It is natural to feel nervous, experience anxiety and worry. Stress is a normal part of day-to-day life, and if you are like me, you probably experience waves of stress and calm. As we rush into the last quarter of 2021, I know that I will be riding the stress wave until our offices close in December.
If I can anticipate the onset of stress and know how to manage stress, can I stress less?
Honestly, I don't think so.
However, I think coping with stress starts with an awareness of the coping mechanisms you currently call on. Unfortunately, our coping mechanisms can be either poor or healthy. Continuously calling on negative coping responses, especially for a prolonged period, can often worsen our stress, wearing us down over time.
Exercise, a healthy diet and a good nights sleep are all critical for managing stress. I know this, and you know it too! However, I also know I'm inclined to pour myself a glass of wine after a particularly stressful day, and my healthy eating habits go straight out the window as I reach for comfort food.
Perhaps this isn't quite the same for you. Other negative coping responses to stress include avoiding friends and family, critical or negative self-talk and even misusing prescription medication.
This month I invite you to become more aware of how you typically handle stress so that you can start to make healthier choices.
The reality is that positive coping responses help keep you rooted in the present moment, allowing you to actively overcome the source of the stress. A glass of wine tonight may help you forget that massive project due by Friday, but you'll still have to face it in the morning (whilst nursing a hangover).
There is a long list of positive coping mechanisms we can employ to help manage our stress. Not all of them will be effective for everyone, and you'll need to try a couple before you find the one (or few) that works best for you.
Our responses to stress can also be emotional or physical. When I'm feeling frustrated, anxious or angry, I call a friend – having someone to listen to you is in itself soothing, but it also helps to have a different perspective and talk things out.
After a long day where I'm feeling drained and exhausted, I'm choosing to settle into bed earlier than usual (instead of visiting the wine cooler). It takes a lot of internal convincing, but even a short walk around the block does wonders for my mood, energy levels and problem-solving abilities.
If all else fails, take a deep breath. You've got this.