Updated: May 4, 2021
How to Get Your Stress Under Control
Stress management is a critical skill to have because no one is immune to stress. It’s a normal response to a lot of situations, and unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of it completely.
But sometimes, your stress levels can become excessive.
And when that happens, it can take a huge toll on your physical and mental health. You may find yourself battling depression, anxiety, and anger issues — not to mention a host of physical problems, like fatigue and loss of sleep. But the good news is that it is possible to get your stress under control, before it wreaks havoc on your health. You can do this by learning to:
Identify the sources of your stress
Recognize the symptoms of stress
Develop techniques that help you manage your stress
Each of these steps is described in more detail below. But while the steps are simple, it’s usually not very easy to do on your own. If stress is affecting the quality of your life, it’s important to get help. A Health & Wellness Coach can guide you through each of these steps, and provide you the insights, resources, and support you need to effectively manage your stress.
Stress Management Starts with Identifying the Sources of Stress
The first step to stress management is identifying the causes of your stress.
Sometimes this is easy, if it’s a major event like:
Death in the family
Or you may be dealing with ongoing stress due to other external factors like:
Conflicts with family or friends
But often, internal factors also affect your stress levels — either alone, or together with external factors. These might include:
Negative thoughts about yourself
Unreasonably high expectations
Fears and anxieties
Feelings of uncertainty or lack of control
If you’re stressed because of a certain situation, these thoughts and feelings can make it worse.
To uncover all the sources of your stress, you’ll have to look at both external and internal factors.
In particular, you’ll have to take an honest look at your habits and attitude. For example, do you accept stress as a “normal” part of your life? Do you think it’s just a part of your personality? Do you always blame stress on other people? By answering these kinds of questions, you can start to take responsibility for how you might be creating stress for yourself, too.
Of course, it’s not very easy to look at our situation and behavior objectively. By working with a Health & Wellness Coach, you can get a better understanding of what’s driving your stress, and you can learn how to respond in a different way.
Identifying the Symptoms of Stress
In the next step of stress management you’ll also have to learn how to recognize your symptoms as early as possible. Everyone responds to stress differently. It can affect your body, your mind, and/or your behavior. For example, you might experience one or more physical symptoms, like:
Loss of sex drive
Or you might notice mood changes or other symptoms, like:
You should also pay attention to how your behavior may change in response to stress. Many common coping mechanisms do more harm than good. This might include:
Overeating or undereating
Excessive use of alcohol, nicotine, or drugs
With the help of a Health & Wellness Coach, you can learn to identify the different ways you respond to stress. Armed with this information, you’ll be able to take action as early as possible to manage your stress before it gets out of control.
Ways to Reduce and Manage Stress
Getting your stress under control doesn’t mean you have to completely redesign your life. There are a lot of small stress management steps you can take that can make a big difference over time.
A Health & Wellness Coach can help you explore various stress management methods and determine which methods will work best for you. Below are several changes you might make as part of your stress management plan.
One of the biggest causes of stress is taking on more than you can handle.
When planning your schedule, you should be realistic about what you can get done. For each item on your list, ask yourself: is it really necessary? Or can you delegate it to someone else? Remember — there’s no reason why you need to do everything yourself, whether at home, at work, or elsewhere.
It’s also important to learn to say “no” to unnecessary demands on your time. This takes practice. You have to learn what your limits are and stick to them!
Get organized and manage your time
Even if you cut down on your to-do list, you might still feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to do. This is where good organization and time management habits come into play.
An easy way to start getting organized is to declutter your space, use a calendar, and make to-do lists. If you have a big task, break it into manageable steps and focus on one step at a time.
It also helps to plan your day and stick to your schedule. Tackle your tasks in order of importance. This means you should do the most difficult task first! Procrastinating allows dread to build over the course of a day, which causes even more stress.
And lastly — don’t forget to take regular breaks. This can be a short walk, or even just closing your eyes for a moment. This will help you stay sharp and fight off fatigue.
Strive for balance and maintain hobbies
Stress often creeps up when you’re consumed by one thing all the time. This is why it’s important to strive for balance among all areas of your life — work, family, social activities, hobbies, other responsibilities, and “you” time.
When you take care of yourself in this way, you’ll be able to handle stressful situations better. In fact, research has shown that hobbies have both psychological and physical benefits. They fight burnout and give you time to recover. They also give you something to look forward to during stressful times.
No matter how busy you are, give yourself permission to rest, and make sure you do something you enjoy on a regular basis.
Spend time with loved ones and express your feelings
Research has shown that a solid social circle is associated with better mental and physical health, including lower levels of stress.
