Stress is the one life experience we call all relate to. In small doses, it motivates us to complete challenges and is actually beneficial in molding our character and building our resilience. It helps us to survive. However, when experienced in large doses, over an extended period of time, it can be psychologically and physically debilitating. This is why there is so much interest in Stress Management! We all have our limits, so we need routines and exercises to counteract the excessive stress in our lives.
Some methods can be as simple as changing a routine habit. We can cut out the cause of the stress. Things like, being constantly ‘On’ on social media; excessive caffeine or other stimulant consumption are all ‘habits’ that (with enough courage and conviction) you can change.
On the other hand, when excessive stress is imposed on you there is a sense that your inner equilibrium has been upset. There is a mismatch between the demands being placed on you and your ability to meet those demands. Over time, a whole range of stress symptoms will present themselves. Some of these may be; excessive weight gain or loss; headaches; fatigue, poor sleeping habits; reduced tolerance… to name a few!
This article is going to list some useful strategies to address excessive stress where it may be outside of your control. In those situations you need to have the right Stress Management Exercises working for you…
1. Create Boundaries.
To be clear, these are the internal rules we set for ourselves as much as the rules we expect others to abide by. Before we decide on our external boundaries, we must first put in place healthy boundaries about what behaviors we will and won’t accept. Its part of knowing who we are, having self respect and taking care of our emotional well-being.
2. Practice Assertiveness.
This is positive assertiveness; being respectful but firm. Not assertiveness as a form of domination or bullying. Why is this an important skill? Because if frees us to express to others what is stressing us, and it allows us to ask what we need from others to alleviate the stress. In this way we are proactively changing a stressful situation sooner, rather than allowing it to continue.
3. Manage Your ‘Me’ Time.
Our work lives are becoming busier rather than easier. Demands on our time seem to be growing ever stronger, robbing us of our personal time. This is particularly the case in corporate life, where it’s often expected that work responsibilities will take precedence over personal time. Wherever we are, we should be holding ourselves accountable to making sure that we have the time to explore other more relaxing and enjoyable activities.
4. Exercise and Diet.
This is nothing new. But we all know that over time unhealthy habits can creep in to our lives. If you are already on top of this one then that’s Great. If not, then there are plenty of resources to inspire you to change. Suffice to say that consuming a healthy diet gives you the resilience to combat stress in the long term. The important point to remember here is to never underestimate the power of a healthy Diet and regular Exercise. It’s a combo that’s proven to be very effective in reducing excessive stress and even mild depression.
5. Meditative Relaxation.
It is also a good idea to learn and practice techniques such as deep breathing, guided visualization and body scans so that you can apply them when needed. I’ll give you some example in the next couple of points.
You can also find some of these techniques in my article: Everyday Mindfulness Exercises.
6. Progressive Muscle Relaxation.
This is an easy Stress Management Exercise to get started on. As the name suggests, it involves simply relaxing each muscle group on a progressive basis. Tighten and relax each muscle group, starting with your face and neck, and then moving down your arms, torso, and legs to your toes. Don’t rush. Spend a couple of minutes on each muscle group, slowly and deeply breathing in and out.
With practice, in time you will be able to go through the process easily so that you feel relaxed and calm again.
7. Practice Yoga.
Yoga has long been known as an excellent stress management technique. The physical as well as psychological benefits come through the combination of physical movement, meditation and controlled breathing. Yoga could be something that you incorporate into your routine and then gently start to receive the benefits.
8. Maintain Positive Self-Talk.
We read often in self-help articles about the importance of practicing compassion for others. In developing our empathy we become more in-touch with our own humanity and sense of balance. Equally important is the need to speak to ourselves in a compassionate manner. It’s human to have self-doubt, but we also need to be kinder with our internal dialogue. Remind yourself that you can succeed and that failure is just a temporary phase.
Don’t let yourself get in the habit of beating yourself up over things outside your control. That’s just adding more unnecessary stress..
9. Develop Resilience.
When we speak of personal resilience, we are really talking about our ability to ‘bounce back’ from life’s negative or stressful experiences. So, how do we develop resilience? We do this by deliberately changing our mindset. For example, we can practice cognitive restructuring, and change the way we think about negative situations and bad events. We can accept change as part of living. We can actively look for opportunities for self-discovery.
By taking action and nurturing a more ‘positive’ view of our situation we are at the same time building our internal resilience. In effect, we will be better equipped to deal with future problems more effectively.
“It’s not the stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.”
10. Sleep Better.
The single, most common form of stress affecting more people worldwide is not what you would expect. It’s not our social or work relationships, or even the stresses and anxieties of modern living in general (although this comes a close second!). It is our poor sleeping patterns. Having a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep is essential for recharging and repairing our bodies, and for dealing for stress.
Many people have spent most of their adult life in various forms of sleep deprivation. This condition lowers a person’s physical and psychological ability to deal with stress. That in turn affects their ability to sleep or rest properly.
It becomes a vicious cycle! There are many ways of dealing with sleeping problems (like sleep therapy), however the best foundation for improvement starts with a good diet and regular exercise. This really is the key to unlocking your stress management solution.
I hope you enjoyed reading these Stress Management Exercises.