Stress is part of everyday life for many people. But while there are people who only suffer from short periods of stress, others feel overwhelmed by a permanent state of stress. According to a study by the Techniker Krankenkasse (a German health insurance provider), the number one trigger for stress is one’s job or university study (47%), followed by excessive demands on oneself (41%). Stress factors can therefore arise from external circumstances, but they can just as well be self-made. Fortunately, psychology knows the way out of this hamster wheel. This article will reveal which tips can help with coping with stress and how to deal with the challenges of daily life in a more relaxed way.
What causes stress?
By definition, the word "stress" has a negative connotation. However, this physical reaction was originally vital for humans, e.g., for fleeing from an attacker or surviving in the fight with a wild animal. This is because stress mobilizes unexpected forces in the body by putting it on alert.
Natural reactions of the body to stress:
- Increased blood supply
- Increased supply of adrenaline
- Release of certain hormones (e.g., cortisol)
These processes are controlled by specific areas of the brain (such as the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus) and the adrenal cortex, and increase the willingness of the "stressed" person to perform. Positive stress can thus be defined as an acute state in which the body can perform at its best.
The problem for sufferers is that stress has become a chronic condition for them. They feel permanently overloaded, overwhelmed and exhausted.
The typical symptoms of stress:
- sleeping disorders
- overtaxing oneself
- susceptibility to disease
- no time for yourself
In the worst case, this condition leads to burnout. Negative stress is therefore a condition that has psychological and physical consequences for the person affected. Recovery for the body or the mind is not possible due to the perceived lack of time. Thus, the symptoms constantly increase and the stressor (triggering stimulus) is perceived as a heavy burden.
- overwork in the workplace
- worries about social ties
- financial problems
Often, these triggers combine to give the affected person the feeling of being surrounded and besieged by stress factors in all areas of life.
What does stress management mean?
Stress management, e.g., at work, provides strategies that can reduce or limit stress. In order to maintain one’s health and performance, especially in our modern society it is vital to know how to deal with stressful situations. This can be learned from books as well as through self-training or coaching.
People mobilize their own self-healing powers to build resilience to stressful moments. It has been proven that the feeling of being overburdened in recent years has been increasing in the industrialized countries, be it in professional life, in the family or because of the difficulties in integrating these two areas. That's why stress management is more important than ever before.
What can one do wrong when managing stress?
If stress management has not been consciously learned, then it will often follow along patterns that the person has acquired over many years. These can lead to aggressive behavior (even against oneself), evasive actions or resignation.
Harmful behavioral patterns in stress management:
- medicines for stress reduction / maintaining the efficiency
- bullying others
- rejecting of tasks
- further education
- frequent breaks
- addictive behaviour, e.g. nicotine, sedatives, alcohol
- skipping work
- changing jobs
- conversations with like-minded people
- emphasizing one's helplessness
- repressing the problem
- ignore problems
But there are alternatives!
10 methods for managing stress
Everybody can learn specific exercises and measures that help in reducing stress. The following tips should be followed for managing stress:
1. Tip: Accept that you are suffering from stress.
The basic requirement for coping with stress is to recognize the condition as such. Some people try to convince themselves that they are well, although they have long since felt overburdened. It is no shame to admit that a particular situation, job challenges, children, social obligations (such as caring for family members) or other factors are putting you under pressure.
If you want to be clear about the extent of your stress, you should order your thoughts in writing. Although daily grumbling rarely leads to the desired goal, a clear formulation of your concerns on paper is the best basis for tackling the problem at its root. If you know which stressors are responsible for the stress you are feeling, you can deal with them differently.
2. Tip: Confide in someone you trust
The next step in accepting the problem is to communicate your insights from your written thoughts to your social environment. This should be done first with a person close to you, someone with whom you can share your problems. If e.g., your relationship knows about the stress situation, he/she can support you and give advice. Many people do not dare to admit to neighbors that they feel stressed out of a misplaced feeling of shame. But only those who open up to others can expect them to react appropriately.
3. Tip: Reinterpret your attitude towards stress
Stress is always associated with subjective perception. So, once you've accepted that you feel "stressed out", then it's time to work on your attitude about the variability of that state. Coping with stress with NLP presupposes that you let go of the stigma of the victim. Often a new consciousness can be achieved through new patterns of thought:
- avoid phrases like "I have to", "I can’t", "it's not working"
- accept your own responsibility
- formulate positive goals and actions such as "I can," "I want," "I will"
It is about permanently turning the evaluation pattern for certain situations around and turning a fixed predicament into a self-determined task. The following steps help you to no longer feel like a slave to stress, but to take the scepter in your own hands:
A. Acknowledge perfectionism
Stress is often a question of your own demands on yourself. Therefore, it makes sense to find out, by using extreme statements, what catastrophes you secretly expect or how you subconsciously exaggerate situations. This can be exemplified by a situation that recently caused stress for a client. The client considers what feelings were triggered. Examples of extreme sentences:
- "I always want to be in control of the situation."
- "Errors are out of the question."
- "I wanted nothing to go wrong."
- "Others are never happy with my performance."
B. Evaluating the feeling
A critical examination of the formulated sentences now follows. This includes balancing between realistic requirements and your own expectations.
C. Change via new formulations
Once you've recognized the extreme sentences as being extreme, it's easier to rephrase them. The above examples could be alternatively formulated:
- "Nobody can control everything."
- "No one is perfect."
- "I know that mistakes can happen."
- "I desire more recognition of my performance."
You should move away from your own sense of perfection while still believing in positive developments. In the long run, the repetition of such new sentences can change how you feel.