This isn’t surprising. Many people find a lot of comfort in spending time with the people they love. To help control your stress levels, make it a point to regularly spend time with the people in your life who bring you joy.
And if you’re going through a stressful period, don’t be afraid to lean on someone who’s supportive and empathetic. This could be a trusted friend, family member, coach, or therapist.
Whoever you’re talking to doesn’t have to “solve” your problem. Sometimes there are situations that you can’t change. But just the act of having someone listen to you can relieve some stress! It can also help you avoid other less healthy coping mechanisms, like alcohol and drugs.
Prioritize your health
One of the best stress management strategies is to manage your health, especially in the following areas:
Exercise. Exercise is a proven and powerful stress reliever. It releases endorphins that elevate your mood, increases energy and focus, and helps clear your mind. For most healthy adults, all it takes is getting your body moving for at least 30-minutes on most days. You can even break the activity up into two or three sessions.
Sleep. While stress can cause insomnia, not getting enough sleep can cause even more stress. Most adults need around 7-9 hours of sleep. If you’re not getting enough, it’s harder to maintain emotional balance and cope with stressful situations. You’ll be much more irritable and unable to think clearly.
Nutrition. Different diets work for different people. But you should make sure that you’re getting the nutrients you need. Eating the right way can help you stay focused and energized and prevent mood swings. In particular, be weary of excessive caffeine or sugar. They can give you temporary highs, but usually leave you feeling lethargic and affect your sleep quality, too.
Also, be mindful of whether you’re relying on alcohol, nicotine, or drugs to temporarily reduce stress. The effects of these substances eventually wear off, and they never solve the problem — only mask it. And because they often result in dependence, your stress is likely to get worse over time. If you find yourself struggling with these issues, be sure to seek help.
Work on your mindset
This is a big one. While external factors often trigger stress, the wrong mindset can cause your stress to skyrocket. Whenever you’re in a stressful situation, take a step back, and try to see if your mindset is making things worse. Below are a few tips.
Remember the big picture. If a situation is stressing you out, think about how much it will really matter down the road. If it won’t matter in the long run, then try not to waste your energy on getting upset over it.
Set reasonable standards. Perfectionism is often a major source of avoidable stress. Always expecting perfection from yourself and others isn’t realistic. No situation is ever going to be perfect — so don’t set yourself up for failure by demanding perfectionism. Just aim to do your best.
Be grateful. Whenever you feel consumed by stress, take a moment to think about all the things you’re grateful for. This can help keep the situation in perspective.
Resist trying to control everything. There are a lot of things in life that you can’t control — especially other people. Instead of putting your energy into trying to control a situation or other people, focus on the things you can Like how you react.
Ask what you can learn. When stressful situations occur, try to not to think of them as unsolvable problems. Instead, think of them as opportunities to come up with creative solutions. And consider what you can learn from the situation. Many difficult situations and even failures are great learning opportunities for growth.
Develop your sense of humor. Laughing is a great stress reliever. Even if you may not feel like it, try to find the humor in stressful situations. It can also help to find others to laugh about your challenges with, or to watch funny shows or movies. While it may take practice, finding humor in difficult situations will help you reduce stress and improve your overall physical and emotional health.
Practice breathing techniques
Breathing techniques are also very effective stress management tactics. How you breathe affects your whole body — and your mind. You’ve probably noticed that your breathing is very different when you’re stressed compared to when you’re relaxed.
For example, think about how you breathe when you first wake up in the morning. Breathing exercises can help you get to a similar state of relaxation. When you breathe deeply, it sends a signal to your brain to calm down. Then your heart rate, breath rate, and blood pressure will all start to decrease. As a result, you’ll feel much more at ease.
Breathing techniques are easy to learn, and you don’t need anything special to do them, either. You can do them anywhere! There are many different methods, so you can experiment and choose the techniques that work best for you. Yoga, stretching, tai chi, and meditation are other options that can help you activate your body’s relaxation response and build resilience.
What to do if you need help with stress management
There are a lot of causes of stress, and a lot of different ways to manage it. If you’re struggling with stress management, it can be difficult to understand the best way to move forward.
Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” solution that works for everyone.
But you don’t need to try to tackle stress all on your own. A certified Health & Wellness Coach can help you on a one-on-one basis with individualized attention and advice on how to best manage your stress.
You’ll discuss your stress issues with your coach, and co-create a plan to manage your stress based on your specific needs. You’ll also receive ongoing evaluations and weekly check-ins to make sure you’re on the right track.
Remember: no matter what’s happening in your life, you don’t need to let stress ruin your mental and physical health.