Stressed about being stressed? Let’s break it down. (Part 1)
Many of us struggle with stress daily. While stress is sometimes useful before deadlines to help you push to the finish line, being stressed has a lot of harmful effects on your health in the long run. For example, stress could lead to several physiological health problems, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity (just to name a few)! It’s important to eliminate these stressors in your life to help improve both your mind and body.
Today, COVID-19 has made stress now worse than ever before. To pass this pandemic successfully, we need to stay safe physically and, equally important, mentally. There are different ways to cope with your stress, so it’s up to you to choose which way you’re comfortable with and is most effective for you in reducing your stress. However, before we dive into what behavioral changes you can try to release your stress, it’s important to know what your stressors are.
Know your Stressors in 2 Steps:
Step 1: Learn what your stressors are.
First ask yourself: what makes you stressed? Is it work-related or caused by something personal?
Then, you need to ask yourself, how often do you feel that kind of stress? Are these incidents based on monthly deadlines, random events, or often?
Lastly, how much do these stressors affect your work performance or ability to live a more fulfilled life? If you get stressed frequently because of specific situations that make you unable to enjoy your life, you need to identify them.
Some stressors you may have now that are lingering among many of us may include work deadlines, fear of getting infected by the virus, the insecurity from the unknown, especially with financial instability.
Simply knowing more about your stressors will help you better control your stress. It is important that when you feel stressed, you know exactly why that is happening and when to expect the stress feeling to end. This process will help you understand any change of behavior and help you predict your productivity during certain times.
It’s best that you dig deep to know the root cause of your stress. For instance, don’t just say that you are worried because a certain deadline is getting close, ask yourself why deadlines are stressful for you in the first place. For example, if you are actually worried about your career prospects with the pandemic, it'll be comforting to read some of the success stories that have emerged from the last recession.
If you’re having trouble with this first step, perhaps talk to your close friends or family members who understand you and see how you behave on a regular basis. They might be able to help you pinpoint what makes you feel stressed in your day-to-day.
Step 2: Categorize your Stressors.
What is important in this second step is to determine what stressors are within your control and what aren’t. Knowing what’s realistically in your reach will empower you to act on what you can control. I try to prepare an action plan for the stressors you can control and try to let go of the ones you can’t.
I prefer writing my stressors down on a piece of paper and categorize them under these two buckets:
It is overwhelming when all of your thoughts are in your head, especially if you’re experiencing many stressors in your life. For me, after reorganizing my thoughts in this table and writing them down, everything suddenly gets simpler. Some people throw the part of the paper with the bucket of the “out of my control” stressors or even tear it or burn it to help them relieve more stress (be careful of course)!
I also came across a Serenity Prayer that I found helpful and wanted to share with you. Whether you’re religious or not, feel free to try this prayer out and adapt it in whatever way that works for you: “God, grant me the Serenity, to accept the things I can not change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference”
After these two steps, you hopefully know what your stressors are and what category they fall into. Going through this thought exercise should help decrease your stress significantly, as you’ll know how to tackle each one separately.
Knowing your stressors takes some time and reflection. Instead of rushing through this thought exercise to understand the roots of all your stressors, I recommend you pausing your busy work for a while and to block off time during the evening or even on the weekends to reflect on any stressors you’re facing. This time alone will allow you to think through different aspects of your life; whether it’s your personal life, work-life, relationships with family, relationships with your significant other, relationships with yourself... it’s important to think through all the unique facets of your life. Complete these two thinking exercises before coming up with an action plan -- and I’ll help you along with that!
If you found these two steps helpful in this thought exercise and want to learn more, stayed tuned to part 2 of this blog series! I will share a handy set of techniques I know about that can help relieve your stress. Also, check out Talklet’s Instagram page @mytalklet for daily reminders to improve your mental wellbeing! See you soon.