The secret to coping with stress lies in understanding why you become stressed in the first place and in managing your life so that you avoid stressful situations as much as possible.
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What makes you stressed?
The things which cause stress will vary from one individual to the next and situations that one individual might find very enjoyable may be very stressful for another. Your starting point in understanding how to cope with stress therefore should be to identify those things which create stress for you.
Start by carrying a notebook and pencil with you wherever you go for several days. As you go about your normal day-to-day business, note down anything that you find stressful. Make a note of the day and time and give a brief description of what happened and how you felt both physically and emotionally. Also, give each situation a rating on a scale of one to five with one indicating a situation that is mildly stressful and five a situation that you find intensely stressful.
At the same time, make a list of all the demands on your time over these few days. Examples might include such things as your job, shopping, doing the laundry, and caring for a sick friend or neighbor. Again, rate each of these for their stress on a scale of one to five.
Once you have collected the data you should sit down and look closely at the situations that have been particularly stressful and then, selecting them one at a time, work out a plan to cope with the stress of each.
Manage your time
The demands on your time can contribute towards stress and managing your time correctly can be a very effective way of coping with stress.
Look carefully at exactly how you manage your time and, wherever possible, try to create more free time during the day. Are you for example doing things that are simply unnecessary and which are eating into your time but producing no real benefit? Similarly, are you wasting time by tackling two or three jobs as separate tasks when they could quite easily be combined?
Try to bring a sense of order to your day, cutting out unnecessary tasks and creating pockets of time when you can simply relax, if only briefly.
One of the biggest problems of stress is its cumulative effect which, over a period of weeks or months, can leave you feeling burned out. Here, coping with stress is a question of looking at the longer-term picture, rather than individual situations.
You will find it much easier to cope with stress if you start by simply taking care of your health by eating properly and by taking regular exercise and getting enough sleep. You should also develop friendships both at work and outside and regularly take time off, spending it with both your family and friends.
It is also important that you have variety in your life and you should try to pursue at least one hobby and to involve yourself in some activity which you find relaxing and which can take your mind away from work and the problems of everyday life.
Finally, it’s important to know when to say no and to be able to do so in a firm but friendly manner. Also, choose your battles carefully. We all disagree with others from time to time and arguments are an inevitable part of life. However, you’ll find coping with stress a lot easier if you avoid arguments as much as possible and try only to argue over those matters that are of real importance to you.