure out how you are doing in relation to the rest of the world. But it is a really bad habit when you do it all the time and you either think you are much better or much worse off than anyone else.
Unfortunately, social media and the internet makes it very easy to compare ourselves to others. The algorithms show us the most sensational, shareable content.
That’s why it looks like everyone else is having a stress-free existence and the time of their lives while your life sucks big-time.
Spend enough time online and you will start asking yourself how is it possible that they can look so good, have such a nice house, go on such fabulous holidays, be such caring philanthropists, and have time to save the endangered rainbow-dart-mouse in the Amazon while building a school somewhere in Africa.
Inevitably we compare ourselves to the external achievements of others, making us feel that they are better than us.
It makes us feel anxious, unsuccessful and depressed which reduces our ability to manage the stress in our own lives AND at the same time, we put more judgemental pressure on ourselves.
4. Get into the present moment
Stress can cause noise in our minds.
We rush from one activity to the next to avoid discomfort. We detach ourselves from unpleasant situations. The things we procrastinate on continue to linger in the back of our minds, even if you don’t think about it consciously.
We need to take time to become quiet enough to hear the soft whisper of what needs to be said. Time to just sit and breathe, and allow space for
The easiest way to get into the present moment is to use your body.
Focus on any of your senses to bring you out of your head and into the now. Go sit in the toilet if you have to get away from it all. Simply sit there, and be present to your thoughts, your feelings, emotions, and bodily sensations.
Don’t judge anything that you experience, see if you can simply observe and recognize them. Just acknowledge the feelings and sensations which are there.
Try it for yourself, and see what if feels like when you practice just being in the moment and not doing anything else.
Some other ways that you can help manage stress
- Start an early morning routine
- Begin a meditation practice
- Take a 30-day mindfulness challenge
- Take a walk around the block or in a park near you
- Spend time reflecting on your day
- Decide not to gossip today
- Find 3 things to be grateful for
- Don’t listen to the news or politics today
- Call one person you love or care today
People who manage their stress, end up living happier lives.
It is true that our lives don’t always unfold in the way that we want. In the end though, we are responsible for our own emotional wellbeing.
Many things happen in life that make us sad. Life is not fair and sometimes we land up with unpleasant things which happen to us which we don’t deserve.
But the one thing which is in our control is that we can learn to take small steps to manage our stress. Whether you start by loving yourself more, or taking time to become aware of the internal conversations you have, know that you will be ok.