Stress reduction is an important part of a healthy lifestyle, just like diet and exercise. These tips will help you keep your stress levels under control.
Medically reviewed by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Managing Stress: When You Experience a Sudden Spike
Certain situations create stress instantly, such as a major issue at work or a crisis at home that needs to be addressed right away. When there's an urgent problem that requires your immediate attention, managing stress is important so that you can think clearly. Try these stress reduction tips to help you deal with anxiety-provoking experiences:
- Put it in perspective. Maybe you're disappointed that you didn't get a promotion you were up for or concerned that money is a little tight this month because of an unexpected medical bill. Feeling stressed is a natural reaction. But try to take a step back and ask yourself: will this issue still matter in a year? In five years? If the answer is no, take a deep breath and try to move forward. Keeping things in perspective is crucial to managing stress.
- Come up with a plan. If there's a specific problem you need to fix, make a list of all possible solutions and pick the best one for your situation. Realizing that you have options and coming up with a concrete plan will have a direct effect on stress reduction.
- Accept what you can't control. Some circumstances are simply beyond our control, and we have to learn to cope with and accept them. Fortunately, you do have control over how you react to stressful situations. Staying calm and being willing to accept emotional support from others can help in managing stress.
Sometimes it’s not one specific problem, but rather nagging concerns about your job, health, finances, or family members that create a steady build-up of stress. Try these tips to help you with stress reduction:
- Give yourself a break. Daily stressors can creep up on you before you realize it, so treat yourself to at least one relaxing activity every day. Listening to music, meditating, visualization exercises, writing in a journal, or enjoying a soothing bubble bath are all great ways to relax and relieve stress. Taking time for yourself is important for both preventing and managing stress.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise is one of the best methods for managing stress because it can relieve both the physical and emotional effects of stress. Consider fitness choices that also deliver specific stress-reducing effects like yoga, tai chi, Pilates, or one of the martial arts, all great ways to get rid of pent-up stress and negativity.
- Express your feelings. If something's bothering you, don't keep it to yourself. Talk to people you trust, like friends, family, or co-workers, about what's on your mind. Even if you're not looking for specific advice, it usually feels good just to get your feelings out into the open.
Being prepared for difficult situations, managing your time well, and solving problems quickly can help you avoid unnecessary stress:
- Set reasonable expectations. Being busy is sometimes inevitable, but regularly taking on more than you can manage can cause unwanted and unwelcome stress. Tell yourself that it's okay to say no to activities at your child's school or to extra projects at work — you are not obligated to accept every request made of you. Additionally, don't take on more financial responsibilities — such as a new car or a bigger house — if you think they'll be a stretch. Being realistic about your finances is an important strategy for managing stress.
- Resolve issues before they become crises. It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant topics and circumstances, but if you're concerned about a brewing situation, whether it's at work or at home, address it early to keep it from becoming more serious, harder to solve, and more stressful for you. Problems are always easier to handle before they develop into full-blown calamities.
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