Stress is an inevitable part of life. That’s why it’s important to learn how to manage stress now so you are prepared to deal with it over time, especially after you graduate from high school and become more independent. A certain level of stress can be beneficial and motivating, but when it goes beyond this level, stress can become a problem. When stress becomes too much to handle, your health, work and school performance and social life can all suffer. That’s because stress can affect your mood and even your ability to think clearly. Too much stress can also weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting sick. If left unchecked (i.e., chronic stress) health problems – such as high blood pressure, autoimmune disease, digestive issues, depression and anxiety – can sometimes develop and/or worsen.
Fortunately, there are many ways to manage stress and keep it at healthy levels. The key is to develop a lifestyle that incorporates activities and strategies known to reduce stress; learn to recognize the causes and signs of stress, and be proactive about combating stress when it gets to be too much. Keep reading for tips to keep your stress in check!
Sleep, nutrition and exercise
By now you may be realizing that physical and emotional health go hand in hand. Keeping up with your physical health does wonders for your emotional health – and vice versa!
Getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and making time for regular exercise are all known stress-busters.
Know your stress triggers and signs of stress overload
In order to combat stress and prevent it from becoming problematic, you have to learn your stress triggers and signs of stress overload. Think about instances when you were really stressed out – any people, places or situations in common? These are your stress triggers. If you know you will be around these people or in these places or situations, prepare for them in advance to help curb your stress levels. And while everyone is different, some common signs of stress overload are memory problems, trouble concentrating, irritability, headaches, frequent colds and changes in sleep or appetite. If you notice any of these signs, chances are you’re too stressed and need to incorporate some of the other tips in these cards into your life.
Try relaxation techniques
When you’re very stressed, your fight-or-flight response kicks in, which releases several hormones throughout your body that (among other things) speed up your heart rate and breathing and slow down your digestion. Triggering this response over and over again tires out the body and can lead to negative effects such as problems concentrating and a weakened immune system. While it’s impossible (and actually not a good thing) to eliminate all stress from your life, you can control the way you react to stress, and relaxation techniques can be a help in doing so. Techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and visualization can all help to calm you down. Try to schedule a 10 minute relaxation break each day for maximum benefits. Here are a few techniques to get you started.
Be smart with your time
There several ways to manage your time effectively in order to limit your stress. First, jot down everything you need to do in your planner or phone, then prioritize your list and break projects down into single steps or actions. Also, focus on one task at a time – multitasking rarely works. Lastly, and most importantly, be realistic with your time and try not to over-commit yourself – while it may be tempting to say yes to everything, pulling yourself in different directions is exhausting and only leads to more stress.
Curb your caffeine
Caffeine can appear to help you study or work on that project longer by providing an energy boost but in fact, research shows that even if you are more alert, you are actually likely to make as many errors on coffee or caffeinated drinks as you would if you had not taken them. Especially if you are already prone to anxiety, caffeine can make you even more anxious, tense and jittery, which obviously ups your stress level. Try to drink no more than one caffeinated beverage a day, and make sure to avoid it in the afternoon and evening as it can interrupt your sleep cycle and prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep – which we already know is key to keeping stress in check.
If you’re too stressed, it may help to talk to someone like a friend or family member about it. They might have been in a similar situation as the one you’re in that’s causing you stress and be able to offer valuable insight and advice to help you reduce your stress. It’s also wise to speak with a counselor or therapist if your stress is out of control despite all of your attempts to lessen it. Therapists can help you uncover and understand the underlying reasons for your stress and can also walk you through some effective relaxation techniques described previously.
Everyone experiences stress differently, which means that the best ways to manage stress vary by person as well. Take time to experiment with any or all of the suggestions above to find what works best for you.