Stress by itself is not a bad thing. It's a part of life and healthy stress alerts us of danger and motivates us to get things done. However, mismanaged stress can cause us a whole host of problems in our health, in our jobs, and unfortunately, in our relationships. Are you tired of hearing people say, "I’m so stressed out right now"? Or worse, are YOU tired of saying it and do you feel like your stress level is turning people off?
What can you do to keep your stress in balance and, likewise, improve your interactions with others? How you manage your stress defines how up and down your relationships will be — kind of like riding on a see-saw. If stress is interfering with your relationships, you must first deal with your relationship with stress. Rather than wish it away (because that's not going to happen), let's take a look at some healthy ways to level it out and cope with it.
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1. Identify It
In what ways does your body respond to stress? Get to know them. Do you clench your teeth or develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat? Are you prone to headaches? Maybe you simply feel out of control and want to lash out at something or someone. The sooner you identify that you are reacting to stress, the sooner you'll deal with it…before it affects you AND your loved ones.
2. Diffuse It
Once you've identified that yes, you are stressed, reward yourself for catching it early with something healthy. Stay away from that glass of wine or a candy bar! Take a few deep breaths, smile, and repeat this mantra: "What I feel now is stress, and stress is what it is." Repeating this 30 times helps detach yourself from the situation so you can focus on the moment. Talking to yourself and spending 10 minutes breathing deeply and focusing on positive thoughts might make you feel a little weird at first, but you WILL feel better. You'll then be able to cope with whatever it is that's stressing you out.
3. Change Your Reaction
Whether it's your job situation, your intimate relationship, your partner or your neighbor that's causing you stress, you don't have to change your job, get a divorce, or move away to be happy. By changing your inner monologue, you'll change your thinking, your perception, and, ultimately, your reality. In other words, don't blame people or situations for your stress. Own it! Once you've owned and decided to change the way you deal with stress, you'll move forward and better manage it. Remind yourself that you are managing your stress, not letting it manage you.
4. Talk About It
Yes, you may be tired of hearing about other people's stressful days or you've felt you've unloaded one too many times on your friends. But talking to someone you love and trust is a quick way to change your entire frame of mind. Sometimes simply "getting it off your chest" is all you need to change your perspective. Remember to choose carefully who you share with, though. Choose someone with a positive attitude or better yet, someone who makes you laugh. It is true that laughter is often the best medicine. Having healthy friendships helps you not only manage your stress, but also helps you present your best self to your partner.
5. Write About It
Something keeping you awake at night? That's one of the first signs of stress. And lack of sleep only exacerbates the situation. Maybe it's something that's interfering with your daily life as well. Jotting down what's bothering you is a good first step to clearing it out of your head so you can sleep or get on with your day. However, be careful not to dwell. Counteract the "bullet points" of stress by writing down things for which you are grateful. Being thankful and counting your blessings is a huge stress reliever!
6. Chill Out
Make stress relief part of your daily routine. Carve out some time each day to unwind. Even if it's just for five minutes, put everything on pause for a bit: your phone, your computer, your desk. Get up and walk outside for a few minutes. Sit on a bench and do nothing. Take your time and drink a cup of hot tea. Step away from your desk and stretch. Try a mini-meditation or a longer guided visualization if time allows. But by all means, make your health and well-being a priority in your day. Life is hectic and unexpected things happen. The more you create time in your day for handling life's little curveballs, the more smoothly and calmly you will function.
Showing up fully in your relationships starts with taking responsibility over your stress-reaction. When you see stress as opportunity and you change your relationships with stress, you feel more calm, centered and grounded and you automatically engage with others in a more authentic and positive way.
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