Worrying about the future is tempting but useless. Do the best you can with what’s right in front of you and the future will fall into place.
Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.
1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.
Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodgeball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.
Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?
By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.
2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.
While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.
The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.
Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.
Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.
3. Do what you love.
It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.
4. Manage your time well.
One of the biggest stressors for many people is the lack of time. Their to-do list expands while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.
We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.
5. Create a toolbox of techniques.
One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.
Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.
6. Pick off the negotiable tasks from your plate.
Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”
Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”
Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.
7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?
Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, “Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”
So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.
8. Preserve good boundaries.
If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.
One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.
9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.
Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushroom into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.
Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D., talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it, whereas caring is taking action. When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.
LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”
Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.
Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, try this activity where you can list responses for each one. For example:
Worrying about your health involves…
Caring about your health involves…
Worrying about your career involves…
Caring about your career involves…
10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.
Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.
As the researcher, Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth and it’s not self-improvement.”
Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”
Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. I couldn’t agree more.
We generally keep on dreaming about the outcome of our good work and what impact it will bring in our life. By dreaming about the future, we lose our valuable present as well as our focus for the work, and in turn we make our work more difficult.
We also tend to worry about the looming hardship, which we are going to face in near future. Worrying about hardship makes it even more badly. The hardship in itself is not as much harder as we presume it. By worrying about the future, we not only make it more difficult, but we also stop enjoying the joy and pleasure of life in the present.
Finally, no matter how much we dream and worry about the future, we cannot mend it, unless we utilize our present. Future always comes in a form of the present. If we keep on dreaming and worrying about the future, we will always lose it.
Almost everyone at some point in their lives struggles with a form of anxiety. Feelings produced from anxiety can be misleading and are perpetuated by reinforcing thoughts. Most people do not recognize that they are anxious until they feel the physical symptoms of anxiety. Substance abuse is a quick remedy for uncomfortable feelings produced by anxiety. An addict who suffers from anxiety will often be reluctant to enter substance abuse treatment, fearful that his or her anxiety issue will not be addressed.
Anxiety Characteristics, Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviors:
Anxiety consists of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Thoughts will perpetuate feelings which create a behavioral response in an individual. Anxiety is rooted in fear and not wanting to feel fearful creates an intense distressed behavioral response. An addict who suffers from anxiety will use substances to escape from feeling anxious. Addicts who also struggle with anxiety will appear irritable, pre-occupied and apprehensive. Four common characteristics of anxiety found in an individual are:
1. The excessive need for control.
2. Ignoring psychological and physical signs of stress.
3. The excessive need for approval.
These characteristics are an individual’s belief system which perpetuates anxiety. Thoughts that are identified as should, would or could statements reinforce the belief system of the addict. These statements reflect thinking in the past and desire to change the chain of events. Example statements are:
- I could have set an alarm last night, before I started drinking, to wake me up for school. I’m so stupid.
- It would have been better if I didn’t spend the holidays with my parents. They drive me to use drugs.
Other anxiety related thoughts are based on future events and create frequent worrying or obsessing. For example “If I get this job then I will stop using drugs.” Focusing on events that we cannot change (past) or that are not in our control (future) increases anxiety symptoms. This disturbance of mood contributes to the addict’s desire to escape through substance abuse.
Anxiety Symptoms and Addiction:
Anxiety produces strong intense reactions within the body and mind. Anxiety responses are not always recognizable and may go untreated. Anxiety will manifest in two ways, physical and psychological.
The physical and psychological symptoms of anxiety are similar to withdrawal symptoms from drugs and alcohol. An addict will automatically look for substances to calm an anxious state. The avoidance of uncomfortable physical agitation and painful emotions are some of the components that maintain addiction and anxiety. Both anxiety and addiction will become stronger the more the addict continues using drugs and/or alcohol. Addiction enables the addict to avoid confronting and challenging anxious thoughts and feelings.
Exercises for Decreasing Anxiety:
Self-help techniques for mild anxiety management are:
- Stay in the present. Don’t get stuck thinking about the past or future.
- Recognize what you can control verses what you cannot.
- Learn to be aware of your stress and incorporate relaxation exercises.
- Don’t be so critical of yourself. Mistakes are not failures and nobody is perfect.
- While these exercises are helpful, anxiety is made worse with drug and alcohol abuse. An addict that suffers from addiction and anxiety may not be able to resolve anxiety issues alone.
Anxiety is a general term for several disorders that cause nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worrying. These disorders affect how we feel and behave, and they can manifest real physical symptoms. Mild anxiety is vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety can be extremely debilitating, having a serious impact on daily life.
People often experience a general state of worry or fear before confronting something challenging such as a test, examination, recital, or interview. These feelings are easily justified and considered normal. Anxiety is considered a problem when symptoms interfere with a person’s ability to sleep or otherwise function. Generally speaking, anxiety occurs when a reaction is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.
9 Common Anxiety Symptoms :
If you think that you might be experiencing anxiety symptoms, or that you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder, then you are probably wondering what, exactly, anxiety symptoms are.
Here are nine of the most common anxiety symptoms :
1. Persistent, usually unexplained fear. This is probably the most common and telling of all the anxiety symptoms. If you feel scared or worried all the time, for no apparent reason, then there is a good chance you are suffering from an anxiety disorder.
2. A racing heart. Another of the most common anxiety symptoms, many sufferers report palpitations. In fact, some even believe they are having a heart attack when they have a panic or anxiety attack!
3. Muscle aches or tension. When you are anxious, you tend to tense your muscles without thinking about it. Over time, this can lead to muscle aches, another of the common anxiety symptoms.
4. Sweaty palms or flushing. This may be a cliché, but it is also one of the most common anxiety symptoms around. If you find yourself literally hot and bothered often, you might be suffering from an anxiety disorder.
5. Changes to your sleeping patterns. Insomnia is one of the more common anxiety symptoms, and people who suffer from anxiety disorders often have trouble sleeping too. Nightmares are another common symptom of anxiety, especially in children.
6. Changing to your eating patterns. Like other mild mental disorders, one of the common anxiety symptoms is to lose, or gain, weight because your eating patterns have changed.
7. Abdominal distress, particularly diarrhea, is a common symptom of an anxiety disorder too – particularly when combined with other symptoms.
8. Irritability, and an inability to concentrate, is two more common symptoms of anxiety. Many people find that they have trouble remembering, focusing, or regulating their moods.
9. Finally, a loss of sex drive, when combined with other anxiety symptoms, can indicate that you might have an anxiety disorder. If you’re feeling that you have no desire for sex, because you’re always worrying, then the root cause could very well be anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms can start out very subtly, and you might not notice them at first. Many anxiety sufferers also suffer from depression as well as anxiety, or their anxiety symptoms causes them to isolate themselves, which leads to depression.
The good news is that anxiety symptoms are usually completely manageable and treatable, and there are many different ways to do so, including therapy and medication.
So if you are suffering from anxiety symptoms, it’s a good idea to find out more about anxiety disorders, anxiety treatments, and anxiety therapies, and if you suspect that you might have one of these disorders, speak to a doctor or therapist. Again, anxiety symptoms are completely treatable in most cases, but they will not go away on their own. You will need to be proactive, recognise your symptoms, and seek help.