For some people, it’s the unknown that stresses them out. For others, it’s the known - or what they think they know based on past experiences. Some people start feeling stressed out when they see a certain person or arrive at a certain location. Some of us pretend that nothing bothers us, even though everyone else can plainly see that we’re wound tighter than a spring.
Do you know what kind of stress you have? Does it matter?
Well, as with most things, it depends. Knowing the source of your stress can help you choose the best tool to manage it, and over time learn how to reduce it. In-the-moment techniques like deep breathing, a brisk walk, or using a meditation app are always effective for managing stress throughout the day, but if you’re interested in digging a little deeper and being proactive about stress, consider which categories best describes your stress, and check out these tips for responding.
Has anyone ever told you to get out of your own way? It might be because they see you making life more complicated than it needs to be, either through procrastination, poor time management, or inefficient patterns.
I remember being in the drive-through at a fast food restaurant, staring at the menu and frantically trying to choose something healthy, feeling stress mount as my family grew impatient and the line of cars behind us got longer. The stress I was feeling could have been avoided if I had simply made myself a sandwich instead of relying on fast food. I realized that, and now I don’t leave for road trips without some snacks for myself.
Sometimes more creative thinking is needed. Break down the situation you are in and identify precisely what is stressing you out. In my scenario, it was feeling rushed and having limited options. Naming those feelings helped me choose the right solution.
To address avoidable stress, pay attention to the patterns of your day when you are agitated, and instead of just expressing it, make a note about whether you can do anything to change the scenario in the future. The trick here is to focus on what you can do, not what needs to be done by someone else! We’ll talk about that later.
Imagine sitting in your office or your home and someone coming into the room with a big bucket and saying, “I have a bunch of stress in here, do you want some?” and then they just dump it all on the floor.
This is second-hand stress: the stress that has nothing to do with us but comes into our space. This may be the friend who wants to tell you all about her family drama, or a co-worker who bursts into your office with an emergency that they want to vent about.
Resist the temptation to roll around in that stress. Step back and give people room to be grumpy, dramatic, or angry without taking their stress on to yourself. Just recognizing that you are in the midst of second-hand stress will make this easier to do.
It can be hard at times to pinpoint what is causing feelings of stress. When stress becomes the new normal, it may be from an underlying cause that is unrelated to the situation you’re in at the moment. Financial stress, troubled relationships, feeling unheard or unappreciated, or feeling resentful can make it difficult to enjoy the good times of life because they keep stress at a constant hum.
There are times when the guidance of a professional is needed to be able to resolve underlying stress. None of us are expected to get through life alone, especially the tough spots!
Family strain, medical diagnoses, deaths of loved ones, things that are not our fault but we still have to deal with...it happens to all of us. This is when to call in those tried-and-true resilience tools like deep breathing, yoga practice, meditation, and exercise. We all experience stress in our lives that can’t be avoided; thankfully, we also have the tools that help us cope.
When stress bubbles up, put it in its place. Then, choose the best response and enjoy a quicker path to smooth sailing.