You wake up in the morning. Your eyes reluctantly open as sun-rays reach through the blinds. You plant your feet down to stand. Your legs feel like they’re dragging on the floor as you make your way to the bathroom. You flick on the lights and look at yourself in the mirror. You tell yourself, “God, this is horrible. I hate waking up so early.” You’re not happy with what you see or how you feel.
Sound familiar? Work. Family. Relationships. Money. These are the very things that bring us stress if we allow them to. Sometimes, they keep us up at night. Other times, they prevent us from waking up. A lot of the times, it’s both.
Know that you’re not alone, and that the person sitting right next to you can be experiencing the same overwhelming feeling as you. How someone reacts to an end of a relationship can be just as fervent as how someone copes with the failing of a school course. We all have stresses and traumatic experiences in our lives – it is about how we react to each situation that determines whether we let them drag us down or move us forward. You have more control over your stress than you think.
Now, of course, I fell victim to the power of stress, and I have learned to gradually overcome it. I am writing to you today to tell you that it is possible to heal so long as you have the dedication to improve. It was only recently did I realize that I needed to learn how to manage my stress better. Whenever I used to be anxious, worried, or angry, I would go to the refrigerator and eat literally everything I could find. I couldn’t stop. Everything tasted so good and it made me so temporarily happy. I’d find myself eating leftovers from last night’s dinner, microwavable Pizza Rolls, and giant bags of chips. I would keep eating past the point when my stomach severely hurt. I would go into extreme stomach pain and food comas and became entirely useless for the rest of the day. Little did I know it was all just a distraction to keep myself from dealing with the negative situation. Food was always comforting to me and I told myself the physical belly pain was so much easier to deal with than my mental pain. It was an unhealthy way to cope with my stress.
Fast-forward to today, I can say that I am a lot happier than I ever was in the past. And this is not because my negative experiences have vanished or that there was a recent surge of positive life events. It is because I am developing my coping mechanisms with everyday stresses and tackling them before my stress becomes overwhelming.
I now acknowledge my source of stress by speaking with trusted and unbiased people who are unrelated to the current stress. I sing to let my emotions run freely. I go to the gym to build my confidence and to keep the endorphins running.
I consistently recycle positivity into my life.
So, What Exactly Causes Stress?
When your body and mind perceive a situation as a threat to your wellbeing, your body evokes a “fight-or-flight” response. It can either choose to stay and fight or run away and hide. Your brain is equipped with this alarm system in order to protect you.
In an ideal situation, once the threat is gone, your body is supposed to turn back to its normal conditions. Unfortunately, we are consistently challenged with modern-day stresses so we can rarely rely on our biological senses to bring peace to our state of mind.
And herein lies the importance of stress management. Instead of asking yourself, “Why me? Why did this have to happen? – ask yourself to accept the situation, and focus on what can make you more calm and controlled.
Healthy Ways To Manage Stress
- Move around. Exercise, put on music and dance, take your dog for a walk. You’ll find that once you move around and blow some steam off, it’ll be easier for you to implement other stress management techniques such as engaging socially and reaching out to others.
- Speak to others and surround yourself with friends. This is one of the fastest and most proven techniques out there to help reduce stress. Reaching out to another human can provide comfort, even just by being a good listener. You don’t need answers right away, but it is always good to have someone to lean on. Being lonely and isolated can increase your chances of being more susceptible to the negative effects of stress.
- Avoid unnecessary stress. I am not saying to ignore all stresses, as some are very important to address. However, I am saying that you’d be surprised as to how many things you can take off your plate to alleviate your stress. We are not robots and we cannot do a million things at once. Learn how to say “no” to lesser-priority tasks and you will find that you have more energy to relax and do other important things in life.
- If you’re unhappy with the situation, try to change it. If your 2.5 hour commute to work everyday is making you unhappy, look for closer places to live. If your messy roommate is making it impossible for you to find peace, speak up. Change can be scary sometimes, but the rewards can be far greater.
- Accept what you cannot change and is out of your control. We can keep fighting to change situations, such as a death of a loved one, permanent injury or other people’s attitudes; but we cannot undo traumatic experiences or quell every angry person no matter how much we wish we could. What you can control is your reaction to each situation. So, leave the noise behind, try to move on and develop other areas of your life.
- Remember to have fun and relax. Different from Step #1, remember to schedule in some time for yourself whether it is going for a run, hanging out with friends, or listening to music. It is important that you do something you enjoy everyday so you can take care of your own needs. Keep in mind that loving and nurturing yourself is necessary; it is not a luxury. You are taking care of your wellbeing, which paves the way to a happier and more productive life. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to laugh at the little things and lighten up. J
- Treat your body well. Lastly, get enough sleep, reduce caffeine and alcohol, and eat well. Feed your body the best that it deserves and you will feel all the more energized, alert, and ready to conquer each day.
I hope my guide will help you become the best version of yourself. What are some of your ways of coping with stress? What’s your favorite?
Photography: DCP New York