The first step in coping with stress is learning what stress is all about, what causes it and what the signs are. Although it is often discussed, few people know exactly what stress is. Some people consider stress to be a fact of life, while others believe that stress is only a once in a while occurrence. While stress can be viewed as a very general, non-specific cause of illness it is very real and can manifest itself in serious physiological and psychological ways.
Stress can be triggered by just about any event in our lives no matter how insignificant. Acquiring skills for coping with stress will help you avoid the serious illness that can be caused by stress including depression, migraines, ulcers and hypertension.
There are a number of different skills that people use for coping with stress. No two people react in exactly the same way to the same situation. It is important to learn what coping skills work for you.
The only way to reduce the negative effects of stress is to limit your body’s exposure and reaction to stressful situations. Coping with stress may seem quite difficult but it really comes down to identifying and managing your stress triggers, managing your time and avoiding burnout. Some stressful situations are easier to identify and anticipate the body’s response such as the stress we feel when going to a job interview or a first date. Other types of stress cannot be as easily predicted such as the loss of a loved one, divorce or the loss of a job. As I mentioned before the skills for coping with stress will vary from person to person just as the body’s response to different situations will vary.
While coping with stress here are the key ideas to remember:
- know stress triggers
- improve time management skills
- reduce burnout
To help you identify your stress triggers, try keeping a log or record of all the stressful situations you encounter for a week. There’s no need to get really in depth, simply make note of the events and conditions that result in a negative emotional or physical response. Make sure to jot down the day and time and describe the situation briefly. Include the location and any other people present. This will assist you in identifying times, places, situations and people that may trigger your stress. Having this information down on paper will make it easier in developing the skills you need for coping with stress.
You’ll quickly find that effective time management skills go hand in hand with effective skills for coping with stress. Managing your time efficiently will give you clarity on your goals and priorities. The first step in improving your time management skills is to set realistic and concrete deadlines and requirements for yourself. Include time to review your goals and deadlines to track your progress. Prioritize your tasks and be systematic about completing them. When your goals and deadlines are met, reward yourself for your accomplishments. When you look back on your week focus on the list of tasks you have completed rather than the list of those that are yet to be done.
Time management certainly applies to coping with stress in your personal life as well. Becoming overwhelmed with stress can lead to physical problems and the deterioration of personal relationships. Structure your personal life in a similar way as your professional life. Work on eating right, don’t skip breakfast and avoid those late night meals. Get 30 minutes of cardio exercise 3 or 4 times a week and get a minimum of 6 or 7 hours of sleep each night.