Haven’t started that assignment that’s due today? Or are you late to work and the traffic isn’t helping? How about that test you forgot to prepare for?
Many a time, things just simply won’t go our way. And our one constant through it all is stress. Life’s full of stressful situations - some simply beyond our control. While we struggle to fight through and cope, we often forget to accept it as part and parcel of daily life.
So then how do we deal with it? Studies show that practicing acceptance can help one manage stress a lot better. Accept your environment, accept the situation, accept how you feel about it, but most of all, accept the fact that you’re stressing. Don’t get us wrong - in no way do we condone passiveness or lack of action. Be sure to first accept, think clearly, and then act upon it. Being accepting of stress can be a great first step as it allows you to manage your emotions more effectively. Rather than denying the situation and letting emotions take control, learn how to be in charge of your own emotions.
Before we get to accepting and dealing with stress, let us understand how to identify stress. Stress is simply your body’s way of responding to situations or threats - a ‘flight-or-fight’ reaction or ‘stress response’. While some forms of stress can actually be helpful to your purpose, unmanaged stress has a host of negative effects. Stress can be seen through changes in a person’s psychological, emotional, physical & behavioral patterns. Among the most prominent signs are anxiety, reduced output, increased indecisiveness, mood swings, frustration, lack of motivation, body aches, increased illnesses, withdrawal, insomnia, and many more.
Once you have identified the signs, it is necessary to understand the nature of your stressors. Is it personal, professional, or internal? Is it just a passing situation? Is it within or outside your control? How can you reduce or relieve it? A simple and effective technique of dealing with it all - the 4 A’s of stress management, namely Avoid, Alter, Accept, and Adapt.
After you’ve identified your stressors, ask yourself the following question: ‘Do you need to be in this particular situation?’ More than often, we can find ourselves in situations that require very little or no attention at all. Learn to be in control of what you surround yourself with - there’s always a workaround! Find yourself in the company of someone who unnecessarily stresses you out? Distance yourself. Struggling to keep up with your test schedule? Make a study plan. Got too many responsibilities on your plate? Learn to say no. Keeping yourself out of these situations will not only leave your mind at peace but make for a more healthy environment around you as well.
If some situations are unavoidable but still within your control, consider taking action. You can respectfully ask someone to change behaviour that affects or bothers you; be willing to do the same if necessary. Being open about how you feel can go a long way; make sure to be clear in your communication. If your stressors are time-related, make sure to find a better way to plan ahead and manage your time. Lastly, draw your own limits. Don’t bite off more than you can chew or take on impossible tasks just on the off chance that you might be able to impress a peer or senior.
What happens when the stressor or situation at hand is beyond your control? This is where acceptance can play a big role. Your inability to change the situation in no way means that you are required to feel nothing about it. Make sure to process it all. Schedule time with a close one to talk or walk it out. Feel angry about it? Learn to forgive and free yourself of that negative energy - it only holds you back. Positive self-talk can also help guide the way you process. Instead of focusing on the downside, think about what you can take away from the situation. These teachable moments will not only leave you feeling more positive but will help prepare you better for any similar situation in the future.