Stress is difficult for scientists to define because it is a subjective sensation associated with varied symptoms that differ for each of us. In addition, stress is not always a synonym for distress. Situations like a steep roller coaster ride that cause fear and anxiety for some can prove highly pleasurable for others. Winning a race or election may be more stressful than losing but this is good stress.
Increased stress increases productivity - up to a point, after which things rapidly deteriorate, and that level also differs for each of us. It's much like the stress or tension on a violin string. Not enough produces a dull raspy sound and too much an irritating screech or snaps the string - but just the correct degree of stress creates a beautiful tone.
Similarly, we all have to find the right amount of stress that permits us to make pleasant music in our daily lives. You can learn how to utilize and transform stress so that it will make you more productive and less self-destructive.
Plan Ahead To Avoid Stress
Several major projects or events happening at the same time can cause a great deal of stress; so learn to plan ahead and space events and activities to allow yourself breathing room.
Learn and Practice Time Management Skills
Taking a good time management seminar - and then practicing what you learn - can help prevent stress. Keep a daily "Top 10" list of the things you need to do, in order of priority; then complete each item in order before you move on to the next item. That way, the most important tasks will be finished first.
Take Appropriate Action
Taking action is important; but taking appropriate action is more important. Learn to obtain and use the right tools. Make sure you're dealing with root problems and not just symptoms of problems. Don't wait to be motivated; take a first step. Action can lead to motivation.
Put Things in Perspective
Ask yourself, "Tomorrow, will this really matter? In a month, will this really matter?" If the answer is "yes," take appropriate action. If the answer is "no," why are you worrying and getting stressed about it?
See Changes As Opportunities Rather Than Threats
Whenever there's a major change in your life, it can seem threatening; but try to turn things around and look at the opportunities the new situation creates for you.
Work Toward Realistic Goals
Goal setting can be helpful in managing stress; but always remember to make your goals both challenging and realistic. If they're not challenging, you don't feel a sense of accomplishment when you complete them. On the other hand, unrealistic goals can never be met and will lead to a sense of failure and low self esteem. Be goal oriented, but not goal dominated.
Develop or Practice a Hobby
You can channel the energy from the stress response into positive activities like hobbies, home or office projects, or exercise. Staying active will reduce the effects of stress, and you'll have fun doing it!
Walk, Bicycle, Swim and Play
In other words, be active. Work off that stress, and build resistance at the same time. Do things that are fun and that you're willing to do for the rest of your life. Try to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of physical activity a day, at least 5 or 6 days a week. Be more active every day. Take stairs instead of elevators. Walk to the corner store; walk your dog, or take a walk with your family.
Eat Regular, Healthy Meals
The stress response can trigger hunger; and many people turn to food or alcohol as methods of coping with stress. That can lead to weight or alcohol problems. When you're under stress, it's important to keep your body and its immune system strong. So eat regular healthy meals and follow the dietary guidelines recommended on this site.
Think About Your Values
Strong values help you to cope with stress. Think about what's really important to you, and develop a foundation of values and purpose in life.
Talk Out Your Troubles
It really does help to talk to someone. Build a network of supportive family and friends. If you don't feel comfortable talking to anyone close to you, talk to a counselor.
Become a Good Listener
Being a good listener is one of life's important skills; it helps prevent misunderstanding and helps build friendships. Poor communication is a major cause of stress, so learn how to talk, write and listen effectively.
Take Breaks and Vacations
Remember, stress is often called the "fight or flight response." It's probably not a good idea to flee from problems; but it is often a good idea to take a break. Research shows that people who take regular breaks and vacations are more productive than those who work straight through without any breaks.
Get a Good Night's Sleep
A good night's sleep is also important for managing stress. Try to relax before sleeping to improve the quality of your sleep.
Learn To Relax Or Meditate
Relaxation doesn't come naturally, especially when you're under stress. Tension is part of the body's natural response to stress. You can significantly reduce the impact of stress by learning relaxation skills such as progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, massage, mental imagery, deep breathing or certain types of yoga.
Use Your Creativity
Yesterday's solutions probably won't solve the problems of tomorrow. We need to be creative - try new ways of solving problems. There is creativity within all of us. Bring out your creativity by experimenting, asking lots of questions, and playing around with ideas.
Laugh, Develop a Positive Sense Of Humor
Laughter may not be the "best" medicine, but it is a powerful tool for reducing stress and having a better quality of life. Laugh with people, not at them.
Put FUN Back In Your Life
This tip summarizes all the above advice. When you were children, you played and had fun. Those are important traits for life; don't lose them. Put fun back in your life!
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