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How to Manage the Stress Level in Your Life

Written by Danielle Travali.

Many people feel stressed about a number of situations in life--everything from school, to work, to taking care of loved ones, to raising children, to balancing checkbooks and running a household. The stress really seeps in when we realize the demands our society, friends, bosses and family members place on us.

A lot of us think we can't control the way we feel about what's going on in our lives, and we start to crumble. But did you know that stress is very manageable? A few key tips will help you rearrange a few things and get you on the fast track to a balanced lifestyle! 

Ask yourself: "What's bugging me?"

The first key to lessening your burden is to pinpoint your stressors. It may seem obvious, but so many of us fail to realize what's stressing us out because we block the actual problem out of our minds. The only way to solve a problem or reduce your stress level is to come to terms with the thing that is causing you to feel the way you do.

The worst thing you can do is turn to drugs, alcohol, excessive amounts of junk food or reckless behavior because you're feeling stressed. These are very bad habits--and they're pure examples of how people often try to literally stuff down their feelings in order to avoid feeling pain or depression. Dealing with the problem by identifying it and allowing yourself to feel exactly what you're feeling is the best approach. Once you learn what's actually bugging you, then you can begin to tackle the problem and deal with it.


Follow these stress management tips:

Write in a journal. The best way to identify a stressor is to start writing about things that happen every day in your life. Go out and purchase an inexpensive notebook. Write in it twice a day--once in the morning and once at night. If you are short on time, try writing before you go to bed. Writing also helps ease your mind, as you will be transferring your worries from your head to the sheet of paper. Here's the key, though: you should write for about 5 minutes, summing up your day. If you had a "stressful" day, then ask yourself, "what made me feel uncomfortable? What things do I wish I could have changed today? What things did I accomplish today? How will today's experiences help to make me a better, stronger person? What am I grateful for? What makes me happy?" Asking yourself these types of questions can help you find out what you want less of and what you want more of in your life. Journaling daily is a great way to get in touch with your feelings and to truly understand what it is that you want (or don't want) in life. Don't hang around with people who are constantly stressed and/or stress you out. This may sound difficult to do, especially if the people who stress you out are the ones you love the most, but it's very necessary to limit the amount of interactions you have with these types of people. Spending too much time with high-strung, overwhelming personalities will eventually make you sick, especially if you're the kind of person who can't seem to handle their behavior.  

Don't allow others to make you feel guilty. Many people feel guilty because they cannot seem to live up to the expectations of people in their lives. The only way to do this is to understand that guilt is an absolutely useless emotion and does nothing to help solve the problem. Guilt does not make up for any wrongdoing, nor does it really help make anyone feel better. 

Know when to say "no" to people. Ever get that feeling of sickness in your gut when someone asks you to do something you truly don't want to do? That's your intuition telling you something's not right for you. Learn to identify this feeling and say "no" when appropriate. If you're afraid of losing friends when you say "no" when they ask you a favor you simply can't do, then find some new friends that will accept your inability to say YES all the time. Practice saying "no" and "I don't think so" in the mirror. Pretend your reflection is the person you need to say "NO" to. The more you practice saying "NO," the easier it will become when you're talking to another person.

Instead of arguing, turn around and walk the other way. A lot of us feel the need to stand our ground and defend our beliefs when people disagree with us or challenge us, especially when it comes to personal matters. The best way to deal with an uncomfortable situation like this is to take a deep breath, turn around and walk in the opposite direction. There's no use stressing yourself out by trying to convince someone else of your beliefs. The only one you should agree with is yourself. Realize you are unlikely to change the other person's mind and they are unlikely to change yours - instead of arguing, understand this and change the topic. An argumentative conversation will get you nowhere.

