48 Cope with stress

You may feel there is nothing you can do about stress. The bills will not stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day, and your work and family responsibilities will always be demanding. But you have a lot more control than you might think. Stress management is all about taking charge: of your lifestyle, thoughts, emotions, and the way you deal with problems. No matter how stressful your life seems, there are steps you can take to relieve the pressure and regain control. Some great quotes on de-stressing can be found on the Positivity Blog. Here's one:

The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another. — William James

1 Understand stress at work

Stress isnt always bad. Stress within your comfort zone can help you stay focused, energetic, and able to meet new challenges in the workplace. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation or alert to prevent accidents or costly mistakes at work. But in todays hectic world, the workplace can often seem like an emotional roller coaster. Long hours, tight deadlines, and ever increasing demands can leave you feeling worried, uncertain, and overwhelmed by stress.

2 Know the warning signs of stress at work

When you feel overwhelmed at work, you lose confidence and may become angry, irritable, or withdrawn. Other signs and symptoms of excessive stress at work include:

3 Initiate positive relationships

Friendship is not a luxury, but is essential to work-life balance and your health. Studies show that isolation decreases immune functioning and increases mortality risk. (The Stress Institute)

4 Eat well

"Diet and nutrition are very important," says Nelson, and cites omega-3 fatty acids as an example. Some studies have shown that a higher daily intake of omega-3s, which you can get in fish like salmon or through fish oil supplements, can improve mood. There are many connections between elements of diet and good nutrition and depression, adds Nelson. Eating a healthy diet can make you feel healthy, fit, and attractive, which improves self-esteem, while feeling unhealthy can worsen depression and play into negative self-perception, he says. Eating well, enough, often and nutritious can boost the mood and avoid depression and stress. For ways to eat well to reduce stress, while still maintaining your weight-loss goals, please check out our topic on boosting metabolism and losing weight.

5 Get enough sleep

A lack of sleep is a significant cause of stress. Unfortunately though, stress also interrupts our sleep as thoughts keep whirling through our heads, stopping us from relaxing enough to fall asleep.

6 Prioritize and organize

Many of us make job stress worse with negative thoughts and behavior. If you can turn around these self-defeating habits, youll find employer-imposed stress easier to handle.

7 Resist perfectionism.

When you set unrealistic goals for yourself, youre setting yourself up to fall short. Aim to do your best, no one can ask for more than that. Flip your negative thinking.Try to think positively about your work, avoid negative-thinking co-workers, and pat yourself on the back about small accomplishments, even if no one else does.

8 Dont try to control the uncontrollable

Many things at work are beyond our controlparticularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things you can control such as the way you choose to react to problems. Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress in the workplace. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or funny story.

9 Boost your ability to stay on task

Here is an important quote from productivity guru David Allen of Getting things done

Much of the stress that people feel does not come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they have started. — David Allen So, finish what you have started first and reduce the stress from having too much to do.

10 Break bad habits

Many of us make job stress worse with negative thoughts and behavior. If you can turn around these self-defeating habits, youll find employer-imposed stress easier to handle.

11 Get some fresh air

Do you ever get that never-ending loop of negative thoughts and what-ifs playing in your head? That is because stress likes to mess with your mind. A surefire and fun way to get out of your head is to engage in activities that put the focus on your hands or body (think kneading bread, sketching a picture, knitting a scarf, or climbing a rock wall), says Hall. As your hands and fingers begin to fall into those familiar rhythmic moves, it sends a signal to your brain that immediately relaxes you and makes you feel grounded. So immerse yourself in a creative, engaging activity and get ready to press the mute button.

12 Rely on rituals

Friends and family can help you feel better about yourself when depression brings you down. Allow yourself to lean on loved ones when you need them. They can encourage you to follow your treatment plan, exercise, eat a healthy diet, and generally take care of yourself all steps necessary to get better. You can also join a support group for people with depression for the chance to talk to others who understand what you are going through.

13 Connect to your spiritual side

For centuries, religious groups and native tribes worldwide have used prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice, and research shows that spirituality might boost happiness in times of stress. Buy a set of prayer beads or make your own, suggests Hall, and then create a positive affirmation or mantra that resonates with you. (No need to be religiousyou could even use one of these inspirational quotes.) Then, next time stress hits, repeat your affirmation as you work your way around and touch each bead. "The more you go around, the more you will experience a sense of power and detachment from the source of anxiety as your brain switches into a meditative cadence," explains Hall.

14 Take a bath

Water has an innate soothing effect on the mind and body since it connects us back to our time in the womb, says Hall. Schedule a regular time to soak in the tub. Further your bliss by pairing your bath with aromatherapy candles or bath beads. Pick a scent that smells best to you or go for lavender or jasmine, both of which possess stress-reducing properties.

15 Express your gratitude

Several studies have revealed the positive effects of expressing gratitude. While studying brain activity, National Institutes of Health researchers found subjects who showed more gratitude had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that has a huge influence on our stress levels. Plus, gratefulness also activated the regions associated with dopamine, one of those feel-good neurotransmitters. To reap these stress-reducing benefits, write down your feelings of gratitude daily in a journal, or by sending little notes to friends or family letting them know how much you appreciate them.

