Stress Management Series – Part 2
In Stress Management – Part 1, we learned what stress is and how to know if you’re too stressed. Today we’re going to look at the most common sources of stress and begin to create a plan of action that will help you create more balance and ease in your life.
The first step to reducing stress is to identify what is causing it.
Common Sources of Stress
New, unfamiliar, challenging or difficult situations like the ones listed below are commonly associated with stress.
– Maintaining good ones
– Getting out of abusive ones
– Starting a new one
- Home Ownership:
– Buying one or more houses
– Maintaining one or more houses
- Medical expenses
- Paying for college or other educational expenses
- Family Situations:
– Having a baby or adopting a child
– Raising children
– Taking care of parents
– Taking care of a sick loved one
– Taking care of a dying loved one
– Working so a spouse can stay at home and take care of kids
– Being the spouse that stays at home and takes care of kids
– Loved one getting imprisoned
– Loved one serving in the military
- Major Life Transitions:
– Moving and/or quitting a job for a spouse
– Children leaving home
– Retirement and concerns about being able to afford it
– Living on a fixed income
- Being able to spend the rest of your life not being as active as you used to be
– Physical or mental illness that impedes work or life
– Chronic physical or mental illness
– Chronic injury
– Terminal illness
- Traumatic events
– Car accident
- Career trajectory
– Heavy workload
– Too many deadlines
– Too many assignments with the same deadline
– Maintaining good relations with employers, coworkers and/or employees
Ways These Sources May Be Causing Stress
It is impossible to live life without encountering a potential source of stress. Stressors can be any kind of change, from moving across the street to losing a loved one. Challenging situations and difficult circumstances can occur anywhere, whether it is at school, at work, at home, at a public place, or at a private place. Throughout the life stages that we undergo, we are able to learn, adapt, survive, and grow.
Now that we’re working, things are more stressful than ever. We are expected to not only have a job that pays for a place to live, but also one that allows us to pay off our debts, buy the house of our dreams, buy the car of our dreams, get married, have and raise kids, and put them through college.
We have to deal with change all the time. It’s part of life’s journey. We have to stay on top of our careers, families, homes, and finances, and we have to be flawless in the process.
When this happens, self-image (how we show up in the world) can be a major source of stress. We concern ourselves what others think of our appearance, car, house, paycheck, and more. We freak out when someone thinks of us as “stupid,” “damaged,” or worse. We pose for pictures on social media and add filters to brighten up our photos to make our lives seem more exciting. We have people over for a social gathering or a party every time we remodel a room or accomplish something, we include people so that they know about it. We do it so that they see us the way we want to see ourselves.
Identify How Stress Is Affecting You
The Gift of Awareness
The best way to figure out how to deal with your stress so that you can live a longer and healthier life is awareness. And one of the best ways to increase your awareness is to start a stress journal. A journal makes it easier to discover the cause of stress by taking note of how various situations affect your daily life. When you begin to be aware and recognize the symptoms of stress ahead of time, you can adjust your lifestyle to prevent short-term and chronic illnesses. Begin by noticing when you are experiencing symptoms of stress such as:
- Depression and general unhappiness
- Anxiety and agitation
- Anxious or racing thoughts
- Constant worrying
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Poor judgment
- Memory problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Other emotional or mental health
These symptoms can lead to behavioral and physiological symptoms like:
- Eating more or less
- Withdrawing from others
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
- Using drugs/alcohol to relax
- Sleeping more or less
- High blood pressure
- Upset stomach
The first five items on this list can be tracked by asking others or by using a stress journal to keep track of things such as eating, sleeping, drug use, or tasks that need to be completed.
When behavior and physiological symptoms of stress persist over a long period of time, they can lead to serious health conditions including but not limited to:
- Depression or other mental illness(es)
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- A flare-up of asthma or arthritis
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Heart conditions (such as arrhythmias, atherosclerosis, hypertension, angina, cardiac arrest, myocardial infarction, valve disease, coronary artery disease, valve disease and more)
- Frequent colds
- Weight gain or loss
- Skin problems such as psoriasis, acne, or eczema
Basically, we want to limit prolonged or chronic stress exposure because it compromises our immune systems and mental health. Stress is treatable, and managing it can help us to live longer, healthier lives.
Create A List Of Your Stressors
Sometimes the easiest way to identify your biggest stressors is to make a list in your Stress Journal of all the things that could be a source of stress for you. Then cross out what isn’t causing your symptoms to narrow down the major causes.
For instance, if you have two potential stressors – such as a job relocation and a job promotion, one may elicit more severe symptoms than the other. If moving for your job is causing you to have anxiety, but you are adjusting well to the new workload, you would cross “job promotion” off of your list of potential stressors.
Similarly, if you are adjusting well to the relocation and you like the area, but the extra responsibilities and the heavier workload associated with the promotion is causing you to experience sleeplessness, excessive or little hunger, headaches, and muscle pains, you would cross “job relocation” off your list of stressors.
Identify Your Options & Alternatives
The next step after creating your list of stressors is to create a plan of action, right? Wrong.
Before creating a plan of action for managing your stress, it’s best to lay out all of your options because, if you create a plan of action based off of the first option that you learn about, it may turn out that the option you picked doesn’t work so well.
Make sure that the stress management techniques that you choose to incorporate into your life don’t just work but also fit your schedule and lifestyle.
Some options for managing your stress include:
- Meditation/mindfulness/breathing exercises
- Healing arts
- Playing a sport
- Art (fine art, digital art, performing art, etc.)
- Writing or journaling
- Listening to music
- Developing a hobby
- Talking to someone you trust
- Reaching out to a mentor
Create a Plan of Action
Now that you have considered all your options, it’s time to create a personal stress management action plan.
I recommend that you add this to your calendar – like any other scheduled appointment. Make it a time where you check in with yourself to determine what’s working, what isn’t, and other options you can consider trying. By working it into a routine that you consistently follow, you can actually reduce stress because it provides you with structure in your life.
Build a strong mindset to change your lifestyle and improve your quality of life.
In addition, don’t be afraid to explore unconventional ways to treat your stress.
If your stress is linked to a psychological or physiological condition, be sure to include a therapist, coach, counselor, life coach or a mentor.
Try holistic health and wellness, alternative medicine, a health coach, a naturopath, Bach flowers, homeopathy or a Chinese medicine doctor. Possibly start taking supplements and herbs, before considering medication.
Reach out and engage in daily self-care. Budget-friendly ideas for self-care include dancing, walking in the woods, a homemade facial, cooking or something else you love.
Be open and flexible. Expect to adjust your plan of action and routine as you may not encounter the “right fit” on your first try.
Mentoring & teaching courageous women how to empower, embrace, evolve, and navigate life’s transitions with more balance and peace.
"Within you is the power to rise above any situation or struggles and transform into the brightest, strongest version of yourself."