D. Change via new behavior
Beautiful experiences are no coincidence; they can be deliberately created. Merely using positive formulation is therefore not enough - you must live the experience. In order to be able to perceive such moments, it is helpful to sensitize yourself to them and, for example, to record positive situations at the end of a day. These can be small things, e.g., "Compliment from a colleague for my work" or big changes: "Was in a good mood today when I picked up the children from kindergarten, since I had done all the chores on time". Often one takes these everyday things for granted and does not realize that they are the key to positive thinking and stress management.
4. Tip: Engage in sports for relaxation
Stress always has a physical effect. That is why it is so important to provide the body with a method of stress management – like sports. Because when you move, stress hormones are reduced, and at the same time, the few minutes of distraction helps the mind recover. If you do not have much time, you often think that sports would rob you of additional leisure time. In fact, it helps in mastering everyday life better. It does not always have to be in the gym or training on some sports field: small exercise units such as walking, running stairs or dancing can activate the body and mind, thereby reducing stress.
5. Tip: Counteracting stress with nutrition
The body does not only keeps fit with exercise, but also with healthy nutrition. People in stressful situations often tend to eat unhealthily, consume energy drinks or coffee in large quantities and thereby deprive the body of additional energy. Those who feel stressed should drink plenty of water and use products that lower blood pressure and support the nerves.
Foods that combat stress:
- Blood pressure lowering foods: oils with unsaturated fats (such as rapeseed oil), garlic, fresh fish, low salt, fruit (bananas, raisins, kiwis, watermelons)
- Vitamin B1 for the nerves: legumes, potatoes, meat
6. Tip: Engage in time management
Especially in order to manage stress in the workplace the right time management is essential. Many stressful situations arise only from inadequate organization. Popular ways for avoiding stress are also postponing, setting wrong priorities, or scheduling too little time for big tasks. The following tips can help you improve your time management:
- Make a "To do" list
List all tasks to be done.
- Determine the main / most important tasks
For this, you should set priorities for the tasks at hand. What is urgent? What is most important in terms of content?
- Schedule specific times
For this, you enter exact times in your calendar for the completion of certain work. Similar tasks are combined in a common work block. The rules:
- no work blocks longer than 60 minutes
- then a 5-15-minute break
- use your times of high performance (8-12 am and 3-7 pm o'clock) as your main phases for getting work done
- Fill your calendar
A day's planning consists of distributing the main tasks and then filling the calendar with other tasks from the to-do list.
- Identify causes of disturbance
Distraction is known to be the enemy of concentration, and therefore, of time management. So, it is important to detect, minimize or completely eliminate disturbing stimuli. For this purpose, individual methods may be used, e.g., blocking certain social media accounts during working hours, muting the phone, etc.
- Reduce agitation
Various relaxation techniques help you organize your thoughts and focus on the task at hand.
7. Tip: Learn relaxation techniques as self-therapy
You can consciously counteract stress with phases of relaxation. These can be integrated into everyday life and can be learned by anyone. They help you to withdraw from the stressful environment, focus on solving a problem, or simply gain new energy. The following relaxation exercises for stress management are recommended:
- Mental Training
In mental training, the client learns how to deal with stress by mentally anticipating it. Since in theory he finds solution patterns for moments of stress, which the coach teaches him with increasing difficulty levels, he can apply these later in reality.
With hypnosis techniques, the client can find relaxation. The coach can achieve this by strengthening the client’s personal competencies and resources. By playing through critical situations, the client learns how to deal with stress, thus promoting his control and his subjective well-being. This often causes the health of the client to improve. Sometimes learning self-hypnosis can be a way to make even more use of this technique.
- Thought interruption
< With this technique, the client learns to set limits to his own thinking. If he feels overwhelmed by an endless stream of thought, he can step out of it and evaluate the situation from a neutral position.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a basic technique for influencing muscular tension. By first opening and then relaxing certain areas of the body, the client gradually achieves a totally relaxed state.
- Autogenic Training
With this relaxation method, the client gradually learns to relax his whole body with suggestive formulas. Typical formulas are e.g., "My right foot is getting heavy", "My body is sinking into the ground", etc. This is how deep relaxation can be achieved.
Meditation techniques such as also practiced in yoga, is an advanced relaxation method. By focusing on a picture, a word, a sound, or a mantra, the person concerned progressively attains a state of mind that is the ideal way of leaving everything physical behind.
8. Tip: Find time for recreation
Countering negative feelings with positive ones also works by taking recovery signals seriously and allowing time for yourself. Recreation activities can take different forms: Some people like to listen to music, others read or watch television. Also, you should learn how to consciously “do nothing”. This should not be neglected.
Recovery can also be found interacting with friends or family. Social contacts make you happy and creates an awareness that you are not the only one who is affected by stressful situations.
9. Tip: Better to explode than to implode
Anyone who realizes that they feel stressed out often tends to eat it. Often, however, the opposite is the best medicine: Those who can let their emotions run wild feel better afterwards. According to the psychologist Johann Beran, the "monkey method" is recommended: the tension that builds up in the body under stress needs release. He recommends, for example, leaping to your feet in stressful moments, hitting a punching bag or running up a flight of stairs. This reduces the stress hormone cortisol, which blocks the work processes in the brain. So, instead of constantly just taking the pressure, a healthy monkey scream from time to time is a good way to manage stress.
10. Tip: Communicate your stress as stress
Not only your private circle should know when you are suffering from stress - even on the job it makes sense to let people know that you are feeling overwhelmed by a task. This is not a sign of weakness but of strength. It allows the boss to distribute tasks differently and can signal self-confidence. For example, if a colleague said, "The expectations are too high," you would not necessarily consider him underqualified. Rather, this testifies to realistic self-assessment on the part of the employee, and the boss would probably happy to maintain the performance of his employees by changing working conditions. This requires courage on the part of the person concerned - but clear communication always serves to protect you and is the best precaution against constant stress.