Identify your sources of stress along with a means of addressing them.
Do you have a real problem that needs solving, habits or attitudes that need to be changed, relationships that could benefit from a different approach, or a job you don’t like? Is your work repetitive, emotionally taxing, or not stimulating enough? Are you just too busy?
You may not be able to deal with all your sources of stress right now. If you try to address too much at once, you may just create more stress for yourself! Review your list and ask yourself what is in your power to change, or begin to change, over the course of the next month. This plan is intended to help you manage your life and become more prepared for successful relationships with the people, activities, and the tasks you face every day. The purpose is not to cram in activities to impress your instructor.
Why is it important to identify your sources of stress?
Many people cope by ignoring problems, but this doesn’t make them go away. Avoiding things that cause us stress can be as simple as procrastinating on a school assignment or waiting until the last possible minute to study for an exam. The problem with avoiding your problems is the stress of them doesn’t disappear while you are ignoring them – it simply builds up.
What can you do to address your problems?
For tips on how to reduce stress at work
For tips on how to get organized
For tips on how to stop procrastinating
Avoid stress when possible
Sometimes we walk into stressful situations with our eyes wide open – agreeing to spend time with someone who is a bad influence or who treats us badly, visiting places that upset us, or engaging in activities we do not enjoy, aren’t good for us, or cause us undue anxiety. It’s okay to avoid these things. What people, places, things, or memories should you avoid?
Let Some Things Go
Some problems you can fix, and others you can’t. You can’t change the heavy workload of the MPA program, so complaining about it won’t help. Spending time worrying or complaining about things that are outside of your control depletes your energy and negatively impacts your attitude. Do you take things too personally and feel bad about things that really have little to do with you? It takes effort, but this energy-wasting habit should be dropped too. What can you let go?
Stress creates a “flight or fight” response in the body, triggering the release of stress hormones that cause your breath to quicken, your heart to race, and your muscles to tighten. Over time, these stress responses can cause or exacerbate many serious health problems. Exercise is a healthy way to deal with stress, and exercising, in some form or other, is recommended every day. How can you incorporate some exercise into your life, if you don’t already? What physical activities do you enjoy, and what can you reasonably commit to?
Many of us choose passive relaxation when we want to relax: watching TV, having a drink, chatting with a friend, or taking a nap. But there are big benefits to learning some active relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or another mindfulness practice. If you have never tried these before, they might seem boring or intimidating. Yet science has proven the benefits: once we have developed an active relaxation practice we can use it in nearly any situation, allowing us to “flip the switch” from being stressed to being relaxed even in the midst of difficult events. If active relaxation is completely new to you, check out the following apps:
§ iMindfulness by Mindfulness
§ Mediation for Fidgety Skeptics by Dan Harris (of 10% Happier)
§ Simply Being
What active relaxation practice can you commit to trying for a month?
Good nutrition makes your body healthier, but it also keeps you alert throughout the day and keeps your mood steady. How is your diet? Simple changes can reduce stress quite quickly, including eliminating or reducing sugar, cutting caffeine, and drinking less or no alcohol.
For more information about the connections between food and mood, see the “Food and Mood” section on the website of Mind (a UK mental health charity):
Do you need to make changes to your diet? If so, what changes are you ready to make?
Tired people are more impatient and irritable than they should be. How many hours of sleep do you get most nights? Is your sleep good quality?
If you think you need more or better sleep and you aren’t sure how to get it, this article from Help Guidehas some good tips.
How can you improve your sleep?
Take breaks sometimes
Even if you can’t afford a vacation, you can escape your day-to-day routines and challenges by engaging in a hobby, going on a hike by the river and paying close attention to the water, trees, and birds, or simply reading a novel. How often do you take time out for yourself in these ways? Can you commit to one or more “break” activities a week?
Release emotional tension
Particularly when we are feeling overwhelmed or chronically anxious, it can be hard to know where to start. Creative outlets such as music, poetry, art, singing, or dance can be a good way to begin expressing your emotions and letting your feelings out, one at a time. Journaling can be an effective tool for emotional release, as can prayer, for those who follow a faith tradition. Laughing or crying when you feel like can be good. And when you feel stuck, or when you need some guidance on how to deal with how you’re feeling, finding a good counsellor to talk to can help enormously. Do you engage in any of these pursuits? Which activity could you begin, or at least try, to see how it can help?
Everybody needs to have a sense of purpose. When you become overly concerned with your own life, you can become myopic. Seeing yourself make a positive difference in the lives of others (people, animals, or the environment) is empowering and emotionally rewarding. How can you volunteer to help another individual, your community, or the environment?