Stress is an inevitable part of life.
Whilst I do try to keep my stress under control for the most part, every so often I feel it come creeping in as a feeling of being simultaneously overwhelmed and drained. Unfortunately for me, I have found that stress and study tend to go hand in hand. I am going through one of those periods right now. With just over 2 months of my Masters left, it is starting to hit me that I have a lot to do in a very short space of time.
Most have us have been there. Whether it is a huge amount of stress (going for a big job interview) or just a little (can’t find anything to wear) we are bound to be in situations and go through periods that just stress us out. After all, stress is generally the way that we react to demanding situations.
Depending on how we handle it, a small amount of stress can actually be a good thing. It can provide us with the motivation that we need to succeed in whatever we are doing, it can build character, and it can help us think outside of the box to handle challenges.
However, for the most part, not dealing with stress can have many negative impacts on our health and how we deal with situations. None of us can afford to mess with our health, or compromise our chances of success in whatever we are doing. I know that I can’t. Nor do I want to. Which is why as soon as I start to feel stressed now, I try to take a step back and evaluate the situation and the best course of action before I let the stress take over.
Whilst we all have different ways of handling our own stress, here are some practical tips for dealing with stress that I find particularly helpful.
Find the source of the stress. What is causing you the most amount of stress? What can you remove? After you have removed those things that are causing you unnecessary stress, you can then start to put your energy into handling the other stressful things in your life.
Control the controllables. Oftentimes when we are stressed, we focus on the things that we can’t do anything about – the looming deadline, the reactions of our families and friends about a certain situation etc… Doing this can make us feel powerless and out of control. When faced with a stressful situation, instead of looking at those things that we have no control over, try looking at the things in life that you can control and work on them.
Create healthy boundaries and manage your time. In your work, study and personal life, it is incredibly valuable to set good boundaries early. Create set working times and stick to them. Leave yourself a window when you need to travel anywhere so that you are not worrying about being late. When you are with family and friends, dedicate that time to them. This may not always be easy, but it is such a valuable skill to learn. If you struggle with setting boundaries, his is a great article for ways to build and preserve better boundaries.
Selectively say yes. Saying “no” can be hard. For very good reason. We are scared of missing opportunities, disappointing others or being excluded. That’s why I think that saying “no” is not always the best way to handle stress. Don’t get me wrong, whilst being able to say “no” is important, I believe it is more important to know what to say yes to. This is far more challenging, yet ultimately more rewarding. There are going to be times when you get it wrong, but as long as you prioritise the things that are the most valuable, it will usually work out.
Take care of yourself. This is probably the most important one of all. Eat well, sleep well and exercise. Go to the doctor if you need to. Visit the dentist. Get that much needed haircut. No matter how busy you may be, these should be priorities. Deadlines will come and go. But your body will remain. Stress can have all kinds of negative impacts on your body, including increasing your blood pressure, upsetting your digestive system and causing hormonal imbalances. Looking after your personal grooming and physical health can not only mitigate some of these effects, it can do wonders for your mental health.
Do something you love. It doesn’t need to take long. Go for a drive to a nearby lake or forest. Have a bubble bath. Watch an episode of your favourite TV show. Put on your favourite song and dance around to it. Play a video game. Whatever it is, just take some time out for yourself.
Talk to someone. We are not meant to do life alone. Oftentimes, you may find that others will be very willing to help you out – or can help you find a solution. Even if they can’t, just being about to open up about a situation can make it seem like a massive weight has been lifted off your shoulders.
Don’t be hard on yourself. It’s ok to be stressed. It happens. As long as you have practical steps in place to help you manage it, you can get through it!