Ahhh, stress. Since we all are very aware of what it is (some of us more than others) – let's get straight to business.
Stress affects everyone differently and everyone has different levels of stress that they can effectively manage. Stress, in short bursts, is beneficial to you. However, when you’re stressed for long periods of time (also known as chronic stress), it starts to negatively affect your emotional and physical health.
Some common symptoms of chronic stress include: frequent headaches, jaw pain or clenching, grinding teeth, muscle spasms, frequently getting sick, unexplained rashes or hives, heartburn, stomach pain, increased heart rate or heart palpitations, irritability, mood swings, and fatigue.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to manage your stress.
First, you need to identify what is causing your stress. Is it an impeding deadline? That big event you’ve been planning? Or a coworker who gets you riled up?
If you aren’t sure, start a stress journal. Anytime you start to feel stressed (or any of the above symptoms of stress), write down the events that happened leading up to that feeling.
When you find a pattern of similar events that caused you to feel stressed, you’ve identified a stressor.
After identifying the stressor(s) is where the magic happens:
1. Know your limits
Knowing your limits helps you set, and stick to, boundaries. Pushing yourself past these limits will often result in unnecessary and avoidable stress.
2. Adjust your standards
Adjusting your standards goes along with knowing your limits. If you know you will only be able to get “X” done in one day, don’t expect “X + Y” from yourself. Setting yourself up for failure is not a good way to avoid stress mmmk.
3. Avoid people who stress you out
This may seem like a no brainer, but I feel like it still needs to be said. For example, if you’re having a stressful week, or you’re expecting your upcoming week to be stressful, don’t schedule dinner with that person who always adds to your stress levels, or try to minimize contact with the coworker who tends to catastrophize things. Why add that negative energy to your life if you don’t need to?
4. Limit caffeine
If you’re going through an extremely stressful time, consuming too much caffeine may actually be counterproductive. Caffeine increases heart rate and adrenaline, which can intensify any feelings of anxiety you’re currently experiencing.
5. Look at the big picture
Often when we’re stressed, we tend to hyper focus on things that may not be important or on situations that may never happen. Try to take a step back and ask yourself, “is this actually as big of a deal as I’m making it out to be?” (hint: the answer is usually “no”).
6. Don’t try to control the uncontrollable
There will always be something in life that we have no control over. Instead of endlessly worrying about each new situation you could face, try to focus on the things you actually can control (like your reaction to the situation).
7. Take a hot bath
The heat from the hot water will help reduce muscle tension and promote relaxation.
8. Get moving
Walk during your lunch break, run after work, take a yoga class - or whatever may work for you! Regular exercise has been shown to reduce tension, elevate mood, and improve sleep. As little as 5 minutes of exercise per day can help to reduce feelings of anxiety.
AmeriHealth. (2018). Stress fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.amerihealth.com/worksite_wellness/employer_toolkits/stress_awareness.html
Anxiety and Depression Association of America. (n.d.). Physical activity reduces stress. Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st
Robinson, L., Smith, M., & Segal, R. (2019). Stress management. Retrieved from