Op-Ed: Learning to Manage Stress

Life is demanding and stressful. Whether you’re a teen, young adult, or adult, you’ve experienced some level of stress in your life, and everyone experiences these feelings differently. Some people get angry or irritable, while other people’s stress manifests itself into more physical symptoms like headaches or stomach pains. 

No matter the situation, it’s important to be able to recognize how your body responds to stress. Any situation that causes you stress is known as a stressor. Some stressors could be work, school, relationships, family, money, or heath; but being able to identify situations that cause you stress can be helpful in minimizing stressful reactions.

When one is stressed, it’s easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of dealing with our stress. Some unhealthy relaxing patterns might include overeating, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, or any other drug use, ignoring your problems, sleeping too much or too little. 

While stress eating is a tried-and-true way to make you feel a little better, I’ve learned that long-term, these patterns can diminish your mental health. 

Though there are many lifestyle changes you can do to avoid and help with stress, like exercise, getting enough sleep, and maintaining a healthy diet, I’ve found some simple, excellent, and healthy ways to better manage stress:

  1. Recognize the things you can’t change. 

I saw this advice going around Tiktok where a man in an interview is asked how he deals with stress and anxiety. He tells the interviewer some of the best advice he’d ever received is to write down everything you’re stressed or worried about. Then, cross out the things you can’t control and change the things you can. This advice is the perfect example of letting go of the things you can’t change or control. I have the hardest time with this one, but that exercise actually gave me some level of peace and control, and you should try it too. 

  1. Avoid stressful situations. 

When you feel stress coming on, or you’re deep into a stressful environment or situation, remove yourself, so you can take a breather. Sometimes if you are over-stimulated in a high-stress environment, taking a break is the best thing you can do for your productivity, your happiness, and your sanity. 

  1. Change how you’re speaking to yourself. 

When you evaluate your stressors, sometimes it’s easy to see the little things contributing to the larger problem. For example, while I was in college, I would stress out over little things like tests or quizzes. I realized that the way I was thinking and speaking to myself was contributing to my stress. If we had a quiz that I knew I was prepared for, I’d still have thoughts like “I’m going to fail” or “If I mess up, my grade will tank.” I easily jump to the worst possible conclusions. If you find yourself in a similar position, something that’s really helped me is reframing the way I speak to myself. Instead of thinking “Why does everything go wrong?” change that negative thought to, “I can and will get through this.” In my experience, stress comes when something feels too big for you to control. Realize it’s not your responsibility to control everything and take responsibility for the things you can control, like your thoughts and attitude. I know it’s hard, but it’s so worth it!

  1. Do something you love.

This is my favorite and best stress-relieving practice because it’s shifting your focus to something that makes you happy. Some ideas are reading a great book, listening to your favorite music, watching a movie, connecting with a friend, or being creative. If you can’t think of something to do, maybe pick up a new hobby like sewing, cooking, or dancing. My favorite thing to do when I’m stressed is to create. I love writing poetry, stories, or songs—anything to be able to channel those stressful emotions into something productive. 

If stress is too overwhelming and you feel like you can’t handle it on your own, you may want to consult a health care provider. Maybe consider seeing a counselor or getting help so stress can stop controlling your life. 

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