Feeling stressed? Develop a toolbox of self-help strategies

Stress affects us all. It’s a normal response when we feel threatened… whether the threat is perceived or real. This response is actually designed to prepare us for action to get us out of danger (i.e. oncoming car) only the threats we face most often, aren’t things we can actually run away from (work, family issues, illness, etc). It may be hard to believe, but a little stress can actually be a good thing, motivating us to take action, solve problems, and get things done.

When stress is counter productive however, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Many people find it a challenge to concentrate or make decisions, and some experience the physical side effects of stress: a racing heart, sweating, and muscle tension.

Happily, there things we can all do to minimize and cope with stress.

  1. Identify the problem. Once once know what the problem is, can you do something about it.
  2. Solve problems as they arise. Consider solutions to your problems and the resulting outcomes. Once you’ve decided on your course of action, break down the steps and tackle just one at a time.
  3. Share your stress. Expressing your feelings can help lift your burden and having someone who will listen patiently is essential.  Can you talk to a family member or close friend? If not, ask your physician for a referral to a professional counsellor.
  4. Keep it simple. We often feel stressed when we have too much on our plates. Sometimes this means saying ‘no’ and making a concerted effort to simplify our schedules.
  5. Live mindfully. Being mindful is about being present. Let go of the past, focus on the present moment, and don’t allow what lies ahead to burden you.
  6. Learn about stress management. Understanding stress can help you identify it, understand it, prevent it, and manage it. Consider reading books, visiting trusted websites, or asking your doctor for more information.
  7. Help yourself. Activities like yoga, meditation, mindfulness, and diaphragmatic breathing can help quiet the mind and lessen the body’s response to stress.
  8. Get moving. Exercise is great way to reduce stress and improve your mood. Learn more.
  9. Have more fun. Make time for the activities you enjoy – time with friends or family, exercise, hobbies.

Remember that stress is part of being human—you can’t do away with it altogether. Learning to identify and cope with stress however, can help you manage stressful periods and events as they arise. Practice stress management techniques even when you’re not feeling stressed and you’ll have well-developed tools in your toolbox you can reach for when needed.

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