Simple Steps to Reduce Stress

Stress is what happens to your body when you face a lot of either pleasant or unpleasant demands all at once or compounding over time. Here are some simple ideas to help.

1.Time out!  When you can’t see the forest for the trees, step back from your pressures. Slow down and pace yourself.  Get help with urgent issues and try to rest. A good sleep can make a big difference. Talk with friends or a professional for perspective and other ideas. 

2. What is meaningful?  Simplify and unclutter your life. Focus on the people and issues that are most important to you – and those about which you have influence.  Then, you can approach your chosen tasks with a sense of purpose. If the issue is beyond your control, worrying will not help. Let it go!

3.Learn to say NO!  We can feel overwhelmed because we take on too much. Check what is reasonable. You will have more energy when you choose what you want to do. 

4.Make choices – set priorities!  We cannot do everything at once, if at all. Make a list of your tasks and break them down into those that need to be done, those that you want to do, and those that would be nice to do. Be reasonable in choosing what to take on now.

5.Get organized!  We do best when we have a sense of order or structure in our lives. Routines in the form of daily and weekly schedules help us to be planful and without panic. Modify the schedule to suit your changing, immediate needs but pace yourself by spreading tasks over time. Set goals and timelines which are achievable. 

6.Learn to respond, not react.  Other people and things cannot make you angry.  Only your mind can do that. You can choose to react in a stressful way or in a calm way.

7.Let others manage themselves.  Things don’t have to be done your way. And other people have abilities and responsibilities of their own. Be tolerant and respectful. Other people have bad days too, so give them a break when things aren’t going well.

8.Monitor your self-talk. The things you tell yourself often create your stress.  Negative thoughts about yourself and others lead to you feeling stressed. Focus on the positive.

9.Check possible signs of stress: confusion, uncertainty; agitation, restlessness; depression, helplessness, hopelessness;  fatigue; anger, irritability, resentment; headache;  indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, constipation;  skin problems;  menstrual irregularities; heart palpitations;  shortness of breath;  clammy hands; feeling faint; fingernail biting; chain smoking; alcohol abuse;overeating/undereating.

10.Look after yourself!  If you eat well, exercise, take time for rest and sleep, laugh, and look to enjoy life, you will be better able to cope with challenges. Live within your budget of time, energy, and money. And live in the present! Stop brooding on the past – it is over. Look forward to the future without worrying about what has yet to happen. Seek the company of people with whom you can share comfort and support. Avoid people who criticize or put you down. Seek help when you need it. Learn new skills to better manage yourself and life problems.

About the Author

Dr. Derek Swain, R.Psych.
Dr. Derek Swain is a member of the BC Psychological Association's Board of Directors. He has been employed as a secondary school counsellor in Vancouver for over 20 years. He also maintains a general private practice serving teens, adults, and families. His former careers as a physical education teacher and college Athletic Director often appeal to clients who have an interest in sport and physical activity. For more information about Dr. Swain, please visit our Board of Directors' page or his website.

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