It’s a fact: Life can be stressful. Maybe it’s long lines at the grocery store. Or a short-tempered boss. Aggravating situations happen to everyone. But when the pressures are more than you can cope with, stress can take over.
In the moment, stress can make you feel unwell. Anxiety, headaches, and heartburn are all possible symptoms. Over time, stress can even contribute to serious health problems. It can play a role in depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.
Fortunately, you can use coping strategies to improve your ability to manage stress.
When You’re Stressed
- Look for signs that stress is building. Maybe you feel like you’re rushing around and not getting much done. Or you feel too overwhelmed to do anything. Your muscles may tense and your jaw may clench. Perhaps you’ve developed aches and pains. You may also feel anxious, helpless, angry, or depressed.
- Count to 10. Irritated? Take a breather to collect your thoughts before speaking. Better yet, step away for a few minutes. Even a brief break may give you a chance to think clearly.
- Try some positive self-talk. Reframe negative thoughts in more upbeat terms. For example, don’t tell yourself, “This is more than I can handle.” Instead, think, “I’ll give it my best shot, and ask for help if I need it.”
- Laugh off stress. Crack a joke, watch a funny video, or share a laugh-out-loud picture on social media. Laughter is a great stress reliever.
Ways to Prevent Stress
To stress less in the first place, practice these strategies:
- Take control of your time. Prioritize your daily activities. Decide which are must-do tasks and which can be skipped or saved for later. If possible, say “no” to new tasks when your schedule is full. When the day is over, congratulate yourself on what you have done.
- Get some exercise. As little as 20 minutes of physical activity can dial down your stress level. Do what you like — walking, running, cycling, swimming, tennis, or dancing all count.
- Make time for something fun. Set aside at least a few minutes every day to do a fun activity. Pursue a hobby, read for pleasure, listen to music, or work on a creative project. Whatever makes you happy!
Learn to relax. Practice a method that works for you. Deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or mindfulness are all good choices.
- Stay connected. Supportive family and friends can help you get through challenges.