Stress Management Checklist

Looking to improve your stress levels? Ironically, this can end up being stressful in itself! Knowing you have a problem with stress is of course the first step towards getting better but it also means you now know you have a problem… and it means you have a long road stretched out in front of you to ‘recovery’.

If only there were a stress-free way to manage stress… like a checklist for instance!

Do You Have a Stress Addiction?

The first point of order is to consider the possibility that you may have a stress addiction. Unlikely though it may sound, stress addictions are common as we find ourselves unable to pull away from work and other high intensity activities.

* If you ‘thrive under pressure’ and if you can never take time off, you may well have a stress addiction.
* If you feel bored and fidgety when you’re unwinding, you may have a stress addiction
* If your friends and family complain that they never get to see you, this is a sign of a stress addiction
* If you feel constantly ‘wired’ then you may have a stress addiction.

The first step to overcoming stress then is to recognize that you may feel it’s difficult to change these habits: but you must in order to gain freedom from stress.

Identifying Your Stressors

A good place to start when tackling stress is to look at your stressors. Stressors are things that cause stress and these can include things like work and debt. At the same time though, they can also include slightly smaller things in many cases. Common stressors include…

– Impending deadlines
– Calls you need to make and don’t have time for
– Angry bosses
– Awkward colleagues
– Friends or partners who are angry with you
– Arguments
– The commute to work
– Untidy homes
– Health problems
– Inability to pay bills/debt

What you’ll notice is that some of these things are rather small and easy while others are big and abstract. A good place to start is by dealing with the smaller problems that you can tackle more easily. You might also be able to break down bigger problems into smaller issues.

For instance ‘work’ can actually mean:
– Awkward colleagues
– Bad bosses
– Uncomfortable working environments
– Unpleasant commute
– Painful working hours
– Large workloads
– Impending deadlines

So even if you can’t change your job, you may be able to deal with some of these specifics. Where will you start?

Good Habits

A lot of these problems wouldn’t occur if you were to use good stress/time management habits. Here are some good examples:
* Little and often – instead of letting your dishes pile up, try tackling them sooner so that they never build up to that level.
* The pomodoro technique – are you prone to procrastination? Get around this tendency by using the pomorodo technique: segregating your working hours into periods of work and rest using a timer.
* The 80/20 law – if you’re self-employed, you might find that 80% of your work comes from 20% of your clients. Cut the rest.
* Close open loops – don’t let things continue to stress you out over the long term. If you have a call to make, make it sooner and ‘close the loop’.

Lifestyle Changes

You should also apply these lifestyle changes to make stress easier to cope with:
1. Make sure you sleep well by going to bed at a similar time every day, by having 30 minutes to calm down with a book and by relaxing into bed
2. Make sure you give yourself breaks and holidays occasionally! No one should work 365 days a year!
3. Exercise – exercise improves stress and energy in numerous ways.
4. Eat healthily
5. Wake up with a daylight lamp, not a blaring alarm!

Dealing With Acute Stress

Finally, try to learn to deal with acute stress. Some things that can help here include:
* Breathing more slowly which will activate the parasympathetic nervous system
* Learning mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy
* Reminding yourself of why you shouldn’t be stressed
* Removing yourself from the situation
There you have it: you now have some tools and know-how to begin your move towards a stress-free life!

How House Plants Can Reduce Your Stress

Want a quick hack that can improve your stress and help your health in a number of other ways? Then just get some plants and put them around your home!

Plants in your home have been shown in countless studies to be highly effective for improving mood and general health and there are a number of reasons for this. Read on and we’ll examine why house plants are so useful for stress levels and how you can benefit from them.

The Effect of Plants on Stress

It has been known for a while now that having plants around can help to combat stress, depression and other negative emotions. In fact, many businesses are encouraged to add plants to their office environments in order to help their staff deal with large workloads and to combat feelings of stress.

So what’s going on?

Well, the effect harkens back to our days in the wild. When we were still evolving, we would have had to seek our vegetation in order to stay alive. In the African savanna, seeing large patches of green would have meant that we had found areas rich in natural resources. Here we would be able to find food, shelter, hydration and nourishment.

As such, it seems that we still have a similar response to seeing plants. Our bodies still respond by engaging our ‘rest and digest’ state via parasympathetic nervous system activation. Our heartrates slow down and we become more relaxed.

