Pressures, demands and worries that make you feel tense are facts of life. The key is to keep them within manageable limits. Some stress can be good, but too much can interfere with your normal activities and contribute to many medical problems, some serious. For example: fatigue, headaches, cramps, prolonged depression, heart disease, ulcers, and colitis result from stress. Steps you can take to protect yourself against stress include:
- Be Realistic: Set practical goals-don't expect the impossible. Try not to tackle too much at one time.
- Limit Changes: Avoid making too many major changes in your life at one time. Allow an adjustment period for each change.
- Talk It Over: Discuss problems with the people involved, or with a close friend, before tensions build up.
- Plan Your Work: Organize your workload to use time and energy efficiently. Ask for help if the workload seems overwhelming.
- Learn To Relax: Taking short breaks, weekend getaways, or vacations can help. Take a class in yoga or meditation. Doing something to relax every day is highly recommended. Regular exercise helps too.
- Improve Your Environment: Rearrange your office, redecorate your apartment, etc. Little changes can help you feel in control and give you a lift.
- Seek Professional Help: Don't ignore physical symptoms of stress. Consult your physician for treatment, advice, or referral.
In order to deal with stress most effectively, we all must develop skills in a variety of areas of our personal lives: Physical, Mental, Spiritual, Family, Interpersonal, and Diversion. If there are any of these areas that are lacking in skill development, then we're less able to handle the stress, both normal levels and extraordinary levels, that comes our way in everyday life. You can use the following lists to do a "self evaluation" of the skills you already use; and, you may also get some ideas of skills you can add to your life to help you better handle your stressors.
Physical Skills: These coping skills help you build up your stamina and include relaxation, nourishment, self-care, exercise, biofeedback, and stretching.
Mental Skills: Using your mind to cope more effectively with stress includes time management, problem solving, life planning/goal setting, organizing, re-labeling, and imagination.
Spiritual Skills: Trusting and believing in a "greater power" is a great source of strength and can help relieve stress if you commit yourself to others in a meaningful way, pray, have faith, seek meaning and purpose in life, surrender your problems, value those things you identify as important in your life, and celebrate both life and death.
Family Skills: Our closest network of people can be used to strengthen our coping skills if we balance our commitments, practice togetherness, network, engage in mutual esteem building, resolve conflicts positively, and stay flexible.
Interpersonal Skills: In order to build healthy and productive relationships in our lives we must affirm our belief in ourselves and trust in others, initiate contacts, express our feelings, share our burdens with others, be assertive about our wants, needs and feelings, and set personal limits or boundaries and accept the boundaries of others.
Diversion Skills: Discovering creative types of escapes is a great way to reduce tension and stress. Escapes can be found by engaging in the learning experience, appreciating music and the arts, volunteering, getting away and daydreaming, spending time alone, developing hobbies, and playing.
And remember, always try to focus on the things you have control over in your life, as opposed to the things you don't have control over.