Recently I asked my Facebook followers to share their questions. Usually, when I do this it turns into a post with several questions and answers, but there was one question this time that was such a big question that I felt like I should dedicate an entire blog post to it.
What is the very best way to cope with Stress ( the psychological kind. )? I know avoidance is the most common answer but I would have to avoid my whole life and that’s not an option.
I know that feeling all too well. We all know that stress greatly impacts our pain and fatigue levels, but we also know that there are so many sources of stress in life that there’s no way to completely avoid it. It also builds up over time unless we figure out how to release it. Dealing with it is another story and how I do so depends on the type of stress. I came up with a few tips for dealing with stress. There are probably others, as well, but these are the ones that come to mind easily.
- Avoid it – if possible avoid the source of stress. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. There are some sources of stress that I can avoid though. I can avoid large gatherings when I don’t have the energy to deal with it. I can avoid certain people that I know will leave me feeling drained. I can also avoid some stress simply by scheduling myself properly. This semester I made a huge mistake by signing up for a 5:30pm class. The time combined with the class itself (no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to take a foreign language) has been a huge source of stress for me -one that I could have avoided.
- Set Realistic Expectations – When I can’t avoid stress I try to set realistic expectations. This applies to setting realistic expectations of both situations and of myself. Early in the semester I had to sit down and just clear off my To Do list. At the start of the semester I had all my normal list items related to working on my blog, writing, and life, then all the school things got added and it was just overwhelming. I had to clear off everything except school and start from there. Then if I have time to do anything else it gets added on a day with very few other commitments.
- Set Boundaries – People are often a major source of stress, and sometimes we just can’t avoid them, but we can set proper boundaries so that they don’t suck the life out of us. If you have people in your life that wear you out but you can’t avoid them, make sure you have strong boundaries. This will help you get through your time with them. Be careful what you share with them, and how much time you spend with them.
- Set Time Limits – This applies to the energy vampires. When you must spend time with them make sure you limit it as much as possible, and let them know up front that you have to leave at X time. But, time limits also applies to everything that you do. Sometimes we end up worn out and psychologically stressed because we simply stayed too long or continued doing something for too long. Use alarms on your phone if you need to to remind yourself to stop working and take a break.
- Breathe – Make sure that you are taking time to breathe. For a while (and I need to do it again) I had an app on my phone that would sound a small chime and remind me to breathe. The simple act of taking 30 seconds to focus on nothing but breathing can greatly reduce stress. It clears the mind and makes it easier to deal with the stressors that surround us (be they people or situations).
- Exercise – Whether it’s yoga, Tai chi, water aerobics, or just taking a walk. Find some way to exercise. I find that yoga and Tai Chi are excellent for helping clear the mind and reduce stress. They are active enough that it’s difficult to think about anything else except focusing on the movement/ pose, but gentle enough that they don’t flare up chronic pain. Group fitness classes can also work because they tend to keep you moving, but I find that sometimes exercising in a group adds stress because I end up feeling self-conscious about my inability to do moves or keep up. Both yoga and tai chi have been shown to actually help reduce not only stress but chronic pain when used regularly.
- Rethink your thoughts – I find that a lot of times my thoughts are the source of my stress. I’ll think I know what someone else is thinking or meaning by their words and it will create stress. What I’ve learned is that many times what i think that person means or is saying is wrong. I am putting ill intentions on them that aren’t there. Instead, I’ve learned to try to give people the benefit of the doubt and consider their positive intentions. Sometimes it’s really hard to think what those might be and sometimes the best thing you can do is ask the person if that’s what they intended.
- Listen to Music – I find music to be a great motivating force in my life. I have playlists for everything, but the one I use the most is what I call my “Happy Happy” list. Every song on it is one that makes me feel good, some make me smile, some even make me laugh (especially when I sing along). Sometimes the best thing you can do is turn the radio up as loud as it will go and scream along with the music. It can really help discharge stress.
So, what is your greatest source of psychological stress? What tips do you have for dealing with stress?