Mental Health Awareness Month celebrated its 69th year, focusing on fitness for mind and body. While we’re well versed in how to shape up physically, emotional wellbeing is less understood. Regardless of whether or not you suffer from mental health issues, being psychologically fit depends on your ability to manage stress.
- Know your limits. Not all stress is bad: it’s what helps us meet a deadline, ace a pitch, impress a date. But when we feel that the demands of a situation outweigh our ability to deal with it, we tip over from ‘euphoric stress’ into distress and, eventually, despair. Recognizing the difference is the first step towards managing it.
- Pinpoint your triggers. Reflect on the times you’ve felt stressed out recently – what do they have in common? A loss of control; time pressure; other people’s perceptions…we all have particular stress triggers. Knowing them helps us anticipate and plan for potentially stressful situations.
- Choose your frame. “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” said Anais Nin, and in times of stress, our emotions cloud the facts. Examine the situation objectively and choose an explanation that makes you feel calmer. Mentally reframing helps us step back from the brink of distress.
- Ask the right questions. Knowledge is power: asking useful questions prevents panic, guides decision making and helps us regain a sense of control. When you feel stress descending, ask yourself: what’s the real cause? What’s your priority, and what’s the first thing you could do? What other options are there?
- Create your own stress-busting toolkit. Some people use controlled breathing techniques to manage stress; others swear by a brisk walk. Almost everybody can benefit from opening up to friends or family. Take time to reflect on what’s worked in the past to build your go-to strategy.