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The Secret to Stress Management

01/03/2017 03:05 pm ET
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Think back on all of your past experiences. If you’re like most people, you’ll notice the reoccurrence of one particular theme: stress. From personal expectations and daily annoyances to professional deadlines and life milestones, stress is an unavoidable piece of life’s puzzle.

So how do we reclaim control, maintain motivation, and diminish the counter effects of stress? The key lies in mindfully altering our lifestyles, perceptions, and ultimate reactions. 

Relationship Therapy

Every relationship needs work, and our relationship to stress is no different. We experience stress when we perceive ourselves as being unable to manage a certain situation; if we adjust our perspective, our stress response becomes malleable.  

When you undergo the effects of stress, stop yourself, recognize the moment, and make a conscious decision to change course. Take a few deep breaths, relax your muscles, and observe the situation without attaching an emotional reaction to the experience. By choosing to disengage from your panicked mind, you’ll bring yourself down to more level ground, and you’ll soon feel more capable of handling the project ahead.

Breaking Routine

If the clock always seems to be moving too fast, then the issue may have less to do with the hands of time, and more to do with the way you turn them. Build new routines and start moving with the clock instead of against it.

For those tasks that require planning, begin by mapping out everything that must be done and allot time frames to complete each item. In creating this type of schedule, you’re generating the same incentive pull of a deadline without falling victim to counterproductive stress symptoms. With just enough pressure, your self-implemented agenda will help you take a step back, separate your tasks, and decipher the difference between urgent versus important.

For new routines to take hold, continually check-in with yourself throughout the day and ask if what you are doing is beneficial. Are you wasting minutes by pointlessly browsing the web, mindlessly watching television, or staring blankly at the computer screen? Stop yourself in your tracks, focus on what needs to get done, and if you need a break, take a real one.

How Do You Boomerang?

It’s difficult to set aside ten minutes when you feel as though you have none to spare, but by creating this space, you’re effectively stretching time, improving future productivity, and giving your mind the chance think more clearly.

If you’re feeling panicked, physically walk away and re-center yourself. Prepare a cup of tea, call a friend or family member, listen to a favorite song, go for a walk, watch a short comedy or episode of your favorite television show, and allow yourself to smile. Smiling will shift your neurochemical balance towards a more stable state and help you snap through the anxious pathways.

All of these activities, ones which involve making a conscious decision to change course, will bring about a sense of empowerment and control, altering your perspective and encouraging you to believe in your own capability. By further taking this time for yourself, you’ll return to your work feeling confident and refreshed.

Get Moving

It’s time to underline the message: exercise is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your health. You may feel as though you’re simply too busy, but even a brief five or ten minutes of rigorous physical activity is enough to neutralize both the short and long-term effects of stress.

We’ve all heard of the “fight or flight” response, and this is where the benefit of exercise really comes into play. Think of it this way: if we actually do fight or flight, our bodies will stop producing the counter-productive stress hormones. By working up a quick sweat and increasing your heart rate, you’ll bring “fight or flight” to its natural close, allowing you to approach the actual stressor with a greater sense of clarity.

Reclaim Your Reaction

Though stress may be unavoidable, your ability to take control and counter its effects is very real. Face the lion ahead and ask: “how will I fight?” Be aware of how you choose to spend your time: whether you’re working or relaxing, give every moment your full attention. By practicing relaxation techniques, organizing your time, and staying active, you have a concrete ability to change the way you experience life.

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