Any demand put on us can be a challenge that we enjoy or a stress that disturbs us. A situation that we feel that we can handle is an exhilarating challenge and what feels beyond us becomes a stress. So the difference between the two is how we perceive the situation in relation to our capacities and abilities. In other words, we can conquer stress by changing our perception, improving our resilience and strength as well as our coping strategies. But all these are not so easy to implement. Anxiety, on the other hand, is the fear of the impending, a fear so strong that makes action impossible. You can call it a response to what seems insurmountable. Anxiety is an unrelenting thought process that takes you towards negativity, you are so full of ‘what if’ this happens that you are unable to look at the possibilities that are there right in front of you.
The combination of stress and anxiety can totally ruin the individual’s capacity to work productively and enjoy life. The key is to take your life into your hands, instead of becoming a victim of stress and anxiety. There are innumerable ways to come out of the overwhelming darkness imposed by stress and anxiety provided you are willing to give it a genuine try. Often, methods and techniques put forward seem too lighthearted, but it is the simple things that can change your focus.
Stress is an emotional response and if we are able to replace an emotional response with an intellectual one, we have learn to overcome stress and anxiety. The biggest obstacle to changing our perception is that we expect life to be smooth sailing where there are no problems and no disasters. Fortunately, life is one thing that gives you both fun and troubles. In our quest to overcome stress, there are several ways to do it and there are always helping hands if we are willing to ask for them and accept them.
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Ways Of Stress Management
The first step in stress management is to acknowledge it and to note the way you responded to it. It is so easy to blame everyone around you for causing stress to you, the demanding boss, the slow driver in front of you, the spouse who never understands and so on. Most of these cannot be changed and you have to adapt to them by changing your focus. There are several ways to do this like taking a short break, breathing exercises, reciting a short phrase that peps you up and so on. This is for immediate relief, but it is not possible to physically move away sometimes and all the day’s stresses get pent up inside. One needs to deal with these, instead of letting them simmer beneath the surface.
Put Aside Worry Time
It is so difficult to stem the tide of thoughts that keep revolving around negativity. Telling yourself to stop thinking so negatively is not going to work. A more effective way would be put aside worry time. This sets you free to focus on the work at hand and action is the best antidote to worry and anxiety. But this worry time should be used constructively for it to produce results. If you are worried about a particular situation, imagine the worst that could happen and its implication on your life. Often anxiety is an unclear fear of the worst. Acknowledge it and having faced it once, you will find that the inexplicable dread will lessen in its intensity.
Learn To Let Go
A problem that most of us encounter in this approach to beat stress and anxiety is, that we still continue to worry sometimes. As soon as you realize you are at it again, don’t fret about it, just acknowledge and then put it aside for your worry time. If you keep thinking about it, or keep telling yourself to stop it, you are inadvertently giving it attention. The key is to accept and let go. The longer you think about it, the longer it will have power to disturb you.
Write A Journal
One method, to handle excess stress is to maintain a journal. Writing about it gives vent to your feelings, frustrations and once it is out in the open, it becomes easier to accept. It is a safe method for expressing and exploring your feelings and thoughts about a stressful situation. Once the feelings and emotions are out in the open it is easier to move to the problem solving stage.
Talk To A Friend
An even better alternative is to talk to a friend who shares your concern and helps you get a broader perspective. Often when we are too involved in a situation we are unable to see the bigger picture. Different people respond differently and it is up to you to adopt the method that works for you. Talking to a friend also helps you to just get it out of your chest.
Vitamins For Stress Relief
As said earlier, a situation is stressful if it seems beyond our capacity. If you are fit, then you are better able to cope with things in general. Eating a balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals keeps you healthy and strong. Some vitamins are considered especially helpful such as Vitamin B complex as it strengthens your nervous system and ensures its smooth functioning. Besides this, Vitamin C boosts your body’s immunity which often suffers due to stress. It is a well-known fact that stress compromises your body’s immune system.
Generally, if you are having a well-balanced diet that contains a fair amount of fruits and vegetables, then your body should not lack these essential vitamins. Otherwise, you may also include supplements that contain natural herbs that can boost your health and have a calming effect on you.
Nature offers simple herbal remedies that can soon eliminate your stress. Some common herbs that are said to be helpful are passion flower, kava root, licorice root, lavender, to name just a few. Passion flower is said to work like a natural sedative and relaxant while kava root is a muscle relaxant and helps to relieve pain. Lavender has been used for centuries for its calming influence and as a stress reliever. Licorice is said to improve the functioning of the adrenal glands that regulate production of cortisol, the stress hormone. Chamomile tea is also considered to be a good stress reliever.