16 Exercise

Exercise is a good way to deal with stress because it is a healthy way to relieve your pent-up energy and tension. Exercise is known to release feel-good brain chemicals. It also helps you get in better shape, which makes you feel better overall. Exercise offers physiological benefits that can help people going through depression. Physical activity relieves stress and can make you feel great. Plus, the satisfaction you get from finishing an engaging and challenging workout can boost your self-esteem as you get stronger and more physically fit. When you fight depression with a regular exercise routine, youll feel better emotionally and physically.

17 Avoid caffeine, nicotine and other vices

Avoid, or at least reduce, your consumption of nicotine and any drinks containing caffeine. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and so will increase your level of stress rather than reduce it.

18 Do not hibernate

The thought of hiding away under the covers sounds pretty great when there is so much to deal with beyond your bedroom door, but sleeping too much is not the answer. Research shows that the more you sleep, the more tired you actually feel. Increased lethargy is only going to make it that much harder for you to focus, says Hall, and much less likely to deal with the stressors at hand. Plus, studies that have shown an association between chronic oversleeping and diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, and even higher rates of death (though it is unclear if too much sleep causes these problems). Adding health problems to your already heavy load is only going to exacerbate your stress levels.

19 Do not ignore the problem

While it is normal to take a mental time out once in a while to watch a funny movie or meet a friend for lunch, consistently avoiding the stress in your life is counterproductive. "When you evade your problems, you do not allow yourself to process or understand what you are dealing with," says Matta. The more you ignore somethingwhether it is a concrete problem like paying off bills or an emotional one like the fear of losing a jobthe greater it is going to get. Your best bet is to reach out for help and make a plan of action that will eventually diminish your problems and alleviate your stress.

20 Do not dwell on the negative

If you make a mistake at work, do you assume you are going to get fired? Have a fight with your spouse and worry the relationship may be over? It is not uncommon to jump to worst-case scenarios when dealing with an upsetting issue, but blowing things out of proportion only intensifies your stress. "When we are feeling stressed it is very easy to view ourselves in a negative light," says Matta. To soften your inner chatter, she suggests looking at things from a different perspective. Talk to yourself as if you were offering advice to your best friend and odds are you will have much more compassionate and positive things to say.

21 Do not eat your feelings

Like alcohol or drugs, food often becomes a crutch when coping with difficult times. Soothing your pain with high-calorie, high-sugar, or high-fat comfort foods feels good at first, but it can quickly spiral out of control when your mind and body begin to associate negative emotions with eating. At the first sign of stress, anger, or sadness you will instinctively reach for food rather than dealing with the feelings at hand. Overeating can cause weight gain and make you feel worse about yourself, as well as exacerbate the GI issues (bloating, reflux, constipation) that often accompany stress, says Hall.

22 Understand lifestyle factors that affect mood

In addition to regular exercise, there are other healthy lifestyle choices that can increase your resistance to stress.

23 Talk to a therapist

Talking to a therapist is really crucial. These are experts in the field and have seen and studied many cases of depression and stress. Find one that you would like to work with and who matches you styles. If you would rather avoid medication, choose one that is also wary of medications.

24 Boost your self-image

People with depression often experience low self-esteem, so finding ways to feel better about yourself is an important aspect of treatment. Practice positive thinking by focusing your thoughts on your best qualities. You can also make lifestyle changes that can improve your self-esteem, such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and spending time with friends who make you feel good about who you are.

25 Stick to a schedule

Maintaining a healthy and regular routine is very helpful for people with depression, says Nelson. "Many times with depression, people's motivation drops," he explains, making them feel unproductive and fueling feelings of low self-esteem. Schedule an activity that you have to do every day make it one you really enjoy and aim for as much balance as possible in your life.

26 Stay involved

If youre experiencing depression, you may feel like you want to withdraw socially and keep to yourself, either because of low self-esteem or a lack of interest. "Social life is important," says Nelson. Push yourself to stay involved with your friends. Social connections can help keep you from spiraling downward into deeper depression and from becoming isolated and alone with your thoughts. Go to the movies, share a brisk walk, or just catch up with a close friend it might lift your spirits.

27 Say no to liquor

Alcohol isn't the answer when youre struggling with depression, but many people turn to liquor to attempt to escape their illness. However, drinking can make the symptoms of depression even worse, and alcohol may also have a negative interaction with medications youre taking to control depression. A healthy lifestyle is needed to manage depression, and avoiding drugs and alcohol is one key to a healthy lifestyle.

28 Try relaxation techniques

Beyond a take-charge approach and a positive attitude, you can reduce stress in your life by nurturing yourself. If you regularly make time for fun and relaxation, youll be in a better place to handle lifes stressors. Scientific research supports the practice that quieting the mind, body, and soul offers great health benefits. Find a quiet place, get comfortable, focus on a one- to five-word phrase you fancy and repeat it over and over. Take deep diaphragmatic breaths, in and out, in and out. You may want to set a timer in the beginning for 10 minutes so you wont worry about time. The practice sends healing hormones into your body for relaxation and health. (The Stress Institute)

29 Keep a stress diary

Keeping a stress diary for a few weeks is an effective stress management tool as it will help you become more aware of the situations which cause you to become stressed.

