We are all familiar with that feeling. Something is spiraling out of control or didn’t go quite as expected; chaos is settling in; you feel lost or hopeless. You are not alone and recognizing that is a good first step. Nobody is immune to stress, it happens to the best of us and isn’t always avoidable; here are five things you can do to minimize the impact stress has on your life and manage it before it gets out of control.
#1 Be proactive
Did you know that 3 out of 4 doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments? Or, that stress increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke? That gives a new meaning to the phrase “the stress is killing me”. The first thing you can do to minimize the impact of stress is to make sure your body is prepared to handle those stressful moments. A balanced lifestyle of sleep, diet, including hydration, and physical activity are all necessary for keeping your body and mind strong.
#2 Identify Your Triggers
What is stressing you out? I don’t know or, everything, isn’t an appropriate answer. Create a list of everything that you are currently or have recently stressed about. You may even want to keep a journal. This serves two purposes. First, writing down what is stressing you out forces you to pinpoint the problems. Second, writing it out gives you a chance to reflect on the problem and open your mind to possible solutions; you never know, you may realize that what was stressing you out wasn’t really that intimidating to begin with.
#3 Always be Prepared
We will borrow this tip from the Boy Scouts. There are two approaches here. The first is always be prepared by maintaining an organized environment that minimizes the potential for stress. For example, if you know that money is one of your stress triggers then create a budget that minimizes the risk of that stress. The second approach is to always be mentally prepared to handle unexpected stress. Make sure you have an outlet that you can escape to; going to the gym, a fitness class, a run or walk, meditation, or even enjoying a peaceful glass of wine while indulging in a marathon of Restaurant Impossible episodes. Just make sure your outlet is healthy and allows you undisturbed time to focus on yourself.
#4 Walk Away
Shifting gears to address what can be done to manage the impact of unexpected stress, the first and best thing you can do when you-know-what hits the fan is to walk away. Take a few minutes to understand the problem and avoid overreacting. Try taking deep breaths or meditating. Learn how to self-soothe. This small step will help you regain control and focus. Once you feel that you’ve “reset”, write the problem down and begin addressing it.
#5 Not all Stressors are Created Equal
Money, work, relationships, family, holidays and college football are all causes of stress and the stress-free solution for one isn’t necessarily a solution for the other. Two things to keep in mind are 1. In time it will pass and 2. You are not alone. The majority of your unexpected stresses—those moments when things are “spiraling out of control” will pass in time. Understand what is controllable and what isn’t. If it is out of your control, like college football, then you have to accept that and let it ride its course. If you can control it, then break down the problem and work out a solution. Remember, most likely you are not alone. Reach out to your friends and family for support. Perhaps they have been there before, can help, or, can at least lend an ear to listen or shoulder to cry on. Sometimes venting is all that is needed.