Feeling stressed? Helpful tips for managing one day at a time
Experiencing moments of stress is simply inevitable. Some live in a constant state of stress while others have moments that are fleeting. Whether fleeting or otherwise, it is rather likely that some form of stress will make an appearance in your everyday life. So, how do you manage daily stress in a world that is full of daily stressors? Implementing a few simple tips can help minimize those intense moments.
Understanding stress. To really combat something, it may first be helpful to understand what you are combating. So, what is stress? Stress can be viewed in various ways, however, two simple ways to categorize stress types are with the labels … physical stress and mental (psychological) stress. Baum (1990) defines mental stress as an “emotional experience accompanied by predictable biochemical, psychological, and behavioral changes.” Simply stated, adverse or demanding circumstances in life cause mental, emotional, biological, and physiological strain.
On the one hand, stress is outright awful and causes pain to manifest in many ways, but on the other hand, stress can be a good motivator. Sometimes it takes a little stress to really give that last needed push to finish an assignment or to meet work deadlines. Exploring daily stressors is important as they have a strong correlation with your feelings. Those daily stressors and our relationship with them have been shown to have greater impacts on our lives than major life events (e.g. widowhood, retirement, loss of a child) (Ward, 2013; Almeida, 2005).
Let’s take a look at the daily stressors we all face and useful tools that can help provide relief.
Interpersonal conflict – As long as you interact with others in any capacity, interpersonal conflicts are bound to happen. The issue may be something as trivial as someone stepping on your beautiful new shoes in the morning on your way to work or it may be more serious, where a strained relationship with a co-worker can cause you to lose your job. Since we don’t have the power to control every situation, it is easy to let anything and everything cause feelings of defeat and hopelessness. But, we don’t have to let that be so. Always remember that while we may not be able to control others or all situations, we do have the power to control ourselves. It is our individual reaction to a given situation that can be the determining factor in how everything turns out. When possible, simply remove yourself from negative situations. If this is not a possibility, practice a simple breathing technique. There are many techniques available and choosing one that best suits you is easy to do. Here is one option provided by the Adrenal Fatigue Solution and you can find others here.
1. Sit down comfortably, or lay down on a yoga mat, depending on personal preference.
2. Place one hand on your stomach, just below your ribcage. Place the second hand on the center of your chest.
3. Breathe in deeply through your nostrils and let your first hand be pushed out by your stomach. Your chest should remain stationary.
4. Breathe out through your lips, pursing them as if you were about to whistle. Gently guide the hand on your stomach inwards, helping to press out the breath.
5. Slowly repeat between 3 and 10 times.
Technology overload – Email notifications, constant social media updates, news notifications, text messaging, and so on truly create unnecessary stress for any modern technology user. The urge to stop current tasks to tend to other things on our cell phones or computers can be intense. But, there are simple ways to fight that urge. Begin by setting specific times during your day to review and/or respond to emails, text messages, social media posts, etc. While you don't have to limit yourself to checking just once per day, it is incredibly helpful to set a realistic limit for your specific situation. Removing certain applications from your cell phone, including email apps will make your transition even easier. The frequent checking of our telephones and computers can lead to a less productive you. As neuroscientists have noted, multitasking drains the energy reserves in our brains and we tire quickly, which is clearly counterproductive.
Busy mornings – Many experience the overwhelming morning rush as we strive to leave the house before it’s too late. The need to leave by a specific time and the many things that have to get done before the doors close behind you is a tremendous stressor. To fix this, you must first prioritize, avoiding the urge to do all things at once. Choose what is of utmost importance and tackle the tasks one at a time. And, don’t be afraid to create lists every day. A huge help can be to do as much as possible the night before (e.g. ironing & meal prep). Remember the morning hours should be dedicated to quickly getting ready for you to start the day. But, in order to make the morning tasks simple and quick, preparation and prioritization are key.
Bad news – Bad news days are tough and can seem unbearable. Your mood can sour in an instant, leaving you unsure as to how to go on. Allow yourself a moment to process the news and immediately focus on keeping calm. You can practice a breathing technique, take a walk, or listen to music or soothing nature sounds. As you work to implement tools to keep calm, remember the pain you feel will pass and you will get through this moment, just as you have all others.
Insomnia – Lack of sleep or poor sleep quality is a major cause of stress. You find yourself to be wide awake as a result of stress, yet you feel even more stress because you are unable to sleep. There are many tools available to help you to relax before retiring for the night. You can find several of those tools on WebMD. But, you can begin by engaging in a relaxing activity that does not involve scrolling through your phone or browsing on your computer! Perhaps reading a book or drinking a glass of warm milk will help, but regardless of the activity, consider taking it outside the bedroom. Return to your room only when you begin to feel drowsy.
Traffic – Traffic can be frustrating as it is something very far out of our control. No matter what we say or do, the traffic will be there until it’s time for it to let up. When you find yourself filled with anxiety, breathing impatiently and clutching the steering wheel, breathe deeply and put on some relaxing music. You may even find listening to inspirational audiobooks or podcasts to really do the trick. View traffic time as “me time”, where you can meditate, plan the remainder of the week, or just relax. In no time, you’ll be exactly where you need to be.
Although we cannot always avoid stress, remember we can control our reaction to the stressful situation. Your reaction will determine whether your stress levels shoot through the roof or whether you stay calm and grounded. Exercising proper stress management tools is a sure way to make everyday life a bit easier.
1. Almeida D. M. (2005). Resilience and vulnerability to daily stressors assessed via diary methods. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 64-68.
2. Baum, A (1990). “Stress, Intrusive Imagery, and Chronic Distress,” Health Psychology, Vol 6, pp 653-675
3. Ward R. A. (2013). Change in perceived age in middle and later life. The International Journal of Aging and Development, 76, 251-267.