Are you bogged down by stress? Here's the good news: you may have more control over the situation than you realize. The way you approach stressful circumstances can make all the difference in your mental health and general perspective. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Michael Friedman, dealing with stress boils down to two steps: "understanding and action."
Get real: Without awareness of what's stressing you out, many people come up with hypotheses that might not be related which just adds more stress to your frenzied state. Don't begin by placing blame on external factors; Dr. Friedman says to dig in and be honest about how you could be contributing to the experience of discomfort or agitation.
Start simple: It's not always complex emotional issues that lead to stress. Often, it relates to our most basic human needs. Did you sleep the night before? Have you eaten recently? If you typically exercise, did you exercise? Did you have too much caffeine, maybe? Sure, romantic relationships and familial obligations add to your stress levels, but sometimes the stressor is more simple than you realize.
Oh, domino: Everyone has had one of those mornings where one thing goes wrong, then another, and it feels like it just won't stop! According to Dr. Friedman, this "domino effect" results from people not taking that time to "understand what’s happening, stopping the train, and making the right intervention." If you truly take the time to breathe and check in with yourself, chances are, the fog will start to clear and you'll realize what's really grinding your gears.
Being aware of your stress is the first step, but it's not enough on its own. Learn more about the step that most people miss.
Be direct: Dr. Friedman says the next piece of the puzzle is to intervene, ask yourself, “how am I going to deal with this?”, and take direct action. If you're stressed about a project you're assigned to, start outlining your responsibilities or talk to your boss. If you're having conflict with your partner, give them a call, write an email, and set up a time to chat. Tiptoeing around the issue will only heighten your stress levels. Once you start feeling more in control and proactive about what's bugging you, you stress will begin to dissipate naturally.
Rethink your habits: Start to take notice if part of your routine is only adding to your stress levels. If this is the case, it's time to create new healthy habits. Whether it's waking up earlier, cutting back on caffeine, or unplugging before bed, these changes can make a huge difference in your day. It might not be easy to make these changes at first, but remember, it's not easy being stressed all the time either!