In 2007, American Psychological Associations investigated the presence of stress among Americans and reported that one-third of the USA residents experience extreme levels of stress. Moreover, among the respondents one-in-five emphasized experiencing high levels of stress more than two weeks in month. These results are not surprising because in today’s fast-paced world, stress has become a part of your life. While low to moderate levels of stress and healthy coping techniques are seen as acceptable in healthy way, extreme and prolonged stress has a negative impact on both your emotional and physical state. Otherwise, poorly managed stress would lead to the consequences related to health problems like heart disease, obesity, and other illnesses. You can find this information in more details in my book “Stress and Immunity”.
Psychology argues that being able to control stress is a learned behaviour. Stress can be effectively managed by taking small steps:
- You need to understand how you experience stress. For this purpose, you should find answers to such questions as “How do I know that I am stressed-out?” or “Do my thoughts and/or behaviour differ from the days when I am not stressed?”
- You need to identify sources of your stress. Here, you should scan the situations and determine those that are triggers for your stressful feelings. Are these situations related to your family members, your co-workers, or something else?
- You need to recognize your own stress signals. You could have a hard time concentrating or making decisions, feel angry, irritable or out of control, or experience headaches, muscle tension or a lack of energy. You can find techniques how to deal with anger, anxiety, and depression in my book “Solving Life’s Problems Workbook”.
- You need to recognize how you deal with stress. It means that you should be aware whether you use unhealthy coping techniques (e.g., smoking, consuming alcohol or drugs, and over/under eating). It’s important to answer the question “Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations?”
- At this step, you need to find healthy ways to deal with stress such as meditation, exercising or sharing your ideas with your friends or family. Just remember, that unhealthy behaviours develop over time and to change them you need focus on changing only one behaviour.
- You need to focus on yourself. You should eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water and engage in physical activities. The importance of sleep and physical exercises, when you are stressed-out, is discussed with more details in my book “Stress and Immunity”. No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself — even if it’s just simple things like reading a good book or listening to your favorite music.
- It’s advised to reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist, who can help you better manage stress and change unhealthy behaviors.