Stress is a part of life and can’t always be avoided. It’s important to learn how to manage stress and find techniques that work for you to relax. This is not only important for our mental health, but our physical health as well. According to a study published in 2008 about the effects of stress on health, “…individuals who are optimistic and have good coping responses may benefit from such experiences and do well dealing with chronic stressors (Garmezy 1991, Glanz & Johnson 1999). In contrast, if stressors are too strong and too persistent in individuals who are biologically vulnerable because of age, genetic, or constitutional factors, stressors may lead to disease.”
Here are some techniques that you can use to build resilience and manage your stress in a healthy, adaptive way:
Practice the Four A’s of Stress Management
According to HelpGuide, it’s helpful to think of the four A’s when you are determining how to manage stress, which include “avoid,” “alter,” “adapt,” and “accept.”
- Avoid. There are a number of stressors that you can eliminate to focus more on the stressors that need to be addressed. Learning to say “no,” avoiding people who cause stress, taking control of your environment, and paring down your to-do list are all great ways to sort through your stressors and leave behind the ones who are just causing anxiety.
- Alter. The next step is to “alter the situation” if you can’t avoid it. This might mean expressing your feelings and communicating your concerns, compromising, and creating balance in your life.
- Adapt. Adapting to the stressor helps you regain your sense of control by changing your expectations and attitude, ultimately helping you practice gratitude, look at the big pictures, and reframe the problem.
- Accept. Lastly, practice acceptance that there are some stressors that you just can’t change and understand that you can’t control the uncontrollable.
Get Some Sleep!
According to a 2013 national sleep survey from Gallup, 40 percent of respondents admit to not getting the appropriate amount of rest each night. A healthy sleep schedule can regulate your body’s fight-or-flight response when encountering stressors. If you struggle to sleep due to stress, it is recommended that you try breathing exercises, meditation, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
Healthy Lifestyle Choices
Eating a healthy diet, reducing the amount of caffeine and sugar you consume, avoiding drugs and alcohol…we have heard all of these tips and tricks before–because they work!
Exercise and a balanced diet are both important for managing stress. Exercise, in particular, regulates your stress hormones, improves your sleep quality, and boosts your confidence. Try finding an exercise routine that involves major muscle groups but is also enjoyable.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique introduced by American physician Edmund Jacobson in the 1930s, which involves alternating tension and relaxation in all of the body’s major muscle groups. This technique is designed to reduce stress and anxiety by relaxing the physical tension that you may hold (in your neck, jaw, back, etc.) when encountering stressors.
According to Healthline, “The key with this technique is to tense each muscle group and hold for 5 seconds. Then, you exhale as you let your muscles fully relax for 10 to 20 seconds before you move on to the next muscle group.”
Try out this PMR session if you’re interested!