Everyone has experienced stress symptoms at some point in their life. Whether it is headaches, loss of appetite, muscle tightness, or any of the many other symptoms of stress; you’ve probably felt it. Stressful events could include deadlines, moving house, feeling pressure to exceed, or a job interview. According to Hans Selye, an endocrinologist who specialized in studies on stress, stress is “a positive or negative reaction occurring when there is a substantial imbalance (perceived or real) between environmental demand and the response capability of the individual.“
Not all stress is bad, sometimes you need a little stress to motivate you to complete a task or make a hard decision. The key is to find the right balance to stay in the motivational side of stress and not the demotivational side. So how do we create balance? The key is to ask yourself these two questions:
- When demands of your life exceed your current coping strategies, can you add more strategies to bring you back into balance? For example, can you add some exercise, meditation, or other self-care activities to your life?
- When the demands continue to exceed your coping strategies, is it possible to decrease the demands? For example, can you utilize some time management strategies, or say no to or defer certain requests? Are you able to set reasonable limits to the amount of time you are spending on each demand?
Your life goal should not be the removal of stress from your life completely, but to create balance in your life by employing effective strategies. Ideally you’ll find your optimal level of stress that will motivate you instead of overwhelming you.
There are many productive stress reduction and relaxation strategies you can try, including:
- Physical activity: This could be taking a walk during your lunch break, instead of working through it and eating at your desk. Or this could be setting aside time in your day to take a yoga class or take a run on the elliptical at the gym. Whatever level of time and personal fitness works for you, it doesn’t matter what you do, it is that you are doing something.
- Positive self-statements: Keep track of how you are speaking to yourself in your thoughts. If you notice that your thoughts tend to be negative, put together a few coping thoughts or positive self-statements to replace negative thoughts when they come up. Try things like: “This may be hard now, but I’ve completed projects like this before and I know I can do this” or “I’m qualified and belong here, even if things are tough, it doesn’t mean I should give up” or “It’s okay to take a break and do something to take care of myself. Self-care can help me focus when I return to my task later.”
- Humour: Watch your favourite comedy or a YouTube clip that makes you laugh, or host a games night with a friend, or spend some time volunteering with children. Studies show that laughing can help reduce stress and improve your overall health.
- Support system: Reach out to your support system. This could include friends, family members, or mentors that you know will listen to you and empathize. Sharing your difficulties with someone else can help you gain further perspective on the situation and help you feel more motivated to continue.
- Engaging in interests and hobbies outside of work and school: Engaging your brain in something other than work or school can be refreshing and motivational. Sometimes when we let our mind rest from the task at hand, it is able to process what we’ve been reading or trying to write while we are giving it a break, and then when we go back to our task it is easier to complete.
If you are looking for more information about stress management and stress reduction strategies you can view our Stress Management online seminar for more information.