Take charge of stress in your life

Everyone has stress. It’s how you deal with it that counts. When you think about your life right now, how would you rate your level of stress?

0–3: you’re relaxed, content, and feeling carefree. You’ve learned to effective ways to manage stress.

4–6: You have good days and bad. Some days you feel in control of the stress, other days you feel overwhelmed.

7–10: It’s time to make some major life changes. Stress is beating you down and negatively affecting your quality of life.

If you rated your stress level over a five, this article is for you. We don’t live in a perfect fairytale world. Things go wrong, work is hard, and people are mean. The way you react to the imperfect world will determine how stressed out you let yourself get.

When you find yourself feeling under pressure, overwhelmed, short-tempered, irritable or impatient, chances are you are stressed. The first step in stress management is determining the source of stress.

Take a close look at your work, your relationships, your finances or your own personal problems (you procrastinate or you’re a worry wart). The source of stress may be hard to identify, especially if you’re responsible.

Often, there are multiple things that stress you out. If you need help naming your stressors, try keeping a journal to track your stress. Once you’ve pinpointed where the stress originates, you can move on to the next step.

Many times, the stressors in your life are unavoidable. But sometimes there are ways to lessen it. Look at the list you made of your stressors. Consider what changes you could make in your life to lessen the stress or avoid it completely.

Stress is often caused by the busyness of life, so learn to say no. Cut unnecessary things from your schedule. Hate your job or have a cruel boss? Start looking for a new job that you’ll enjoy. Don’t get along with your spouse or teenagers? Make an appointment for professional counseling together.

What’s your normal way of dealing with stress?

Drinking, overeating, smoking, withdrawing from friends and family or bottling it all up until you’re ready to explode are common coping mechanisms. You may find that these bring you relief for a little while, but in the end they only compound the stress in your life. 
Instead of using these short-term solutions, it’s time to adopt healthy ways of responding to stress. Here are a few ideas.

Call a friend and talk it out. A listening ear and some good advice are sometimes all it takes to make it through the day.

Go for a walk. Exercise is one of the best ways of dealing with stress. It relaxes and energizes you. Rather than turning to food for comfort, take a run to burn off steam. Start getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and watch your stress level go down.

Take a hot bath, drink a cup of tea, light some candles, and listen to music that relaxes you. Let the tension of the day melt away.

Change the subject and do a hobby you enjoy. Curl up and read a good book, go for a hike, put together a puzzle or work in the garden.

Eat a healthy diet. Nutritious food will give you the energy and clarity of mind to effectively deal with stress.

Get enough sleep each night. Being tired will only make symptoms of stress worse.

Practice deep breathing exercises during those times you feel your blood pressure rising.

Regardless of what is causing your stress and what helps you overcome it, find a stress-relieving technique that works for you and stick with it.

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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