Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD
“The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about your circumstances.” – Andrew Bernstein
“Much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from having too much to do. It comes from not finishing what they’ve started.” – David Allen
“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you can tap into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” – Jill Botte Taylor
Our life is full of stressors. If you are a student, you can relate to this statement. You must come to school every day and absorb and process a lot of information. Apart from having to be successful in your academic life, you must navigate your personal life. If you are a teacher, you will also agree that stress is something that you must deal with daily. Students’ success, their parents’ expectations and concerns, pressures from school principals and ever-increasing paperwork can make you feel stressed.
But the truth is that, despite our life being replete with potentially stressful events, stress does not have to be a part of our life. We can successfully manage it and learn how to overcome stress or at least make use of it. In this short article, we are going to examine the five most effective ways to manage and reduce stress.
Now, before you, dear reader, start reading it is especially important for me to tell you something. There is one state of mind that can be like stress, but, in fact, is not the same thing. What I am talking about is anxiety. Anxiety is far more serious than just stress and if you feel like you suffer from anxiety you may have to seek professional help from a counsellor or psychotherapist. They know a lot about managing anxiety and they can help you deal with it.
If you are not sure whether you have stress or anxiety there are various tests on the Internet, which will help you understand that.
So, what are the best ways to deal with stress?
First of all, learn where stress comes from.
In other words, look at the different situations in your life and try to understand how they make you feel. Is there anything that is stressing you out or making you feel upset? I should say, dear reader, that this task may be not as easy as it sounds. Of course, some stressors are easier to identify than others. For example, if you are changing your school or your parents (or you, if you are a parent) are going through a divorce, then the stress that you may be undergoing should not be surprising.
However, when it comes to chronic stress, things may be not as straightforward. If fact, you need to know that a lot of stress that people experience in life is due to their own thoughts and reaction to different life circumstances. So, you need to be able to identify those thoughts and triggers that make stress a part of your life.
To be better at pinpointing the sources of stress in your life you may want to start keeping a diary, where you can describe the situations that you have in life and their effect on your psychological well-being. So, whenever you feel stressed, open your diary (it can be something like notes on your smartphone), and write down everything about what you have experienced.
Write about what you think caused you to feel stressed. If you are not sure, at least try to guess. Then describe your feelings and reactions – both physical and emotional. Then carefully write down the course of action you took. And then write about what you did to improve your mood.
Writing down all these details will help you discern the patterns of your thoughts and actions under various stressful circumstances. It will also help you identify the stressors in your life and avoid them or be prepared for them at least.
We all know that whenever we are stressed, we may find it difficult to make ourselves get up and go to the gym. But whether we unbelievably (and we better believe that), physical exercise is one of the best stress eliminators. If you are still pessimistic about the whole prospect of going to the gym, remember that you do not have to be a professional athlete to get enjoy the benefits of exercising.
There is simple science behind the fact that exercising helps us relieve stress. When we exercise our brain releases special chemicals in the brain called endorphins. Not only do they make you feel good, but they also can be a good distraction from your worries and concerns. So put on your sports outfit and go to the gym. All you need to do is a thirty-minute exercise session. You can either stick to the 30 min session or you can gradually increase your fitness level.
If you are struggling to find time to exercise (which indeed, in some cases, may be a problem) there are also some things that you can do. You can take your dog for a walk. You can simply walk somewhere instead of driving or taking a bus. Instead of using elevators at school, try using the stairs. Find a friend, who is also keen on raising their fitness level and go to the gym together. And do not let yourself be lazy – try to exercise at least two or three times a week. This is what scientists recommend people do to reduce their stress levels and become happier.
Spend more time with your friends or other people who you connect with.
Or better yet. spend time with your family. Indeed, there is ample research, underlying the connection between our mental well-being and our spending time with the people who make us feel accepted and understood. Research also shows that when having face-to-face communication with people dear to us, various chemicals are released in our brains. These chemicals reduce our stress significantly and make us feel happier.
So even if you want to hide yourself away from everyone when you are stressed, do not. Instead, call your close friend and talk to them. Or better yet, meet them in person and talk to them. Remember, they do not have to be qualified counsellors to make you feel good. All they need to be is sympathetic listeners, who will be able to hear you out and not judge you. Your friends will be happy to help you and they will.
If you are struggling with finding friends, here are some things you can do to fix it. You can reach out to a colleague at work. Do volunteering – often it helps people to connect with new people with good intentions. Join a new class or club, this is the best place to find new friends as you will share similar interests.
Although, when we are stressed, it may seem that there is not much we can do about that, there are many ways to manage and even reduce it. In this article, we have discussed the three most important ways to reduce your stress levels. Of course, there are many other techniques and ways of reducing stress and if you think that what we have discussed is not helping you, you can try out other techniques.
Remember, that to deal with stress effectively, you need to acquire so-called emotional intelligence – the ability to understand and deal with your own feelings and thoughts as well as those of other people. Emotional intelligence will be your best helper in dealing with stressful situations. So, the more you learn about it, the better. In our Shiminly blog there many articles which talk about this concept at length – have a read and learn more about it.
Our mental health and diet are also closely related. So don’t forget about the importance of keeping a close eye on your diet and especially sugar consumption. Avoid caffeine, and alcohol and try to get sufficient sleep, which is, undoubtedly, one of the pillars of good mental health.
Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.