Get Enough Rest
Sleep is the time when your body rests and recovers from its daily grind. But sleep is the first thing that gets affected when you are stressed or overworked. Before you grab that sleeping pill, look for relaxation techniques that can help to calm you. Meditation, deep breathing exercises, focusing are all techniques that can help to relax you. Even a simple thing like having a hot bath can relax you and help you sleep better.
Much has been said for meditation and people who have tried it have really found it to be effective in combating stress. There are several meditation techniques such as mantra meditation, mindfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, chakra meditation, walking meditation, guided meditation and so on. Though all these apply different methods, the goal is the same and that is to achieve inner peace through control of the mind and its runaway thoughts. Used for centuries all over the world, its efficacy has been proved beyond doubt.
If meditation does not hold any appeal for you, then simple breathing exercises can go a long way in relieving stress. Often when we are stressed out our breathing becomes shallow and faster. Practicing deep breathing is extremely helpful as it helps to counteract the effect of stress. There are several ways to do it. The quickest is to take a deep breath and look out or focus in the distance. Doing this only 3 times gives you a short break from your stressor. However, a more effective method is to count your exhalations, from 1 to 10. Having reached 10 again start from 1 to 10.
Stress leaves you exhausted but a good workout can help to rejuvenate you and reenergize you. Always pick on exercise that you enjoy so that doing it doesn’t become yet another burden for you. If going to the gym doesn’t appeal, then a nature walk, swimming, dancing, playing badminton all are equally effective as stress relievers. Exercise offers the opportunity to release the tension caused by stress hormones and promotes endorphin production in the body.
Develop A Hobby
In our hectic schedules, hobbies often take the back burner, but it is a well-known stress reliever. Hobbies give you an opportunity to indulge your creativity as well as give you a sense of achievement. It can be anything that you enjoy, such as, gardening, painting, music and so on.
This is one of the easiest and safest ways of letting off steam and that too anywhere anytime. Stress relieving toys that can be squeezed, squashed, thrown and bounced against the wall and so on help to give vent to your feelings in a playful manner.
Aromatherapy And Massage
Aromatherapy works two ways, one by inhaling and the other through absorption. You can use various oils for massage that can further relax you from within. Massages help to soothe muscle pain as well as promote blood circulation. They are extremely useful in soothing feelings of stress. Alternatively, soothing aromas like lavender can have a profound effect on your mood and instantly calm you down. On the other hand, citrus oils help to brighten your mood. Other commonly used oils for stress relief are rose, sandalwood, basil and so on. One can usethem as room fresheners or bath oils too.
Listen To Music
Music has the most powerful effect on our moods and listening to music can be the best way to relieve stress. Generally people find classical music the most soothing, or you can opt for meditational music. The choice is entirely yours and should be according to your own taste. It helps to lower heart rate as well as anxiety. You can use it as a backdrop to your regular activities without having to take time out of your daily routine.
A good sense of humor can soon make the toughest situation easier to handle. Laughter has a very relaxing effect on the mind as it sets you free from tension and hostility. It also increases endorphins and contribute to a sense of well being. It is also known to lower stress hormones in the body.
It is so tempting to reach for a drink or a drug, but these make matters worse. If you are absolutely unable to cope, then medications prescribed by a physician can help you to cope with the immediate crisis. However, in the long term better stress management methods are the only way to deal with it. Natural stress relievers are a lot healthier and without side effects.
Stimulants like caffeine perk you up and make it more difficult for you to relax. If you are looking to reduce your stress levels then lower your caffeine intake in all forms.
Stress Management Counseling
One thing to remember is that you do not have to suffer alone. Stress management counseling can go a long way in helping you to develop coping strategies. It also helps you to bring your emotional reactions under control which is the main component in feeling stressed. Cognitive behavior therapy can go a long way in promoting behavior that can help to build a better response to stress and anxiety. A mental health professional can help you to adjust and deal with stress in a more balanced manner.
At a certain level all of us are aware of the fact that we need to cut down on stress, but most of us feel so helpless in the face of it and are unable to cope. It has somehow become the culprit for all our troubles. But is all of stress bad for us? Half of our work would not be done if there were no deadlines and yet deadlines are considered to be stressful. At some level stress is good for us as it is the stimulus that prods us, the problem arises when this prodding becomes more than we can tolerate. However, this tolerance varies and the key to reducing stress is building this tolerance. Your life is not going to change with a magic wand but what you can change is your response to the same old situations.