A Guide for Identifying and Relieving Stress –
by Darla Dawald
Every day we each encounter different stressors. Everyone is different and what stresses out one individual will have virtually no effect on another. So how do we find what works for our type of stress? What does one do to overcome stress that to another person is non-essential? The answer is not an easy one and really depends whole-heartedly on the one who is stressed by that situation.
There are so many self-help books, articles, and compact disc series, so where do you start? The best place to start is first and foremost to identify your stressors. What is it that pushes you over the edge? What area are you feeling symptoms of anxiety, the inability to take a deep breath? Maybe your heart beats faster than normal, maybe you find yourself angry and taking it out on those around you. Is it work, home, kids, spouse, other relatives, a friend, neighbor, activities, or volunteer work?
Make a list of your daily activities. A journal would be the best way to document your day. I suggest that you carry your journal with you for at least three to four days. It is also a great way to document how you are spending your time. There are many interruptions that rob us of precious time we thought we had to accomplish certain tasks. By journaling and documenting your day you can get a handle on how your time is being spent by you and by others who expect time from you.
After you have completed this for at least three days you should take some quiet time and go over the journal. As you cover each task, interruption, need, activity, project, phone calls, etc… pay very close attention to the emotions it stirs in you. Pay attention to your heart rate, changes in your breathing, any tightness in your throat or chest, headache or any other sign or symptom. Our bodies are amazing. Your body will tell you so much about yourself if you tune in, listen, and pay attention to your own bodily signs. I can tell you what stresses me out and how I deal with that but will that necessarily help you with your stress? Maybe it will and then again it might not. So once you have identified the stressors in your life then you can begin to take action to deal with the things that are stressing you out.
I realize some things are inevitable and just are not going to change. That being said, is it possible that you can change the way you deal with it? Is it possible that with some advance planning you can tolerate theses stressors better? I believe the answer to this is yes. By being proactive you can basically head things off before they stress you out.
So let’s recap thus far:
1. Journal your day (for at least three days). Document all activities and time stealers.
2. Free up some quiet time by yourself and go over the entire three days.
3. Pay attention to your body. Pay close attention to signs or symptoms that certain entries bring out.
4. Identify the stressors; name them one by one. Is it a boss, family, financial, etc…?
5. Begin to devise a plan to deal with or head off each stressor.
As you most likely know there are many ways to deal with stress. As I stated before, there are some things that you cannot change. Once you identify each stressor you need to begin to identify what can be changed and what can’t. Let’s start with the items that can be changed first. Is it simply something that you have been involved in that you really don’t need to be involved in? Have you over-extended yourself? Can you delegate, turn over, or just bow out gracefully?
I have a motto that goes something like this:
“If it has nothing to do with me, I give nothing to it”
That doesn’t mean I am not willing to give a helping hand. What it means is if someone has a problem with another co-worker for example or starts telling me about someone else’s problems, I just don’t give anything back. I don’t join in and I don’t go out of my way to involve myself. Gossip in the office is a prime example of “I give nothing to it”; this was a hard lesson to learn! After a few times of co-workers attempting to bring me in to their camp and getting no response from me they will most likely move on to another unsuspecting soul.
Sometimes we just have to be honest and let people in on our situation. Let me explain…there have been times when I just sat down with someone and explained that I was working on reducing stress in my life. I explain that I have to reduce stress or I will end up completely ineffective. I need their help. So I ask for it. I ask if they will assist me by not bringing me into things that are not essential to my life at this time. It doesn’t have to be coldhearted. It’s all in the way you deliver it. Most people, especially if they care at all about you will help however they can. Most importantly you are alerting them that you just cannot tolerate it any longer for your health sake.
Below is a list of ways you can deal with stress:
Meditation: Spending time in the morning or even during the day as your stress level rises. Clear your mind, as certain thoughts begin to creep in again clear your mind once more. Focus on something that soothes you. Some use positive affirmations to encourage their thought process.
Visualization: Picture yourself working through the situation calmly. Also visualizing yourself somewhere else…the beach, on the golf course, swimming, in the park, etc…
Deep breathing: Inhale take as deep of a breath as possible. Once you have inhaled this breath take in just a bit more and hold it. Count to twenty then begin to slowly exhale. Repeat this at least ten times, however twenty times is best. This can be done first thing in the morning, as your stress level rises and again before bed.
Exercise: It has been proven that exercise is beneficial in relieving stress. An exercise regimen is great for your health also. I found that when I felt stressed at work I would take a break and go for a walk even if only for ten minutes. It was a change of scenery and a different environment altogether. I suggest that you incorporate a daily exercise program into your routine.
A balanced diet: Eat healthy! Avoid the carbs and the high fatty foods. These foods will make you feel sluggish. They rob us of our energy and clog our arteries. Well balanced diets can boost your energy, clear your mind, and help your body to overcome stress.
Time For Yourself: Schedule some YOU time daily or at least two or three times a week. Time for you to cater to yourself, do something you enjoy or just relax with a good book or take a power nap. Turn off your phones close your door…put up a do not disturb sign; take time out for you, schedule an appointment with yourself.
Clear out any activities that are just burdensome and really aren’t essential to your life as a whole at least not at this time.
Laugh more: Laughing and feelings of happiness release endorphins in our body. Endorphins actually heal! The more endorphins released the better we feel. Whereas stress releases adrenaline and cortisol that overtime suppress our immune system and break our cells down making us more susceptible to illness.
There are books and articles everywhere on tips for dealing with stress. Research and find what works for you. Whatever you do, do something. New habits take at least twenty-one days to become habitual for us. So implement a few tips and if they work keep it up for at least twenty-one days and you will be on your way to a less stressful life.
Darla G. Dawald
Out of Stress, Expert
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