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How to Choose a Stress Management Plan

Updated on April 2, 2013

About the Author

I am a human being with six decades of life experiences. I am subject to the effects of situations and human interactions that can lead me to feel anxious, depressed or deflated. As such, I am on my own journey to learning to better cope with stress and am happy to share that journey with others.

Stress Management Is All About How to Handle Stress

As adults, we can all agree that Benjamin Franklin's axiom, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," has merit. Through life experiences we've learned that acting to prevent something from happening is much easier than dealing with the effects of a situation after it's happened.

That's what a stress management plan is -- your ounce of prevention against the anxiety, depression and even anger that dealing with stress-producing events can provoke. Just as you are a unique individual, with your own unique life and life experiences, the stress management tools you choose and develop over time will be unique to you.

I had a friend who threw herself into housework when she was feeling tense and anxious. By the end of the day she'd not only alleviated her stressful feelings, but had a clean house to show for it. I tried that method of stress relief, but found it not so therapeutic for me.

Why would it work for one person and not another? I suspect it was due, at least in part, to her perspective about housecleaning versus mine. I found myself becoming increasingly resentful that my partner was out and about enjoying the day while I was "stuck" with boring, repetitive tasks. That's why one person may choose a morning walk to start the day off on the right foot, while the same potential stress-reducing activity may not appeal to another person.

So it is with stress management techniques, whether they be meditation, massage, physical activity, guided imagery, mindfulness-based stress reduction or one of the many other techniques and methods available for adding to your stress management plan -- no one or two or three techniques is going to work exactly the same for everyone. Fortunately, you don't have to be concerned with everyone. You need only work toward managing your stress.


Tips for Stress Management

Chances are that your stress management plan for the workplace and the one you have for home will be slightly -- or greatly -- different, depending on your choices for stress-busting and stress reducing techniques.

For instance, if you choose a daily yoga routine, positive affirmations and guided imagery as weapons in your personal stress management arsenal at home, the use of yoga and guided imagery may not be conducive to an office setting or an air traffic controller.

Be prepared to become familiar with and to practice several techniques to have in your stress management "tool box." You will ultimately benefit from having many options to avoid and banish anxiety, burn-out and depression.

Learn to manage stress before it manages you.
Learn to manage stress before it manages you. | Source

Identify the Sources of Stress in Your Life

Before you can develop a strategy to reduce the feelings of stress, you first need to identify what things in your life result in you negative feelings. This will likely take more than a day or two and necessitates that you keep a journal or other written compilation of your stressors. It is important that each one goes from a possible nebulous idea in your mind to concrete words or phrases describing it.

Recording your stressors over a one to two week period will give you a fairly accurate idea of those events and situations where you respond by feeling anxious or deflated. It is also important to record your reactions to the stressors; you'll gain some important insights into yourself and into those things you do now that aren't aiding your stress management.

Identify Your Positive and Negative Coping Skills

During the same time that you're writing down those things that stress you, also notice what strategy you currently use to deal with each stressor. Your current tools for dealing with stress-provoking events may range from outwardly ignoring the situation to becoming loud and impatient. Try not to change the usual coping methods you've used, so during the evaluation phase of developing a stress management plan you will see an accurate picture of yourself.

A Stress Management Tip

Evaluate Your Causes of Stress and Your Current Coping Skills

After the one to two week period of recording those things that cause you stress and your current stress coping skills, take the time to pull each of the stressors from your notes and put them into a list. From the list, prioritize them as to their importance to you with being able to cope with each stressor

Then it's time for you to look at the stress coping skills you've been using. List them one by one and note whether each one is currently effective or not. If you're satisfied that any skills which are now effective will be adequate in the future, there is no need to change those. You'll certainly want to look for other ways to deal with stressors for which your present coping skills are ineffective.

Steps to Finding and Choosing Stress Reduction and Stress Relief Techniques

* Learn about the various stress reduction and stress relief techniques: Open your mind to the possibilities. Don't rule anything out until you learn something about it. Books, magazines and the internet abound with resources. Your health care provider, spiritual adviser or mental health professional may have suggestions and ideas for the asking.

Here are some resources to get you started:

* Stress Management Techniques

* National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

* Ways to Relieve Stress

* Stress Relievers: Top 10 Picks to Tame Stress

* Mindfulness

* Begin choosing a method or technique that appeals to you: You may begin with something basic and add on as you learn more about yourself and the various techniques and methods. You may find that one or two basic changes help to reduce and relieve your stress. Consider, too, that you want to prevent stress in the future; is there a technique that appeals to you for ongoing stress management?

* Be realistic in your expectations: Know that most changes don't occur over night. Give yourself and the chosen stress-busting technique(s) time to work together to determine if you're reaping any benefits. Conscious changes to ways of thinking and being may take even longer before you work all the "kinks" out. Remember, it takes four weeks to six weeks for a new habit to form.

Now It's Time to Learn to Manage Stress

You've done all the footwork you needed to do before you begin to choose a stress management plan. Make no mistake, the time and effort that went into the initial stages will be rewarded now that the time has come to make changes.

  • Look at your list of stressors. Is there anything on the list that can be avoided altogether? If so, that will be the first step of your stress management plan.
  • Work to change those stressors that cannot be avoided. This is where skills such as assertiveness, improved communication, guided imagery, meditation or other stress management skills will be the most useful. Choose as many as you want, but choose at least two or three, so you'll always have some coping skill to use in nearly any situation.
  • Realize you are not in control to change every situation that causes you negative feelings, but you do have choices as to how you react.

Before you become anxious or feel defeated by the stress management plan you are developing, be realistic about your expectations. Learning to change your current behavior into something more positive won't happen overnight. Celebrate the little victories along the way, such as when you dealt with a gossiping friend assertively or avoided making a luncheon date with a noxious in-law. Each success will breed more success; your life should slowly but surely have less anxiety and depression as you actively steer your own course.


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    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      MsDora, thank you for the read and comments. A person could spend much time trying to determine the best approaches for reducing stress, which could produce its own anxiety. I think it makes the most sense to consider one or two stress-relieving techniques and give them a try -- you never know, it may work out wonderfully.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 5 years ago from The Caribbean

      Very good pointers for stress management. I enjoyed the tips from your Karyn Buxman video. Thank you!

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 5 years ago from Oklahoma City

      Bumpershoot, what a great question! Yes, I believe the same stress-relieving techniques that you use for negative stress works just as well for stress brought on by positive events. Taking time out for ourselves is important on a daily basis, whether that be exercise, meditation, a soothing bath or whatever.

      I appreciate the read and the opportunity to add important information in response to your question.

    • bumbershoot profile image

      bumbershoot 5 years ago

      Thanks for your hub! As we all know, positive events can be stressful as well. A new baby, a wedding, a new house, a new job. Can, and should, we use the same stress techniques for positive events as we would negative ones?