Stress is one of the most serious health problems of the 21st century.
In 2018, almost three-quarters (74%) of adults reported that they sometimes feel too stressed to cope with everyday life.
Stress has a significant impact on mental health. Over half (51%) of stressed adults are depressed, and 61% suffer from heightened anxiety.
It’s clear that we need to take a proactive approach when managing stress.
Here are five ways you can improve your quality of life and cope with the challenges of everyday life:
1. Learn to let go of what you can’t control, and focus on yourself instead
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is one of the most popular treatments for mental ill-health, is based on the principle that we can reduce our stress levels by learning to control our reactions to outside events instead of trying to change them.
This doesn’t mean that you should take a passive approach to your life, merely that you should stop trying to control the uncontrollable. Experiment with new ways of thinking and reacting.
For example, don’t waste time wishing that your mother were more understanding, or that your boss showed you more respect.
Accept the world for what it is, look for the positives in any situation, and challenge your energy into taking care of yourself and working on personally satisfying projects instead.
2. Develop your assertiveness skills
Although it’s best to accept people for who they are – you can’t change them, after all – this doesn’t mean you have to accept poor treatment.
Learning to stand up for yourself will boost your confidence and stop you saying “Yes” to people and projects that only cause you stress.
Get used to saying “No” to people who demand too much of your time and attention.
Remember, “No” is a complete sentence.
You don’t need to justify your decisions with excuses.
This may be scary at first, but you can start by saying “No” to minor requests, and then building from there.
3. Put together a portable anti-stress kit
Some people find that handheld massagers, essential oils, fidget spinners, photos of their loved ones, affirmation cards, stress balls, and other items help them calm down during stressful moments.
Keep a small anti-stress box or bag with you at all times.
Fill it with healthy stress-busters only.
For example, don’t fill it with candy bars.
4. Use a journal to dump your worries on paper and boost your gratitude
Journaling is a popular self-development tool for a good reason.
There is something cathartic about writing out a list of your problems and grievances.
Ranting in a journal can be a constructive way of reducing stress without upsetting anyone else.
You can write unsent letters to people who have caused you unhappiness and burn them – this can be a healing ritual.
However, journaling is also an excellent gratitude tool.
Challenge yourself to make a list of everything that has gone well for you recently, as well as the things you are grateful for in your day to day life.
This includes the things so many of us take for granted, such as clean water to drink and a bed to sleep in.
5. Make plans and set constructive goals to improve your situation
Some stress is unavoidable, and much of it comes from external sources you can’t change.
However, if you could theoretically make changes that would reduce your stress levels, it’s time to create some realistic goals that will help you build a more enjoyable life.
For example, if your job is the primary source of your stress, you may decide to find a new role.
This might be a daunting prospect at first, but breaking it down into smaller steps can help.
Perhaps you could set aside 20 minutes every day over the next week to browse job ads, and then one afternoon to work on your CV.
Keep your goals SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Merely setting a goal can be empowering.
What to do if you can’t relax
These steps will help most people reduce their stress levels.
However, if you feel extremely overwhelmed or stressed, it’s important to seek professional help.
Left untreated, stress can lead to serious mental illness, relationship breakdown, and burnout.
A doctor or therapist can give you advice on lifestyle changes, talking therapies, and medication that will help bring your stress under control.
Stress is common, but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate it.
For the sake of your health and wellbeing, it’s best to tackle it as soon as possible.