As much as we may want to, we simply cannot live a stress-free life. Stresses come at us from all angles — work, school, family, friends, and every other aspect of life. Sometimes stress can be a good thing motivating us to follow through with deadlines or other important obligations. But even when its a driving force for us, it can become overwhelming. In some cases, it can even prevent productivity levels. Learning how to manage and relieve stress are the keys to a successful life.
Understanding Your Stress
In order to gain power of something, you must first understand it. So what exactly is stress and our body’s response to it? According to the American Psychological Association, stress is any uncomfortable "emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, physiological and behavioral changesThe physiological effects can include the immune, cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and central nervous systems. It’s clear why stress is so uncomfortable and has such a huge impact on us. It’s beneficial when motivating us to work, complete projects, and survive — but it becomes a problem when it starts interfering with the very things its supposed to help. Of course, if you feel your stress is disrupting your daily life, there is a chance you may be suffering from anxiety or a related mental illness, and should seek help if you haven’t yet.
Prioritizing and Managing Obligations
Sometimes we find ourselves in situations with conflicting demands. We may have two projects due at the same time, or familial or friend obligations that conflict with our schedules. These situations are often overwhelming and sometimes lead to hard sacrifices. Keeping a schedule and boundaries can help prevent these situations, but when all else fails, a great way to prioritize goals is by assessing the pros and cons, what’s due first, what is the easiest, and what will take the most time. Are there any ways around it? Can you reschedule an appointment or offer your friend a raincheck? What are the consequences if you do not follow through with Situation A? Is it worse than the consequences of not following through with Situation B? Often times having a plan in place and knowing what is going to happen reduces stress significantly.
There are many great ways to stay on top of your priorities. For example, apps such as ToDoIst or Trello are amazing tools to keep you on track!
Mindfulness and Meditation
We hear a lot about mindfulness these days, and it may start to sound cheesy — how can this really help? It helps by refocusing our perspective. Often times when we are encountered with stress, that becomes all we can see and feel. That’s where it starts to get disruptive. If we can pull ourselves away for a moment, take a few deep breaths, and go through a guided meditation we will find our perspectives opened; this is not the end of the world and we can work through it. This is an empowering shift of thought that leads to productivity and overall well being.
Some great additions to your meditations or mindfulness exercises are grounding music and scents that support relaxation, such as copaiba essential oil or lavender. Put a few drops into a diffuser, hit play on that meditation playlist, and take a few moments to relax your mind and ease your spirit.
Daily Coping Strategies
Self-care is key to relieving stress, and a great way to do that is by making sure you have social time and you-time. Hanging out with friends is a great way to take your mind off the worries of work and school and refocus your energy on meaningful relationships. In fact, studies show that hanging out with your friends actually reduces! There are some amazing stress-relieving night out ideas to do with your friends, such as going to the movies or doing a hands on activity such as painting.
Other daily coping methods can include running a hot bath, applying your favorite lotion, reading a good book, or getting a cup of coffee and going for a stroll around your neighborhood. Getting out and taking a breather is a small but effective step to managing our stress.
Remember that stress is normal and you have power over it by creating plans, refocusing with mindfulness, and practicing coping strategies. Take it one step and a time and figure out what works best for you and make it a routine.