For many people, the idea of managing stress seems like an impossible task, especially if your worries seem to stem from external stressors that are out of your control. Stress management, though, is all about taking charge of your internal processes: your thoughts, your feelings, and the way that you cope with your problems.
In the first post of this blog series, we will be talking about two of the three steps of stress management:
(1) identifying the sources of your stress and (2) identifying your unhealthy coping mechanisms.
The first step to stress management is to identify the sources of stress in your life, which can be found by looking at your bad habits, the excuses that you make, and the attitude you have toward certain activities. Remember what gets your heart pounding or sends your frustration level through the roof, and then objectively view how you handle the situation. Do you tell yourself:
- that the stress you feel is only fleeting because you have a million things going on?
- that stress is part of your personality or daily work or home life?
- that you wouldn’t be stressed if x, y, or z wasn’t happening?
Many people do not understand that they carry responsibility for creating or maintaining stress in their lives, because they view external sources (x, y, or z) as triggers and explain away stress levels as either temporary, out of their control, or part of their daily routine.
The second step to managing your stress is to identify your coping mechanisms. Think about what you do to de-stress yourself when there is a tight deadline at work. Are your coping mechanisms healthy or unhealthy?
- smoke or drink too much;
- overeat or not eat enough;
- take medication or drugs for non-medicinal purposes;
- watch tv or go on the computer for hours;
- sleep too much or not enough;
- lash out with angry outbursts or physical violence; and/or
- withdraw from friends and family?
As many will realize, these are all signs of unhealthy behaviors, and can be symptoms of other mental health disorders, such as depression. Although each of these activities might feel calming at the time, they do little to help your underlying problems, and can actually physically or mentally hurt you in the long run.
In the second part of this blog series, we will be discussing the third step of stress management:
identifying healthy ways to cope with stress.