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Effective and Ineffective Ways of Managing Stress

Any Seinfeld fans out there? Do you remember George's father and the "serenity now" episode? George's dad would shout that statement throughout the episode as if that would give him peace and manage any and all stress for him RIGHT NOW. Of course it didn't work and it was quite fun to watch this man scream, maybe begging for peace, calm and serenity... NOW.

The Effects of Stress

Earlier in the week, someone asked for quick and easy ways to manage stress - ways that don't take too long and don't cost too much. It's no secret to any of us that daily life can be filled with stress. A day can cost a dime and become chaotic, overwhelming, and anything but quiet. And it's not just the big global events that can turn a day upside down. 

Often, it's the more immediate, local situations - like morning rush hour traffic, a sick child, or forgetting to buy milk in the store. Both our physical and mental health can be affected by the great and small stressors of life. In many ways, it is the daily stressors - these seemingly small events - that get to us in the biggest way. That's when many of us start feeling a lot like George's dad, crying out for serenity NOW!

Stress Management - the Do's and Don'ts

Since stress affects us physically and mentally, stress management - learning how to deal with and deal with stress effectively - is a very important part of our lives. Here is a list of some effective and ineffective ways to deal with stress:

Breathing exercises
Planning Ahead
Getting some fresh Air
Yoga, bowling, walking
Eating nutritious foods
Drinking a glass of water
Speaking kindly
Talking to someone about what's bothering you
Road rage
Isolating from friends or family
Being a couch potato
Standing at the sink eating cake
Abusing drugs or alcohol
Speaking aggressively
Holding it all in until you're shouting Serenity Now!

What are your Stress Management Roadblocks?

If you read these two lists, you may find yourself on one side or the other. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to stress management for many is procrastination. Putting things off - like homework, tax returns, or any number of things we know we should be doing - can really increase stress and create unnecessary anxiety. 

Setting up a 30-minute learning timer, committing to reading 10 pages of a book, or creating receipts to pay taxes, can really help get things going. Acting helps us get a sense of fulfillment, which in turn helps us take further action.

It is undeniable that stress is part of our busy lives. Managing stress can be challenging - but it can be done. I invite you to take a look at the parts of your life that make you feel stressed. Ask yourself what else you can do to practice effective stress management. We may not be able to handle all the stress in our lives, but I think we owe it to ourselves to figure out what we can do and perhaps even experience a little serenity.

Original post date: March, 2017. Revised February, 2019.

Karen Williams, LIMHP
Karen Williams, LIMHP

Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.

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