Even just seeing the color green has been shown to have this effect!

Other Effects

There are other benefits of having plants around too. One is that they can help to improve creativity. This is a byproduct of increased restfulness – and there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that we are at our most creative when we’re more relaxed.

This way we lose the ‘tunnel vision’ that comes from stress and focus and instead we’re able to explore different ideas and alternative solutions to problems. Having plants around helps us to get into this state of mind and thus helps us discover more novel and creative solutions to our problems.

Plants can also help to boost our general health by cleaning the air and increasing oxygen. This has again been shown in several studies and it has been suggested that we should keep a few plants around for every family member to improve air quality.

How to Combat Bad Emotions With Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that has been practiced for centuries but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity owing to cognitive behavioral therapy and modern psychotherapeutic approaches.

The basic idea is that you’re using meditative practices to become more aware of your own mind and of your own emotions. You’re becoming detached from your body and calming the judgmental part of your brain but at the same time you’re not going to ‘switch off’ those emotions but rather you’re going to ‘observe’ them. The idea is that you’re going to watch your thoughts and take notice of your emotions but in a detached manner so that they can’t harm you.

This practice has two benefits. The first is that it allows you to distance yourself from the kinds of ruminations that can otherwise cause stress, depression, phobias and more. The second is that it allows you to better understand the way your own mind works.

And it is this second point that makes it an incredibly powerful tool for combating a large number of emotional troubles.

Turning Towards Emotions

The problem with emotion you see is that it robs us of our rationality. And this becomes especially true if we try to deny it, if we try and suppress it or if we generally don’t treat it the way we should.

Most of us when we’re upset will react by trying to ignore it, by pretending that we’re fine – or possibly by being unintentionally completely oblivious to it. As you probably have guessed, none of these approaches is particularly helpful or effective in combating those negative feelings.

So let’s say for instance that you’re feeling very stressed, anxious and depressed. Maybe you had an argument with your partner, maybe you had a bad day at work. Maybe you just got out of the wrong side of bed!

Either way, you’re now in a position where you feel low and as such you begin to look at everything through very negative glasses. You try and stop being depressed but all you can keep thinking is about what a bad day you’ve had. About how it’s never going to get any better. About how nobody really gets you. About how your partner is no good for you.

Using CBT though and embracing the fact that you’re distressed, you’re able to instead simply turn towards those negative emotions and say ‘yes, I am feeling stressed/anxious/depressed’.

And as soon as you do this, you will find that they become much more manageable and that you become much more detached from them. More specifically, you can focus on the fact that your thoughts are a result of your bad emotion (not a reflection on reality as it actually is) and you can remind yourself of the impermanence of that stress.

How to Get to Sleep When You’re Very Stressed

If you’ve ever been very stressed, then you’ll know that this can make it very difficult to get to sleep. Common when we’re stressed is to lie awake listening to our hearts thudding in our chest and getting even more stressed that we’re not able to drift off and thus re-energize for the days ahead.

This is what makes the situation so bad: we know that the less we sleep, the worse the stress is going to seem tomorrow. Ironically, we’ll experience more of the very same stress that is keeping us awake!

So what can you do to overcome that stress and just drift off?

The Right Frame of Mind

The key thing to remember here is that you can’t ‘force’ yourself to overcome stress and you can’t ‘force’ yourself to relax. The whole idea of forcing yourself to relax is actually contradictory.

This is where many people fall down: in trying to make ourselves fall asleep we will often start tossing and turning and even getting frustrated and angry that we aren’t sleeping.

This only increases our stress more, increases our heart rate more and continues the vicious cycle. If you have ever looked at your alarm clock at 4am in the morning and felt like you’re the only person awake, then you’ll know this well.

So how do you break this cycle? The solution is to stop forcing yourself to sleep and to instead just let it happen naturally. Specifically, this means you should remove the pressure of ‘having’ to fall to sleep. In fact, remove the objective completely.

So when you go to bed, you’re not going to bed in order to sleep any more. Instead, recognize that simply relaxing and resting can actually be very good for you too and allow yourself to do this. Focus on how nice it is to just lie back and not need to do anything and remember that even if you only do that, you’ll still be relaxing and rejuvenating to some degree.

The irony is that as soon as you start enjoying being in bed and as soon as you take away the ‘need’ to fall asleep, you will almost always drift off right away. 

