Stress Less, Laugh More: A Brief “How To” For Stress Management

What is your definition of “stress?”

According to the Webster dictionary, stress is “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.”

While we may experience stress differently, from different stressors, one thing is the same: stress is an inevitable part of life.

But don’t worry, there are plenty of skills and strategies you can utilize to help manage your stress throughout life. Below are a few strategies you can try out over this month, because April is Stress Awareness Month!

Label things IN your control and OUT of your control

How in the world is labeling going to help with my stress? Well, that is a great question! You see, most of the time we stress about things we have absolutely no control over….can you think of an example?

The weather. Someone else’s feelings.  How much homework a teacher will assign. What question your boss might ask in that upcoming meeting.

These are all examples of stressors that are completely out of your control, unfortunately. Therefore, labeling what is in your control and out of your control is a great first step. If you can recognize something is out of your control, like the weather while on a trip, then you can refocus your attention on things you can control, like packing a raincoat or planning indoor activities. This does not eliminate the stressor, but helps you manage it.

List your priorities

Making a list, really? I know, just hear me out.

I’m sure you have a very, very long list of things tugging at your limited time. How do you decide what to get done and what can wait? Fine tuning this process can help manage the never-ending to-do list and stress that comes with it.

Write out your top 3 to 5 priorities for the day, the week, or the month (whatever timeline works best for you). This is your “needs to get done today, non-negotiable” list. Then you have a “running list” (think of this as a word bank) of all the other tasks you need to do at some point, but maybe they aren’t quite as time sensitive as the top 3-5. Work through your top priority list first, and if you have time leftover you can always add more from your “running list.” This can help you create some order to the many tasks vying for your precious time.

Maintain boundaries

Work-life balance is essential for healthy stress management. This might be a “trendy phrase,” however many people have no idea how to put it into practice. Healthy boundaries with work can look like taking a full lunch break (technology free), setting a strict cutoff time for work emails, creating clear “out of office” auto-replies to protect your personal time, and taking scheduled, short breaks throughout your workday to step away. Remember, the work will always be there when you come back from lunch, a break, or vacation.

Now this is certainly not a comprehensive list, but is a good place to start. Maybe even bring some of these up with your therapist at your next appointment or share with a friend. We’d love to know stress management strategies that work best for you!

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