Stress is an unavoidable reality of life in today’s world. You can’t beat it entirely, and you can’t live without it. The goal of managing stress isn’t to be completely without stress. After all, some stress is healthy for you.
You can’t completely avoid stress—it’s a natural, physical response—but you can work to avoid the situations that cause you the most stress and anxiety. Here are a few suggestions for preventing stress in the first place.
Identify Your Stressors
Sometimes identifying your stressors is easier said than done. In most cases, it will be fairly obvious: a bad relationship, a poor work environment, or health concerns, for example. In other cases, finding the root causes of your anxiety and stress may be more challenging.
Keep a daily journal and record when something causes you undue stress or anxiety. Is it a particular person or place? When do you feel the most “on edge” during the day? When you start to see patterns, you will be able to recognize what increases your stress, and you will be better able to plan ways to avoid it.
Avoid Your Controllable Stressors
If you know that grocery shopping on Monday evenings rattles you because the lines are always so long and everyone’s picked through the best produce before you get there, change your schedule and shop on another evening. You can change your routine much faster than you can change the number of people who shop on Mondays with you.
It might feel nice to rattle off all the non-profits you volunteer with, and you may feel good about filling your calendar with bake sales and charity events. But at the end of the day, you may be stretching yourself too thin.
Set priorities around the groups you’re most passionate about, and only dedicate your time to those. Learn to say no when you absolutely cannot take on anything else, and don’t look back. You’ll be healthier and happier for it.
Try Not to Get Overwhelmed
You have a report due by the end of the day, two memos that need to be written, and an e-mail inbox that’s overflowing. Think you can multitask? Think again.
Research suggests we’re not all as capable of doing more than one thing as we think. But where do you start? First, make a list. This helps you see what’s on your plate so you can better recognize what can wait and what needs your attention now. Then number the items and complete them one at a time.
Involve Other People
Talk to your spouse, children, parents, friends, and coworkers. Let them know you’re working to reduce the amount of stress you deal with, and ask for help when you need it. They can help you identify stressful situations before they’ve become more than you can handle. They can also help you organize your schedule or let you vent frustrations about stressful situations.
Be open to their advice and help. It’s possible they have faced similar situations and have information than can be of benefit to you. And don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Sometimes talking through a problem or a conflict helps you better understand how you can avoid it in the future.
Something we’re likely to skip when stressed is exercise. However, exercise is good for your physical health—it helps combat the toll your body takes due to stress—as well as your mental health. Regular exercise improves your mood and naturally lowers the symptoms of anxiety and stress. This gives you a much-needed boost of confidence that helps you resist succumbing to stress in the future. Physical activity can also help you sleep better. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise each day.
Become an Optimist
When you become worried or feel your stress level increasing, try to inundate yourself with positive thoughts and experiences. Listen to music, watch a funny video online, or call a friend who makes you laugh. Over time you’ll learn to meet negativity with a positive reaction. A positive attitude will keep you from slipping back so easily into feeling overwhelmed.