Do You Turn to Drugs or Alcohol When Stress Sets In?

One of the real dangers of too much stress in your life is the possibility of turning to drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other bad habit-forming substances for relief. At the end of the day, stress isn’t eradicated – it only gets worse.

During decades of the past, addiction to a substance was thought to be the result of the strong, almost magical, powers that the substance had over the person. Research has since shown that stress may be the link between becoming addicted or not.

Many people don’t become addicted to addictive substances such as alcohol or drugs, while others become powerless under their use. Other forms of addiction include gambling, sex, shopping, computer and even eating.

Stress is a big component in the way people react to addictive substances or other forms of addiction. When attempting to deal with stress, some people turn to anything that will give them temporary relief – that can be drugs or something else.

Unfortunately, the relief that comes from dealing with stress through behavior patterns or addictive substances is short-lived and the person requires more to cope. Survivors of child abuse often become addicts because of their need to cope with memories by burying them with their addiction.

With the addiction comes more stress until it becomes a vicious cycle and more substance or acting out an addictive behavior is required. The physical and psychological effects of the addictions begin to set in – causing withdrawal issues – and help is usually required to break the addiction completely.

Stress isn’t the only cause of addiction, but it plays a significant role for some people. The importance of stress-management is imperative in both preventing the initial addiction and to relapsing because of too much stress.

Research has found that stress alone can cause drug and behavior relapses by identifying that stress may block certain regions of the brain that are crucial to keep relapses from happening.

These neural areas of the brain are currently being studied to learn exactly why and how the presence of stress in a person’s life causes a person to be more susceptible to drug addiction.

This new research advance is a significant breakthrough for finding a medication that could relieve those struggling with addiction of any type. Until then, stress relief techniques continue to be the best way to handle too much stress in your life.

Self-medication of stress by turning to alcohol or other addictive substances may produce calm nerves for a while, but are sure to eventually take a toll on your body and mind.

If you’re under a great deal of stress from work or just a busy lifestyle, learn various stress-management techniques that can help you cope with stress before turning to methods that are dangerous to your well-being – and your life.

Eating Issues Can Arise from Periods of Great Stress

Eating issues may impact your psychological and physiological well-being and can be caused by too much stress in your life. Eating disorders may include bulimia nervosa, binge-eating and anorexia nervosa – and any one of these can cause other severe health problems.

Other health issues caused by eating disorders may include digestive problems, cardiovascular issues, teeth and mouth problems and may impact your bones or other parts of the body because you’re not getting the nutrition you need.

If you believe you’re suffering from an eating issue caused by too much stress in your life, it’s imperative that you get it under control by learning some stress-relief management techniques.

Stress-caused eating disorders may arise from a negative body image. Those who suffer most from eating disorders may have feelings of isolation, depression and low self-confidence and become obsessed with losing weight to gain a positive body image.

Another stressor that causes eating disorders is bullying. Children and teens are especially vulnerable to the harmful effects (including low self-esteem) from kids’ bullying them at school or in social situations.

Stereotyping can also stress children and adults to the point of developing an eating disorder. When you base your personal image on the images you see in magazines or media, it can be mentally damaging – and physically harmful when you begin to eat in harmful ways.

An unlikely stressor for eating issues includes problems with the obesity prevention messages. When words such as obesity, diet and BMI are commonplace as they are in today’s society, it may overemphasize weight and, unfortunately, emphasize eating disorders.

Some symptoms of an eating disorder include adapting to an over-restrictive type of dieting, self-induced isolation from others, eating large amounts of high-calorie or sugary foods, exercising excessively or eating secretly and hoarding food.

Anorexia nervosa is common in teens. It’s an eating disorder in which the person has an acute fear of gaining weight and an obsession to be thin. They restrict their food intake and may induce vomiting or ingest laxatives to lose more weight.

When you notice a pattern that could be or lead to an eating disorder, it should be a red flag to get yourself or loved one to a health care provider. Also, learn as much as you can about eating disorders and how you can help yourself or your loved one.

Stress-management techniques can help to thwart feelings that lead to eating disorders. Sometimes, these methods are taught in schools, but you may need to get outside help for some.

Don’t ignore signs and symptoms of eating disorders. The faster you can get help and learn how to deal with the stresses that cause them, the better it will be for your physical and mental well-being.