A Practical Guide to Identify and Cope with Stress


Every season brings a new set of experiences and responsibilities and with that can mean additional pressures. With fall upon us there are new schools to navigate, job positions to secure, and exercise schedules to be addressed. But taking on new tasks or returning to previous ones can be easier and more manageable if you can identify stress triggers, manage your time, and take steps to curb job burnout, says the Mayo Clinic.

While stress in small doses can be a motivating factor, prolonged stress can take a psychological and physical toll on your body. High stress levels have been linked to depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal problems, an impaired immune system and cancer. The following tips compiled by the Mayo Clinic and edited by EcoSalon may help you fly through fall and give you a heads up on winter.

Identify your stress triggers:

-While some causes are obvious like job loss, divorce, or the death of a loved one, small daily hassles and demands – like a long work commute or finding childcare – can take a toll over time. To identify stresses that may otherwise continue to sneak in and out of your daily life, keep a stress journal for a week, listing the demands on your time and energy.

The Journal

-Write down any events or situations that make you uncomfortable, giving a brief description of the situation. Include such things as where you were, who you were with, who was involved, and what seemed to cause the stress.

-Also include your reaction and whether or not you had any physical symptoms. Include how you felt, and what you said or did.

-Assign a numeric tag to the intensity of your stress, 1 being low, and 5 being high.

The List

-Include all of the responsibilities that create a demand on your time and energy. As above, rate the intensity of stress that each demand creates. For instance, caring for an elderly parent, driving kids to after school activities, or volunteer responsibilities.

-After one week, sit down and analyze your findings. Select an event that had been flagged as stressful, then look for ways to resolve it by selecting and implementing a solution. Suppose, for instance, that you’re behind at work because you leave early to pick up your child from school. You might check with other parents to see if your son can ride with them.

The best way to cope with stress, they report, is to try to find a way to change the circumstances that are causing it.

Improve Time Management Skills

Effective time management skills can help you identify goals, set priorities and minimize stress in your life. Use these tips to improve your time management skills and lower your stress level:

-Create realistic expectations and deadlines for yourself, and set regular progress reviews. 

-Throw away unimportant papers on your desk.

-Prepare a master list of tasks.

-Use a daily planner.

-Copy tasks from your master list onto the page for the day on which you expect to do them. Evaluate and prioritize daily.

-For especially important or difficult projects, reserve an interruption-free block of time behind closed doors.  

Extinguish Job Burnout

25% of people say that their job is the primary stressor in their lives!

-Identify the source of the problem. Whether it’s an unrealistic workload, job insecurity, inadequate compensation, office politics or a hostile work environment, you need to figure out what’s making you miserable at work and take steps to deal with it.

-Develop friendships in and outside the office. Sharing unsettling feelings with people you trust is the first step toward resolving them.

-Minimize activities with negative people who only reinforce bad feelings.

-Take a vacation or a long weekend.

-During the workday, take short breaks.

-Set limits. When necessary, learn to say no in a friendly but firm manner. Often stress results from weak boundaries.

-Choose battles wisely. Don’t rush to argue every time someone disagrees with you. Keep a cool head, and save your argument for things that really matter.

-Have an outlet. Read, enjoy a hobby, exercise or get involved in some other activity that is relaxing and gets your mind off work.

-Seek help. If none of these things relieves your feelings of stress or burnout, ask a health care professional for advice and reward yourself for realizing that you want to make a change in your life.

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