Stress isn’t a new concept to anyone above the age of 18. Every adult has had some major stress-related moment in his or her life. It’s easy to let your stress overwhelm you, too.
Articles are written every day about stress and stress management. If you Google “what is stress” you will get well over 500 million results. So if you’re stressed, how are you supposed to know where to turn? Who can you trust? I’m here to help you answer those questions with three steps.
Step One: Know Your Enemy
Before you can manage any conflict, you need information. You need to know your enemy. In this case, you need to know what causes stress and how your body reacts to stressful situations. “Stress is your body’s natural reaction to any kind of demand that disrupts life as usual,” according to the American Psychological Association. In other words: stress is what happens when things don’t go as planned. For example, you’re running late for an important interview because you overslept.
Before you know what’s happening, your body is already reacting to the stressor. Sections of your brain have started communicating with each other, and your adrenal glands have dumped a ton of adrenaline into your system. By the way, this is the hormone that gets your heart racing before you give a speech.
Step Two: Plan Your Attack
Now that you understand what causes stress and how your body reacts, you should determine how you will deal with stress before it happens. Plan your attack before you’re stressed. Here is a great list of 20 science-friendly stress-relieving methods. Find a few methods that sound like they would work for you. Do you prefer walking over visualization? This will be entirely dependent on your preference. Test out a few techniques when you’re moderately stressed so you know how your body reacts. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
Pro Tip: Breathing works for almost everyone. Often you don’t realize that your breathing has become shallow or stopped entirely during a stressful event. When you’re stressed, pay attention to your posture and breathing. Breathing shallow? Slow down and breathe deeply. Not breathing at all? Inhale and exhale slowly and pay attention to your rhythm. Sometimes it helps to focus on a single image, like this flower:
Step Three: Confront Your Stress
You know your enemy. You have a few stress management techniques to use. Now it’s time to implement the techniques. But how do you know when to put these into action? You don’t need to visualize a beach in every stressful situation, and you can’t jump into a yoga pose in the middle of a presentation. So it’s important to know what’s appropriate where and when.
The APA link I shared earlier has a great list of warning signs. here are a few:
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
- Lack of concentration or focus
Some Parting Words
Remember that stress happens to everyone. You are not alone in dealing with difficult situations. Some people say that nothing in life is worth having if it comes too easily. Stress is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to cripple you. Learn how your body responds to stress and what you can do to relax. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, either. If you need help working through stress, seek out help from a friend, family member, or make an appointment with your doctor.