By: Larry Studt, M.D., Occupational Health & Medicine Program, Sacred Heart and St. Joseph Hospitals
There's no getting around it: life can be stressful. The phone keeps ringing; your kids need to be in three different places at once; and your boss just gave you an unworkable deadline. Sometimes you feel like you just can't handle any more stress.
Take heart! There are some ways to deal with stress in your life in a positive manner. First, you need to identify what exactly is making your life stressful. Using a stress journal can be helpful in this regard. Each time you feel stressed, take a moment to track it in a journal. Write down what caused you stress, how you handled it, and how you felt afterward. Journaling can help you discover what the stress impetus is. For example, you know you feel stress from deadlines. However, the journal can help you determine if it's the deadline for a project that's stressful, or the fact that you procrastinate right up to the last minute of your deadline before completing a project. If it's the latter, work on how to stop procrastinating to give yourself more time to meet deadlines.
Once you've identified your stressors, take a look at how you cope with stress. Do you use unhealthy habits to relieve stress, such as drinking too much, overeating, withdrawing from family and friends, or lashing out at those around you? If so, you need to make some positive changes in your life.
There are many healthy ways to cope with stress. This may include spending time with a loved one or friend who has a positive outlook on life. Adopt a healthier lifestyle with more exercise, better sleep and eating habits, and less alcohol. Set aside some time to relax and recharge, partaking of your favorite pastimes, such as reading a good book, taking your dog for a walk, or, if you're like me, singing! Finally, don't bottle up your feelings inside; express them calmly and rationally, and remember it's OK to say "no" to requests that seem overwhelming.
Finally, while it's always good to try to avoid stressful situations, sometimes it's just not possible. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, take some deep, calming breathes, try to keep the situation in perspective, and maintain a positive attitude.
Ways to reduce stress
Stress management starts with identifying the sources of stress in your life.
A stress journal can help you identify the regular stressors in your life and the way you deal with them. Think about the ways you currently manage and cope with stress in your life. Are they unhealthy?
If your methods of coping with stress aren't contributing to your greater emotional and physical health, it's time to find healthier methods such as:
Be sure to watch the "Ask the Doc" video to learn more!