Do you ever feel you’re completely stressed out? Maybe things have been going poorly at work, or your health isn’t where you’d like it to be. Maybe it’s just stress from having too much to do and not enough time to do it. Most of us feel stressed from time to time, but when it becomes something more long-term, it can cause problems. Chronic stress – ongoing, day-after-day, week-after-week stress – can wreak havoc, not just on our emotional wellness but on our physical wellness as well.
When we’re under stress, our thoughts can tend to become skewed. Managing our stress can help us avoid becoming prisoners to our negative thoughts and deal constructively with them. As we talked about in How’s Your Emotional Wellness, sometimes it’s easy to let our minds just run away from us. Small things that aren’t that important in the grand scheme of things can take on a life of their own and make us miserable.
Learning to manage our stress can also help us to develop resilience, feel more positive, and give us the ability to handle whatever challenges arise.
Stress Management Tips
Here are 10 tips to help you manage stress:
1. Identify your stress triggers.
According to the Mayo Clinic (1), this needs to be the first step in our stress management plan. This makes sense – in any process improvement, the first step is to identify the problem. The same goes with handling stress. We have to figure out what the “problem” or “trigger” is. What sets off your stress response? Is it job pressures, health issues, financial worries? Whatever it is, once we’ve identified our triggers, the next step is to figure out strategies for dealing with them.
2. Get outside.
Now if you’re a wimp like me, getting outside at certain times of the year might not be a very attractive proposition, but on those nice days, being out in nature can improve your mood and reduce stress. The American Heart Association (2) has a great article, 10 Ways To Relax In Nature and Stress Less.If you need some ideas, be sure to check out their link below.
3. Use a technique called reframing.
According to Psychology Today, reframing “is a mental activity that involves looking at a stressor or negative situation and explaining it (realistically and honestly) in a positive or neutral way.” We can reframe, as Dr. Daniel Amen suggests in Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, by writing down the negative thought and turning it into a positive, but we can also use critical thinking skills to look at the problem from various angles.
4. Improve your planning.
Having a plan and sticking to it (as much as possible, anyway) can help us feel we have more control over a given situation. Planning helps us break the larger problem down into smaller parts, which helps us to just take it one step at a time. It can also help us feel more hopeful, as we feel we have some direction. This can be particularly helpful when our stressors are things like finances or work requirements.
One word of caution here though — don’t become so married to your plan that having to deviate from it causes you more stress.
5. Learn relaxation techniques.
There are lots of different techniques that have been developed to help us learn to relax. Some of these include deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation.
I know that some Christians find the idea of mindfulness meditation to be uncomfortable, or even feel it’s wrong. It has proven benefits for many people though. I personally don’t find anything wrong with using all the tools at our disposal, but I do find that for me, meditation on Scripture is more beneficial than mindfulness meditation.
What works for one person doesn’t always work for another, so we often have to experiment a little to find what is most helpful.
6. Be grateful.
‘Counting our blessings’ can help reduce our stress by reminding us of all the things we have to be thankful for. It can also remind us that we’ve been through difficult situations (and perhaps experienced the same stressors) before, and we made it through. This helps us feel more confident that we can make it through the current situation as well.
7. Find an activity you really love.
Having an activity we really love – making art, reading, writing, scrapbooking, playing a sport, listening to music – can help us manage stress by giving us something else to concentrate on. When we’re feeling stressed-out or down, doing something we enjoy can lift our mood and help us feel more positive.
8. Live a healthy lifestyle.
Fueling our bodies properly and keeping them moving is crucial to being able to handle the demands stress places on them. As we talked about in What Is Physical Wellness, eating healthfully, doing some sort of physical activity, and getting appropriate amounts of sleep can help us manage our stress. And managing stress is part of taking care of our physical wellness too.
9. Develop a forgiving style.
As believers, we know that we’re commanded to forgive, just as God has forgiven us. Matthew 6:14 is one of many verses that talks about us forgiving one another, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
So often, we think forgiveness is about the other person, but it’s also for us. According to Psychology Today, “the strength of forgiveness has been shown to have a powerful buffering effect on stress.” This forgiveness is not only for others, but for ourselves as well. There’s an old saying that “harboring unforgiveness is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” It can eat us up inside and cause even more stress in our lives.
10. Ask for help if you need it.
Too often, we get caught up in an, “I should be able to handle this so I’m not going to ask for help” philosophy. Our society tells us we need to be independent, that we shouldn’t need to depend on others, but that’s just not true.
We were created to be in relationship, and to help one another out. Whether it’s asking for help with doing household chores to reduce stress centered around our ‘to do’ list or seeing a professional for help learning to deal with stress in general, we never have to suffer alone. We should never feel bad about reaching out for help if we need it.
Resources for Stress Management
If you’d like more tips and/or information about managing stress, here are a few links to some helpful articles, and even a stress management workbook. These are some great resources to help us deal with those unexpected events, undesirable encounters, or less-than-ideal circumstances we all face from time to time.
- 62 Stress Management Techniques to Prevent a Burn Out: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/stress-management-techniques-tips-burn-out/#exercises
- 3 Ways to Become More Stress Resilient (Mayo Clinic): https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/3-ways-to-become-more-stress-resilient/art-20267213
- Manage Stress: Strengthen Your Support Network (American Psychological Association): http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx
- Stress Management Workbook: https://www.prevention.va.gov/mpt/2013/docs/managestressworkbook_dec2013.pdf
What helps you the most when dealing with stressful situations? Please share your top tips!
(1) Stress Management Basics, Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/basics/stress-relief/hlv-20049495
(2) 10 Ways to Relax in Nature and Stress Less, American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/10-ways-to-relax-in-nature-and-stress-less
(3) 10 New Strategies for Stress Management, Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-matters-most/201701/10-new-strategies-stress-management