30 Take control

Stress can be triggered by a problem that may on the surface seem impossible to solve. Learning how to find solutions to your problems will help you feel more in control thereby lowering your level of stress.

31 Manage your time

The first step is to learn to recognize when you're feeling stressed. Early warning signs of stress include tension in your shoulders and neck, or clenching your hands into fists.

32 Learn to say no

Many sources of stress are unavoidable. You cant prevent or change stressors, such as the death of a loved one, a serious illness, or a national recession. In such cases, the best way to cope with stress is to accept things as they are. Acceptance may be difficult, but in the long run, its easier than railing against a situation you cant change.

33 Rest if you are ill

If you are feeling unwell, do not feel that you have to carry on regardless. A short spell of rest will enable the body to recover faster.

34 Be aware of your unhealthy coping methods of dealing with stress

Turning to food, alcohol or drugs often just turns one set of problems into another that can balloon out of control. Its better to avoid those unhealthy coping mechanisms from the start, and find good ways to keep your stress under control. (Psych Central)

35 Get moving

We experience stress when we feel threatened, and when we believe that we don't have the resources to deal with a challenging situation. Over time, this can cause long-term health problems; and it can also affect the quality of our work and our productivity. Remove the threats from your life and move away from them when you cannot.

36 Alter the situation

Often, this involves changing the way you communicate and operate in your daily life. Express your feelings instead of bottling them up. Be willing to compromise but be more assertive. Manage your time better.

37 Adapt to the stressor

It may seem difficult to get away from a big work project, a crying baby, or a growing credit card bill, but when you give yourself permission to step away from it you can gain a new perspective and feel less overwhelmed. Its important to not avoid your stress (those bills have to be paid sometime), but even 20 minutes of self-care is helpful. (American Psychological Association)

38 If you cant change the stressor, change yourself.

Any sort of change can make you feel stressed, even good change. It's not just the change or event itself, but also how you react to it that matters. What's stressful is different for each person. For example, one person may feel stressed by retiring from work, while someone else may not.

39 Breathing is the foundation to de-stress and heal.

Our normal shallow breathing starves the body and brain of oxygen, which affects the immune and cardiopulmonary systems. Develop the practice of taking several deep diaphragmatic breaths in a tense moment; it clears the mind, body, and soul. (The Stress Institute)

40 Affirmations can affect our health.

Stress can cause health problems or make health problems worse. Talk to your family doctor if you think some of your symptoms are caused by stress. It's important to make sure that your symptoms aren't caused by other health problems.

41 Heighten your awareness of the moment by focusing intently on an object.

Notice a pencils shape, color, weight and feel. Or slowly savor a raisin or a piece of chocolate. Mindfulness leads to relaxation. Realize that managing stress is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Everyone is different, and reacts to stress differently. (Multiple Sources)

42 Avoid smartphone addiction

Therapy can give you a tremendous boost in controlling smartphone and Internet use. Cognitive-behavioral therapy provides step-by-step ways to stop compulsive behaviors and change your perceptions about your smartphone. Therapy can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with uncomfortable emotions, such as stress, anxiety, or depression.

43 Visualize calm

Find a quiet space, close your eyes, focus your breathing, and transport yourself to your happy place for a few minutes each day. Research from the University of California, Los Angeles shows your body actually produces less of the stress hormone cortisol when engaging in guided imagery. There are plenty of books and articles written on the subject if you need help getting started, but the most important thing is to find a comforting and calming image that works for you (a beautiful blue ocean might be totally relaxing to one person, but a nightmare for someone who's afraid of water).

44 Engage socially

Social engagement is the quickest, most efficient way to rein in stress and avoid overreacting to internal or external events that you perceive as threatening. There is nothing more calming to your nervous system than communicating with another human being who makes you feel safe and understood. This experience of safetyas perceived by your nervous systemresults from nonverbal cues that you hear, see and feel.

45 Express yourself in writing

Writing in a journal is great therapy and can help you manage depression. You can relieve stress by being open about your thoughts, feelings, and concerns in your writing and stress management is an important part of living well with depression. Be totally honest in your private journal. Writing down your feelings and challenges with depression can release pent-up emotions. You'll be amazed at how much better you feel after putting pen to paper for just a few minutes each day. Journaling reduces stress by removing the worry and thoughts racing over and over in your mind. You move these worries, concerns, hopes or dreams out of your body onto the paper. (The Stress Institute)

46 Avoid unnecessary stress

While stress is an automatic response from your nervous system, some stressors arise at predictable timesyour commute to work, a meeting with your boss, or family gatherings, for example. When handling such predictable stressors, you can either change the situation or change your reaction. When deciding which option to choose in any given scenario, its helpful to think of the four A's: avoid, alter, adapt, or accept.

47 Create calm in your career

Many of us experience stress in life, whether this is in the short term from one-off projects, or long-term stress from a high-pressure career.

48 Boost your mood with online therapy

Living Life To The Full is a practical course to learn coping skills for when life gets on top of you

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