How to Recognize Stress & Simple Ways to Deal With It
Stress (noun): a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
Life is jam-packed with stressors. You might feel pulled in different directions. You find you can’t keep up with all the demands.
But surprisingly, stress can be positive or negative. It can drive you to succeed, but it can also overwhelm you - sending you into complete exhaustion and potentially, burnout. The thing is that everyone reacts to stress differently. However, you can find positive strategies to deal with stress, such as stress management and relaxation techniques.
The first step is to recognize when you are stressed. And yes, this can be tough. But you can get good at it! Here’s how.
Recognizing when your stress comes down to self-awareness. Ask yourself questions about how and why you are feeling the way you feel.
Start with the statements below. Rate yourself on whether it is frequent, sometimes, or rarely ever.
- I get tired quickly.
- I feel anxious or nervous.
- I keep forgetting crucial things, such as appointments or deadlines.
- I can’t relax at night or on the weekends.
- I haven’t seen my friends or family in a while.
- I can’t concentrate and am constantly worrying.
- I have difficulty relaxing, even when I do find time to do so.
- My temper has been short and small things irritate me.
If you answered "frequently" to most of these statements, you are likely seriously stressed out. Be careful. You could potentially be headed toward burnout. A majority answer of "sometimes" means you may be slightly stressed out - at least more than usual.
Once you’ve come to the conclusion that you are, in fact, stressed out, find reasons as to why.
What are the sources of your stress? Is it work demands? Homelife? What triggers these responses?
It might be from current situations, chronic ones, or even a combination of the two. Narrowing down what is causing your stress can help you find ways to cope and limit it.
Dealing with Stress
Self-awareness and self-care tactics can help you combat your high stress levels.
What are you doing well?
What aren’t you?
Can you improve your time management skills?
Are you not prioritizing certain items when you should be?
Ask yourself and even, others around you. Feedback from outside sources might help you find areas to improve.
In the meantime, carve out time for stress management and relaxation techniques. Meditate or find time for yourself. You need some form of balance between giving yourself to others and giving yourself a break.
Simple & Small Tips to Minimize Your Stress
In addition to stress management and relaxation techniques, there are small changes you can make in your day-to-day to help. Here are our top tips to help you minimize your stress.
1. Limit Your Caffeine & Alcohol Intake
These will only amp up your stress levels. Sure, have your cup o’ joe in the morning. But besides that, you may be adding anxiety and stress with more caffeine. Alcohol is another unhealthy mechanism to cope with stress. It also won’t help you get a good night's sleep. If anything, it might make matters worse.
Read this: The Great Coffee Debate
Seriously. It will lower your adrenaline and cortisol, and stimulate endorphins, making you feel better. Physical activity has many other health benefits too! It contributes to quality sleep and helps you thwart chronic diseases. Sweat away your stress - or at least parts of it.
3. Call Up a Friend
Hey, what are friends for? Talking through something or talking out your feelings can help you manage them. Plus, your friends may be able to offer advice or a perspective you aren’t considering. If stress is a chronic problem, consider attending regular therapy.
It’s not taboo anymore - and can actually help improve your quality of life and get to the bottom of your anxiety.
4. Write Out Your Emotions
Keeping a journal just to vent can greatly reduce the stress in your life. It can also help you become more aware. You can read back and find gaps in your thinking or possibly new solutions that you can apply later.
5. Say “No”
Stretching yourself thin is frequently due to overcommitting. Don’t be scared to say no.
You can’t do it all - and no one expects you to. This also greatly relates to time management. Do you even have the time for that extra commitment? If not, say no. It’s absolutely okay and sometimes completely necessary.
6. Take a Break
We all need them. If you aren’t feeling well, rest up. We all have moments where we don’t feel good - mentally or physically. Take a mental health day. It’s better than powering through. You can come back feeling refreshed as opposed to overwhelmed.
7. Use Stress Management & Relaxation Techniques
We mentioned a few - like meditation. Yet, this can even be something as simple as taking a deep breath and counting to 5.
Another great technique is progressive relaxation. Take about 10-15 minutes to do this. Start by tensing up a part of your body, then purposively relax it. Sometimes, when tension builds, we don’t notice it. This method makes it obvious and helps you actually relax. Begin with your foot, then leg, then abdominals, then arm, and so on. Allow yourself to relax.
Last Tip… Stay Positive!
The power of positivity works wonders - especially during times of tension. Practice self-talk. Instead of letting your thoughts spiral out of control with ‘I can’t,’ try talking yourself up. Say you can and you will. If you messed up, focus on how you can fix it. Actively come up with solutions. No moping allowed!
Or participate in calming activities, such as reading, painting, walking, or a hot bath. You do you! Trust us - you’ll come back better and stronger. Plus, you’ll likely be in a mental state that can help you tackle problems as opposed to hinder them. The main thing is to make these activities a regular occurrence.
Avoid stress before it becomes problematic. Be mindful as you proceed through your life. And know that stress isn’t permanent. You can get through it.
* Editor’s note: This article was previously published June 8th, 2018 and has been updated for relevance and accuracy.
Related article: Working From Home - Motivation & Wellness