We all know what it feels like to be stressed out. Our mind races, we feel overwhelmed, anxious, irritable, and sometimes depressed. Small problems tip us over the edge because we haven’t got all our other problems “under control.” We just don’t want to deal with life anymore. I had a tendency to get easily overwhelmed and have worked hard to improve my ability to handle stress.
Here are the 7 strategies that have proven to work best for me over the years:
1. Determine if you’re stressed about something you CAN change, or something you CAN’T change
You should be able to know which kind of stress it is with a little bit of reflection. By knowing this, you can proceed with handling the stress more effectively. Is it one thing you’re afraid of? Is it one problem that seems insurmountable? Are you overwhelmed with too much on your plate? Or do you feel stuck and unable to change an undesired situation?
2. Don’t make excuses. TAKE ACTION!
Don’t complain if you’re not going to take any steps toward changing your situation. Don’t make excuses or put off doing things that could help you. Don’t listen to your thoughts that say there’s no point in trying.
Make a plan of action. f you’re stressed because of an unknown, figure out a way to get more information. If you’re afraid of not having enough money, figure out how you might be able to make more.
I like to write to-do lists in my phone where I can check things off, and write down events and reminders to call people etc. in my phone’s calendar with reminders turned on. Prioritize and be realistic about what you can accomplish. If you try to take on too many tasks you won’t accomplish any of them.
Follow through on your plan: Set a reminder or alarm in your phone if that’s what it takes.
Reevaluate: If things change and you either can’t follow through on your plan or it’s no longer applicable, go back and make a new plan of action.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl
3. If there’s nothing you can physically do, adjust your mindset
Sometimes what you’re feeling stressed about is outside of your control. If that’s the case, there is still one thing you can change, your perception.
4. Know the real cause of stress
The real cause of stress is not actually what’s happening in your life, it’s what’s happening in your mind. Often, we blame other people and things that happen as the source of our stress, but the truth is those things are not the real culprit. How you perceive things (what you think about everything), is the real source of your stress. Sure, some things are harder or easier to get stressed about. But if you understand stress comes from your mind, it’s easier to handle when a stressful situation is outside your control.
5. Don’t resist your thoughts and feelings
When you resist what is, you suffer. If you criticize yourself, fight your thoughts and feelings, or worry about feeling stressed, you will only feel worse. Stress can actually be a motivator for making positive change. Try to accept the fact that you feel stressed, and use it to your advantage instead of resisting how you feel.
6. Ask yourself, what am I afraid of?
If you want to know the real underlying source of your stress, look for what scares you the most. Stress is really fear in disguise. We feel fear, or stress, when we are afraid of losing something. It doesn’t have to be loss of anything obvious or physical – it could be loss of security, loss of love, loss of respect or status, loss of freedom, etc.
After you’ve determined what you’re afraid of, examine that fear to see how realistic it actually is. Fear does not come from the rational part of our minds. Many fears are over embellished and unrealistic once we put them in the light of truth. Think of as many things as you can, that you know are true, that disprove your fear.
7. Don’t force yourself to think positively
You’ve probably heard about how positive thinking is good for you. Yet, maybe you’ve noticed times where you just can’t do it. Trying to think positively when I’m stressed never works for me. Trying to change my thinking from one extreme to another only frustrates me. I’m not saying positive thinking is bad, but I think doing it consciously has its time and place.
I think feeling stressed indicates something that needs adjusting in your life or in your mind. If you only try to think positively instead of investigating why you feel how you feel, you may miss opportunities for growth and change.
“Ten years from now, you’ll laugh at whatever’s stressing you out today. So why not laugh now?” – Tony Robbins
When you feel stressed, first determine whether things are inside or outside of your control. If you can physically do something, make a plan and take action! When stressors are outside of your control, remember that the real cause of stress is what’s happening in your mind in response to life. Don’t resist your thoughts and feelings.
Try to accept how you feel and use stress as motivation. Explore your fears that may be behind your stress and then disprove them. Don’t force yourself to think positively without first addressing the reason you are stressed.