“Few people receive training on how to mange stress, which may explain why many of us turn to destructive ways of coping.” This is the conclusion of a research-based cover story in the September/October 2011 Scientific American Mind. There are at least four broad, learnable skills that people can use to manage stress, according to researcher Robert Epstein:
- Stress management – reducing or eliminating the sources of stress,
- Relaxation which includes techniques like deep breathing, meditation or yoga,
- Thought management – like correcting irrational thinking or self-talk which reinterprets events in ways that are perceived as not likely to hurt us, and
- Prevention – planning ahead and conducting your life so that stressors are avoided.
All of these can be helpful but which of these is most effective? Pick one. Relaxation is the most common choice and this can calm us down but according to the research “prevention is by far the most helpful competency when it comes to managing stress….doing things such as planning your day and year and trying to avoid stressors before they can affect you.” Stress management is second on the list and relaxation comes third. Regarding prevention, the researcher suggests six strategies for fighting stress before it starts:
- “Seek and kill.” Take a few minutes every day to identify stressors in your life and find ways to reduce or eliminate them.
- Commit to positive, healthy ways of managing. Stay away from the self-destructive behaviors like drinking, overeating or over-reacting.
- Be your own personal secretary – posting reminders or keeping to-do lists.
- Immunize yourself through exercise, thought management, adequate sleep, regular practice of relaxation techniques, and other ways to prepare you for stress before it comes.
- Plan ahead. Planning your day realistically cuts feelings of stress and lets you get things done.
- Make a big plan. Planning your future lets you exercise more control over your life. Very often,“the more control you have, the less stress.”
Sadly, this plan has no place for God. Next newsletter will address that. Meanwhile, what is your reaction to all of this ? How do you manage stress effectively? Please comment.