Be assertive. This is very different from being argumentative. If something is truly bothering you, don't ignore it and don't try to pretend you aren't upset over the situation. If you feel you're being treated unfairly at work, in a relationship, or in a friendship, you must calmly tell them what is making you feel upset. If you have to, write down what you want to say beforehand. Always start a sentence with the phrase "I feel" instead of saying "you make me feel." This will eliminate a lot of stress on your end, as you won't necessarily have to deal with being the "blamer." Instead, you'll simply be telling the other person how you feel in order to get what you want and need out of the relationship.

Get angry. There's a line in the Pretenders' song "I'll Stand By You" that goes, "If you're mad, get mad." But get mad in a way that is not going to hurt anyone. Punch a pillow (NOT a person or other living thing) scream, exercise, cry--do whatever you need to do to let that feeling out. You'll feel much better once you've released the emotion. This will help eliminate that source of stress.

Get healthy. Exercise regularly, eat healthy foods, get a good night's sleep and visit your doctor regularly for checkups. Good health is one more reason to feel blessed and one less reason to feel stressed! Check out some of the articles in our health section and fitness section, such as ways to stay fit all year round.

Don't Hold a Grudge. It's tempting to be mad at a person for an extended period of time, especially if that person hurt us or made us feel overwhelmed. But forgiving a person brings a feeling of relief and peace that is far superior to holding a grudge.

Take control of your emotions. You can control the way you feel, whether you believe it or not. Try not to take life too seriously. Life is much too short to take every little thing personally. For example, if someone criticizes you or makes you feel bad, accept the comment and let it bounce off of you. Another person's comment has nothing to do with who and what you are. 

If you can't control a situation, control the way you react to it. Unfortunately, we are often faced with situations we can't control. Keeping a positive attitude about things can help. For example, if you get caught in the rain and your hair gets saturated, look at yourself in the mirror and laugh. Laugh ESPECIALLY if you look like a water rat. Why? Because it's funny.  A) It's only water and B) When you start to look at stressful situations in a different way, you can change your perspective entirely.   

Turn your home or living space into a sanctuary. Our physical environment plays a huge role in how we feel. Keeping your home clean (e.g. not leaving a sinkful of dishes), eliminating negativity (avoiding television shows, books, magazines or movies that make you feel uncomfortable and/or stressed), and changing the look of your environment (e.g. painting your gray wall a cheery yellow color) can greatly eliminate the amount of stress you feel at home! Try it and see how you feel afterward.

Keep a to-do list handy every day. Every morning when you wake up, write down everything that you need to get done. Prioritize and break your tasks up into smaller, more manageable tasks. This way, you'll feel a sense of accomplishment when you finish. For example, if you've got a term paper to write, on your to-do list , you wouldn't just jot down the words "write paper." Instead, you'd put "complete outline, finish first three pages of paper." This is a much more manageable task, and you'll feel a sense of relief even when the first part is complete. You'll be motivated to push yourself to the finish line! There are a number of to-do list apps available for your smart phone, computer, or any other digital device. Dr. Sumit Dua talks more about this, and more ways to structure your life in his productivity article.

 Here are some simple, general ways to de-stress:

  • Take a yoga class
  • Go for a walk
  • Call a trustworthy friend
  • Play with a puppy or kitten
  • Hug someone
  • Listen to your favorite relaxing music
  • Watch a funny movie or go see a comedy show
  • Get a massage
  • Take a warm shower or bubble bath
  • Spend some time outdoors in the sunshine
  • Play a musical instrument
  • Stop by a flower shop to (literally) smell the roses!

 Remember, it's YOUR LIFE. If you don't start living it well, nobody will. Stay tuned for more self-improvement articles here on Project LIFE. 

Danielle Travali, MS
Danielle Travali, MS

Danielle Travali, also known to many as the Web and television personality "Holly Pinafore," is a journalist, entrepreneur, and food & wine enthusiast. She is a certified food coach, stress management coach and fitness trainer who studied mindful eating and food psychology. Danielle also holds a master's degree in Journalism from Quinnipiac Un.. Read more

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