December has been all about how to start the new year with a bang! The focus is on what you can do now to set yourself up for success in the new year. So far we have talked about creating your mindset for success (insert link) and self-care (review those blogs here). This week, we are going focus on stress management interventions.
Stress management interventions are important because stress is an inevitable part of life. There are always ups and down. It is important to have a toolbox of things you can do to manage the downs and difficulties. This toolbox creates your stress management interventions.
GOAL OF STRESS MANAGEMENT INTERVENTIONS:
- To be able to tolerate painful emotions
- To make sure not to act on impulsive, destructive, or harmful urges
- To better manage through stressful situations
- To not exacerbate the situation
- To calm yourself down so that you can proceed effectively
- To not live life in a constant crisis
The more you can fill your toolbox with stress management interventions, the more control you have over your emotions, thoughts and actions. This will help you reach the abovementioned goals. You don’t have to fear stress and deal with anxiety around current and potential stressors. Instead, you can know that you have the skills to manage whatever comes your way!
IMPORTANT STRESS MANAGEMENT INTERVENTIONS
- Stop impulsive urges: Often when an intense emotion hits or one is feeling stressed, there is an urge to engage in an impulsive behavior. These are called crisis urges. Generally, crisis urges will ultimately do more harm than good. They provide immediate relief but may be physically harmful to ourselves, make us feel worse afterwards, and exacerbate the problem. Some examples of crisis urges are hitting someone, using substances, and emotional eating. In this case, it is important to have stress management interventions that help you not engage in crisis urges. One way to do this is to have a stop script, where you tell yourself to take a break, breathe, and rethink how you want to proceed. Another tool to use is to have a pro and con list for crisis urges. When you are not under stress, make this list to access when you are having a crisis urge. That way you can remind yourself why you do not want to engage in the urge.
- Calm the body: It is also important to have stress management interventions that calm down your body. The mind and body are interconnected; by calming your body, you send signals to your mind that everything is ok. This will help you be better able to tolerate the stressful event because you will not feel as worked up. Meditative and breathing exercise help with this. You can also put your attention on the specific body parts that are feeling the stress and consciously tense and untense the muscle.
- Break from situation: Sometimes the best way to manage stress is to take a break from the triggering event or circumstance. This is especially helpful when you are unable to immediately resolve or mange the situation. For example, if you are at work or school and need to focus. Or if you are too overwhelmed to think straight. You can take a break by doing an activity that distracts your attention or makes you feel better. It can also be helpful to do something you find soothing, like taking a hot bath or listening to calming music.
- Stop fighting reality: People have a tendency to spend their energy being frustrated when things don’t go their way and wishing things were different. However, this doesn’t change the truth and will inhibit your ability to actually cope and move forward. Spending your energy on pretending things are different doesn’t accomplish anything except prolonging and increasing pain and disappointment. It also limits your ability to successfully problem solve. Therefore, finding acceptance is key. Allow yourself to feel the negative emotions around the current situation. Acknowledge that the situation is what it is. Then ask yourself what can you do considering the circumstance rather than acting as if things were different.
- Prepare yourself for future stress: When you are feeling anxious about something or foresee a looming stressful situation, prepare yourself. For example, if you are nervous about a work meeting or finals are coming up and you know that will be stressful, don’t wait to be overwhelmed to make a plan to cope. Think about what specifically will be stressful and brainstorm how you can handle it and what you can do to alleviate the stress. Imagine yourself in the stress, using your stress management interventions and coping effectively. Then when you are actually in the middle of the stress, you will feel prepared and be able to use your tools before things get to your breaking point.
The key to best using stress management interventions is to build your skills before you are stressed. Have a plan for how to access your skills and remain calm enough to proceed effectively. Having a filled toolbox and a plan makes stress less scary and helps you be more capable of handling it. Keep filling your toolbox as things evolve. Update and improve it as things change.
Think about how you currently handle stress. What do you do well? Where do you think you need improvement? What tools do you currently have at your figure tips?
For help building your stress management toolbox, download your stress management guide here.