5 Proactive Steps to Managing Stress
All of us at some point or another experience stress. Sometimes it’s just pressure to ensure everything is taken care, other times it involves a significant family or work crisis that takes its toll on us emotionally, physically, and psychologically. While some circumstances provoking stress may be unavoidable, it’s our response to these stressors that makes the biggest difference in how it truly impacts our life.
The short-term effects of stress can disrupt sleep patterns, cause anxiety, irritability, headaches, and possibly feelings of isolation. Medical studies have linked stress to depression, immune system suppression, cardiovascular disease, miscarriages, infertility, and premature birth (McEwan, 1998). It can also cause oxidative stress, which impacts such things as sperm quality (Saleh & Agarwal, 2002) and degenerative diseases.
One of the top suggestions for combatting stress is meditation. There is no doubt meditation works for many people, and it’s a great way to decrease anxiety and infuse a sense of calm in one’s life. It has been associated with increased focus, improved emotional stability, and lowered blood pressure in numerous research studies.
Meditation can also be combined with other alternatives for enhanced stress reduction. Since it’s important to find the solution that works best for one’s own personal style, the below offers a direct approach, which deliberately sets out to change the mindset of how the situation causing the stress is viewed. This in turn influences how the stress is managed.
Considering this perspective when viewing stress, may not only provide much needed short-term relief, but also assist in creating alternative outcome results for the issues and/or situation moving forward.
Frustrated with stress, below are five proactive steps…
1. Reframe the Situation
How a situation is viewed can have an immense impact on one’s stress level. There are two types of control—internal and external. Internal locus of control refers to a person believing they control the events in their life. External locus of control is the perception external factors control outcomes. If you want to change a situation, do not put yourself as the victim of circumstance or the recipient of the situation or crisis. The individual must take a responsible and accountable role in terms of what happens to them in their life. Do not allow circumstances to control your destiny—you must do that!
2. Leverage Self-Efficacy
Self-efficacy refers to one’s own confidence level in their abilities to achieve certain outcome results (Bandura, 1977, 1986, 1997). In order to improve your situation, you must believe in the strength of your decision-making. In other words, you must believe you control the power to successfully change things. If you don’t believe in yourself, you’ll just remain “stuck” and unable to make the necessary steps to alter your current state. If one sees problems as challenges to be mastered not threats to be avoided, this reduces stress and lowers the risk of depression (Bandura, 1994).
3. Embrace the Possibility to Change
In order to make stressful situations better, often something needs to change. Whether it’s a small tweak or a major move is really up to the individual to decide; however, in order to create a different outcome, you’ve got to try a different approach. Be open to all the possible scenarios, rank them based on what you believe will ease up some of the stress. Don’t be afraid to make tough decisions to get what you need and want. If you believe they are right for yourself and your family, logically and strategically begin putting your plan in place. Change is never easy, but the more organized you are, the less stressed you’ll be throughout the process.
4. Social Support
Build a strong network of friends or family members who support, care about you, and have your best interests as a priority. Ensure your network consists of like-minded individuals who believe in you, and your goals for your family. Pessimists or those who bring you down or base recommendations from a place of fear should not be part of your support network. Surround yourself with positive people who bring you up, and look for opportunities, not excuses.
5. Deliberate Self Care
Too often people are so busy taking care of the children, work, the home, household errands, etc., they forget about themselves. A parent can’t be there for anyone if they aren’t functioning at the top of their game—emotionally, psychologically, and physically. Exercise, eat healthy foods consisting of a well balanced diet, engage in a hobby you enjoy, and get plenty of rest.
Proactive strategies in managing stress don’t wait for change to happen. If you’re involved in a situation creating frustration in your life, only you can change it.
Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: Toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84(2), 191-215.
Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Bandura, A. (1994). Self-Efficacy. In V.S. Ramachaudran (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Human Behavior, (Vol. 4 pp. 71-81). New York: Academic Press. (Reprinted by H. Friedman (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Mental Health. San Diego: Academic Press, 1998.)
Bandura, A. (1997). Self-Efficacy: The exercise of control. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.
McEwen, B. S. (1998). Protective and damaging effects of stress mediators. New England Journal of Medicine. 338(3), 171-179.
Meditation offers significant heart benefits. (2013). Harvard Health Letter, 38(10), 3.
Saleh, R.A & Agarwal, A. (2002). Oxidative stress and male infertility: From research bench to clinical practice. Journal of Andrology. 23, 737–752.
The short-term effects of stress can disrupt sleep patterns, cause anxiety, irritability, headaches, and possibly feelings of isolation.
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