Take the next step toward stress management

Once you've identified the unhealthy reactions you may be having to uncontrolled stress, you can begin to improve your stress management skills. Stress management techniques abound, including:

  • Scale back. Cut back on your obligations when possible. While it may seem easier said than done, take a close look at your daily, weekly and monthly schedule and find meetings, activities, dinners or chores that you can cut back on or delegate to someone else.
  • Prepare. Stay ahead of stress by preparing for meetings or trips, scheduling your time better, and setting realistic goals for tasks both big and small. Stress mounts when you run out of time because something comes up that you didn't account for — build in time for traffic jams, for example.
  • Reach out. Make or renew connections with others. Surrounding yourself with supportive family, friends, co-workers, or clergy and spiritual leaders can have a positive effect on your mental well-being and your ability to cope with stress. Volunteer in your community.
  • Take up a hobby. It may seem cliche, but when you engage in something enjoyable, it can soothe and calm your restless mind. Try reading, gardening, crafts, tinkering with electronics, fishing, carpentry, music — things that you don't get competitive or more stressed out about.
  • Relax. Physical activity, meditation, yoga, massage and other relaxation techniques can help you manage stress. It doesn't matter which relaxation technique you choose. What matters is refocusing your attention to something calming and increasing awareness of your body.
  • Get enough sleep. Lack of sufficient sleep affects your immune system and your judgment and makes you more likely to snap over minor irritations. Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a day.
  • Get professional help. If your stress management efforts aren't helpful enough, see your doctor. Chronic, uncontrolled stress can lead to a variety of potentially serious health problems, including depression and pain.

Stress usually doesn't just magically get better on its own. You may have to actively work on getting control of the stress in your life so that it doesn't control you. When you first identify how you react to stressful situations, you then can put yourself in a better position to manage the stress, even if you can't eliminate it. And if your current efforts at stress management aren't working, try something new.

Jul. 23, 2013 See more In-depth