Catch Some Z’s
We all know we are supposed to get plenty of sleep, but did you know that getting a good night’s rest can instill a sense of calmness and help manage stress, among a long list of other benefits? According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep is imperative to physical health and the effective function of the immune system. It also helps minimize stress, depression, and anxiety – emotions compounded in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. Learn the Effects of Stress
For many, the effects are so widespread that they are difficult to identify — they have become a way of life. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is possible to experience chronic symptoms but attribute them to illness when they might be caused by stress. Some of the common effects of stress include:
• Persistent headaches
• Fatigue, lethargy, and sleep problems
• Inability to concentrate
• Chest pain and digestive issues
Spend time thinking about how stress affects your life. List some of the ways that stress impacts not just your health but your self-esteem too. Next, think about how your life might improve if you did not carry a heavy stress burden. Think about the ripple effect of how your stress impacts those around you, like your family, friends, and co-workers.
2. Know Your Stressors
Get clear on what is causing you stress. Stressors are the triggering events that cause stress effects. These could be work-related stressors like reduced income or job loss. Or they could be personal challenges such as caring for aging parents or the inevitable stress of raising a family.
Once you have identified your stressors, notice the physical and mental symptoms they produce. Scan your body for signs like muscle tension and quickened heart rate, and observe the thoughts running through your mind. This process is like stress training — you are conditioning yourself to associate stressors with negative symptoms. Practice non-judgmental self-awareness, which allows you to see your stress cycles without getting caught up in them.
3. Monitor Your Stress Levels
Being aware of and having a way to track your stress is helpful in behavior change. Keep a daily or weekly log of your stress. Note the triggering events, the thoughts and physical sensations you felt, and any outcomes from the stressful event.
Over time, as you record your stressors, you can become more aware of the ways in which you naturally deal with stress. Monitoring your stress can help you make smarter decisions about your health and well-being. If you know a particular type of work or commitment triggers stress, you can identify ways to either limit that stress or prepare for it.
4. Develop Your Coping Skills
Not all stress is bad, so managing stress isn’t about eliminating it. Rather, it’s about how to better handle it when it does arise. There are two broad ways to deal with stress — directly and indirectly. Direct stress-coping skills address the underlying cause of stress. Skills like time management, organization, assertiveness, and asking for help can directly improve many of life’s situations.
Remember that skills are not built overnight. Your ability to cope with and manage stress is a process that takes time. A lot of stress-coping has to do with fundamental life habits — sleep, diet, and exercise, as well as engaging in your community and taking time to do the things you enjoy.
Here are our top tips for identifying, alleviating, and preventing stress:
Breathe. First off, take a deep breath.
Identify Your Stressors: To tackle stress, you must identify what’s causing it.
Prioritize. In the workplace, prioritization is a constant.
Take Care of Your Physical Health. Combat stress by incorporating self-care into your workday.
Manage Your Time. At some point, everyone feels as though there is too much to do and too little time to do it.
Ask for help. Do not be afraid to ask someone to help you out, or let your manager know you are overwhelmed.