How to Manage Common Causes of Stress
By Stacey Feintuch
You've walked into the house after a long day at the office. Dinner needs to be made and the dog needs a walk, stat. The emails and texts from your boss won't stop coming through. Your son needs his baseball uniform cleaned for tomorrow's game. Your daughter tells you she has a book report due tomorrow but she hasn't even read the book. You're stressed out, to say the very least.
The first step to stress management is identifying the causes of stress in your life. Then, you can take measures to manage them and squash the effects of stress on your body. While we can't eliminate all sources of stress in our lives, we can help control our reactions and learn how to avoid stress, when possible. Here are a few of the main causes of stress and how you can manage them.
Cause of Stress: Family
Family stress is any type of stress related to your relationships in your immediate or extended family. That could refer to your spouse or partner, marriage, divorce or addition to the family. Problems between other members of your house or family can cause stress, even when you're not involved.
How to manage it…. Family can get the best of us and that's ok. Rise above it. Think about all the tough times your mother experienced the next time you're fed up with her. And be sure to cut yourself a break. Don't beat yourself up over a situation. Give yourself a timeout by taking a walk, reading a book or doing something else that relaxes you.
Cause of Stress: Work
According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 60 percent of Americans experience stress related to their work. Causes of job stress include working long hours, a heavy workload, dangerous conditions, poor management, presentations, harassment or discrimination in the workplace.
How to manage it…. Establish boundaries. In this digital world, setting boundaries might mean not checking your email after 8 p.m. or not taking calls during dinner. And when you arrive home, pause before you walk in the door at night. Listen to some music in the car or do some deep breathing at the front door. That way, you'll get in a better mood before you see your family. And don't let vacation days go to waste. You need to take time to unwind so you can return to work feeling reinvigorated and ready to perform optimally.
Cause of Stress: Health
Diagnosis of a new health condition, aging, symptoms or complications from a current illness can all increase stress. Don't have health issues yourself? You can get stressed if someone close to you is dealing with a health-related issue. The APA found that more than half of caregivers report feeling overwhelmed by the amount of care that their family members need.
How to manage it…. Keep your problems in perspective. Think about what you're grateful for and everything that you have. Remind yourself how lucky you are to have friends, family and a roof over your head. And make sure to take care of yourself. You can reduce stress with diet and exercise. In fact, give these foods that help you de-stress a try.
Cause of Stress: Money
Anything related to finances is a common source of stress. Rent, credit card debt or the inability to provide for your family can be stressful. The APA found that nearly three-quarters of Americans say that finances are a source of stress in their life.
How to manage it…. Create a budget. You may think that a budget will add to your financial stress, but it's the best way to take control of your finances and stop worrying about money. It will help you decide when and how you'll spend your money. Struggling with handling your budget? Contact a financial planner who can help you create a long-term strategy to help you plan for retirement. Or seek out a credit counseling service who can assist you if you're overwhelmed by debt.
Cause of Stress: Lack of time
Your to-do list is a mile long and you've barely made a dent in it. The demands being placed on us can be unrealistic. You may not be setting your priorities correctly—taking on too much because you don't want to let people down. Or you may not be managing your time properly.
How to manage it…. Learn how to manage your time more effectively to help reduce stress. Tackle the important jobs first along with the ones that you have no desire to get done. That's because unpleasant jobs can cause stress. And monitor how much you take on, knowing your limits. If you do too much, you won't be able to give it your best. Be honest with people; it's not a sign of weakness to say no.
If you try to manage the causes of stress on your own and still experience symptoms of stress, like fatigue, headache, difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, irritability, difficulty concentrating, depression, weight loss or gain, sex drive changes and other issues, you should see your health care provider to rule out other causes for those symptoms.