Caitlin Dunham is an online student at Southern New Hampshire University. She is majoring in Psychology. Caitlin is a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. She currently volunteers for Heartland Hospice and iCouldBe, but also stays at home to take care of her daughter. Caitlin is passionate about helping others. She hopes to open her own therapy clinic to ensure that members of her community feel that they are not alone.
Stress is a part of our daily lives. It is unavoidable and inevitable. Small amounts of infrequent stress can help exercise the brain to be able to handle stressful situations. If we experience no stress, we will be unable to handle it when it comes. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Too much stress can be detrimental in many ways both physically and mentally, but our society encourages stress. Multi-tasking, always on the go, and having multiple important short deadlines are just a few things that society expects. Many people say they thrive in a high-stress environment especially at work. I am guilty of this! Our everyday stressors cause an effect much like the effects of stress of prey being chased and hunted in the safari. Our body looks to meet only the essential needs during this time and everything else gets put on the back burner. School alone can be stressful at times. Stress management is important to maintain health, happiness, and life longevity.
Before you being the stress management process, you may want to take a stress test. You can find various reliable stress tests on the internet. Some events are more stressful than others and some are life changing. Review common stressful events that can occur and maybe have occurred in your life in the past year. Assess how much overall stress you have experienced even if it is out of your control and jot down your results.
• The first step to managing stress is to know yourself so that you can understand what your stressors are and what triggers those stressors.
Stop and think about your day to day routines. Do you often multi-task numerous projects and tasks even when not at work? Do you take on a lot of obligations? Make a journal of your activities. Be sure to note any event, task, conversation, etc. that stresses you out. After at least a month, review that journal. Find the commonalities amongst your stressors. What were you doing when you felt stressed? What were you doing before you felt stressed? What were you doing after you felt stressed? When did the stressful instances occur? Was the timing consistent or random? What did you do to cope with that stress (i.e. avoidance, meditation, vent to a friend, etc.)?
• Once you have determined what your stressors are and what triggers them, you should learn what methods aid in coping with stressful situations.
Again, refer to your journal to note how you have coped with stress thus far. Be open to trying new ways to cope with stress. Different situations may require different coping methods. My personal favorite coping method is to go to a private room and focus on my breathing for approximately five minutes. Running, talking to family or friends about the stressor, artwork and crafts, or meditation are all great coping mechanisms. Find what works for you.
• Create an action plan.
Maybe you want to reduce your stress, learn how to cope with your stress, or just understand what triggers stress. Start by creating a table in Microsoft Word or Excel stating your goals, the time you wish to achieve your goal, how you will achieve/implement your goal and what you will do daily, weekly, monthly, and/or annually to meet your goals, note any resources that you will need to achieve your goals and how you will obtain those resources, where you are now, where you will be upon goal completion, what obstacles you have/will/could face, what will happen if you don’t meet your goal, what happens if you complete your goal and how will you know that you have completed your goal. Depending on how you like to organize things will depend on how you set up your table. I prefer one table in Excel, but you can do a few different tables in Word.
Be sure to update your action plan frequently as well as analyze all of the information you put in it.
After completing these tasks, you will be sure to learn more about what stresses you out. If your goal is to reduce stress, you are going to be well on your way. Creating an action plan ensures that you won’t forget anything and will help to hold yourself more accountable.
Stress management can be a daunting task at first especially since we are a stress driven society. The benefits outweigh the costs on this one by far. Managing your stress is integral to being happy, healthy and successful. Dedication and commitment are key. Managing stress does not have to be stressful (kind of redundant, I know!). Use your friends and family members wisely. Don’t be afraid to talk to them and ask them to lend an ear or help to hold you accountable. You can achieve whatever you set your mind to!