- Mental Health
5 Effective Ways to Deal with Stress
Ways to Deal with Stress
Stress is a major concern for many people in the U.S. and it’s a growing problem that has affected millions of people’s health. Stress is a psychological symptom of negative external or internal circumstance or events. Unfortunately, stress has a significant effect on the body which can lead to disease and even cause death. If you’re reading this, then you’re seeking ways to relieve the stress you experience and thus relieving some potential health risks as well.
Surprisingly, stress can be managed quite simply, but it does take some work and consistency. I have counseled many people as a substance abuse counselor and probation officer about effective ways to deal with stress and now I am going to share these tips with you. The issue of stress will always plague us as human beings and will destroy us if we let it, but if you follow my tips below, hopefully you will experience some peace. I am in no way stating you will be cured and these are just some basic guidelines. If stress has a serious impact on your life, seek professional help.
Keep you Work at Work!
The biggest stress factor it seems for many people is work. We spend more time at work than with our families and with added responsibilities, job cuts and budget cuts our workload can become extremely demanding. It seems like the 40 hours work week turns into the 50 or 60 hour work week and that doesn’t even include the hours spent on work at home.
There is no easy solution to this problem because we must work to make a living and support ourselves and families. So, what can I do to relieve the stress from work? Well, start by tracking how much time you spend at work and do this for a period of about 2-3 weeks. This will give you an idea of how many hours you truly are spending at work. Don’t forget to track your commute time as well because this can be a stress factor.
After tracking, analyze where you could cut back and if it’s not possible to cut back any hours then at a very minimum stop bringing work home with you. Whatever you can’t accomplish at the office will have to wait until tomorrow. It will still be there and chances are no one completed it for you, so there’s no sense of worrying about it. This alone can have huge benefits for you and your family.
But wait, there’s still the issue of taking work home mentally. What can I do about that? This is where finding an activity that interests you can help alleviate the psychological stress of taking work home. See the remainder of the article on way to help with this.
Stress Management: Recreational Activities
As adults this word has no meaning and probably will make you chuckle a bit. No one has time for recreational activities in today’s fast paced culture. I beg to differ and I can almost guarantee you that at least 30 minutes are available to you for some kind of activity. This activity could be running, swimming, biking, martial arts, gardening, walking, and the list goes on and on. The issue that most people face is motivation. After a long day at work the last thing I want to do is try and run 3 miles, not only that, I have a family to take care of.
The easy solution is to either get out of bed 30 minutes earlier or wait until the kids are in bed at night and do some kind of activity then. By the way, cut back on watching television because that doesn’t help and can create more stress if you’re watching for prolonged period of time. If you replace 30 minutes of television watching with 30 minutes of a hobby or activity, you will probably notice a decrease with your level of stress.
The key is to find some kind of productive activity that will take your mind off of work and release the tension stored in your body because that tension and hormones that are produced by stress have to go somewhere and if you’re not providing an outlet, then they create other problems inside your body.
Personally I job 3-4 times per week and find many benefits to this type of activity. I have lost weight, I feel energized afterwards and I feel healthy. I have a very busy life, so I have to wake up earlier than I’d like but it does pay off.
Prayer and Meditation to Relieve Stress
These methods have become increasingly popular in recent years because there is some health benefits associated with these methods. I prefer to focus on prayer since that is where my experience has been and where I have received the most benefit.
Start by finding a quiet place, somewhere you won’t be distracted and bring with you a pen and paper or iPad or whatever you use to take notes. You will find as you attempt to clear your mind a flood of distraction will begin to plague your head. This is when you start writing down what pops up, such as chores that need to be completed, laundry, family issues and so on. Writing these distractions down will keep you from forgetting about them and will place your mind at ease.
The next step is to close your eyes and take several slow deep breaths. This will help slow your heart rate and hopefully brain activity and then next you want to verbalize everything you are thankful for. This places your mind in a positive mode and will help the process. For some people this may be as far as you can get because you’re so used to your mind being cluttered with information, work and family. Even if you start out with just a few minutes of this technique, it’s better than watching television.
As you move forward with this process, spend the first few minutes verbalizing or saying in your head everything you are thankful for and then start verbalizing your concerns which allows you to get off your chest whatever is bothering you. This process is very effective and can have lasting results including peace of mind. Meditation is similar with the exception of verbalizing concerns and giving thanks.
Talk it Out
Having a strong positive support network can help reduce stress immensely. I have found that clients I have counseled with the best outcomes are the one with a strong support network, whether it is friends or family. If you have a loving and caring family or group of friends, congratulations because chances are they help you a great deal with your problems. It’s a good idea to have a balance of family and friends you can discuss issues with because while your spouse may love you, he/she probably does not want to hear about the same problems over and over, day after day. Give him/her a break and share your concerns with friend you trust or other family member.
For those of you that do not have a strong support network, then find one. Again, I can’t stress how important this is in a time of need. Find a club or organization where others share the same interests as you and get involved. Find a church you feel comfortable with and get involved. Find a local charity you’re interested in and start serving. Also, you could start seeing a therapist to discuss problems that will listen empathetically and provide you with some self-guidance. These activities will provide an outlet for stress relief and a great way to meet new people. Start building your network right now!
Therapeutic Remedies for Stress
There is always the possibility to pursue professional health when stress becomes overwhelming of you just need someone to talk to. You could seek a therapist, psychologist or even a psychiatrist. These professionals have been trained and should be experienced in stress relief.
If this is not an option, try writing out your concerns on paper, perhaps a letter to someone you’re frustrated with, just don’t mail it out. You could write poetry or song lyrics if you’re musical. I often enjoy listening to music when I’m stressed. It helps me focus my attention on the song and lyrics and how it makes me feel. I also enjoy taking my dog for a long walk because I focus on him and having fun. Just about anything positive can be used to relieve stress. With that statement comes a warning: abusing alcohol and/or drugs or taking your stress out on someone else physically or emotionally are not effective ways of dealing with stress. In the long run these avenues will take its toll on you and will ultimately cause more problems than their worth.