Managing Stress

Do you ever feel stressed? Is stress a regular component of your lifestyle? What exactly is stress? What causes it and what can you do to manage and reduce it?

What you experience as stress is the result of your reaction to the events, circumstances, and people you encounter. The more you feel frustrated, a victim, helpless, a target, or picked on, the more you feel stressed.

You are surrounded by potential sources of stress. Your job, family, friends, schedule, traffic, and finances are among the many possible origins of stress you encounter on a daily basis.

The key to managing stress is monitoring and controlling the way you react. Stress affects you mentally and physically. Mental manifestations include irritability, sleeplessness, a lack of focus, emotional swings, a feeling of helplessness, and a short temper. Physical symptoms include elevated blood pressure, ulcers, headaches, weight gain, and aches and pains.

Don't underestimate the destructive effects of stress on you. The consequences of stress can be debilitating. Left unchecked, stress can cut years from your life span and severely undermine your quality of life.

Our innate fight or flight response is responsible for the physiological symptoms. Our bodies are designed to run from or combat any perceived source of stress. Modern society, however, prohibits us from doing either. Stress therefore finds an outlet by affecting us mentally and physically.

If you attempt to manage stress by trying to control your environment, you will only succeed in exacerbating your stress level. You can't change people or circumstances but you do have control over yourself. The only effective strategy for managing and reducing stress is learning how to manage your reaction to your environment.

Unless and until you change the way you react to stress, you will keep experiencing the same symptoms. You can't run away because wherever you go there are stress inducing situations. Only by changing your internal stress handling mechanism will you free yourself from the clutches of stress.

One effective method for managing your stress is constructing a written stress management handbook. The first step is to identify and write down everything that causes you stress. Next detail how you react to each of the sources of stress. The handbook is your own private document so be honest about what you react to and how you respond. Different people have varying reactions to the same circumstances. You are only concerned with your own behavior.

For each of your reactions, describe an ideal response that would minimize anxiety. For example, if obnoxious people stress you, your ideal reaction might be to ignore them without getting upset.

Identifying the causes and effects of stress in writing enables you to formulate a stress management strategy. The following are some effective techniques for reducing your stress.

Take responsibility for your life. Don't blame others. You are the only one who has the power to change things. Make sure that you effectively communicate your feelings and desires. Don't assume that others know how you feel or what you think. Don't take personally the actions of others. If someone treats you poorly, it's because they have a problem.

You don't want to allow frustrations and anger to build up internally. Doing so substantially increases stress levels. You need to restructure how you interpret and react to sources of stress.

With practice you can train yourself to successfully manage and reduce your stress level. Doing so will improve your health and enrich your life.

Copyright 2005 Bryan Golden

Bryan Golden is a self-development and motivational expert, author, and adjunct professor. He is the author of "Dare to Live Without Limits," and writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column. For more information please visit: http://www.daretolivewithoutlimits.com or http://www.bryangolden.com

In The News:

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