Stress Management: 5 top tips

Yesterday, I spoke at an event for working class singles on how to manage stress. I started off by telling them the true story of a pharmacist/youth leader who committed suicide some days back possibly due to debt. Some in the audience said the guy was possessed or being pursued by some forces. They couldn’t understand how a man woke up one morning and decided to take his own life. I asked if any of them suffered sleeplessness, struggled with debts and desperately needed a way out. I had to tell the audience that everyone goes through pressures of life and is stressed one way or the other and what separates one person from the other is the ability to cope with the stress of what they are going through. Then they went quiet.

My thoughts on the pharmacist? I don’t like to go with what the media says as they know how to “redesign” facts but rumor has it that he has been battling depression for a while now – whether this is true or not, I cannot say. However, I don’t think one has to be terribly depressed before they commit suicide. I believe that like everyone who owes money, and is being harassed in a really bad way (the Nigerian way) to pay back, he needed a way out. A permanent solution to the problem so he didn’t need to have to deal with this mess anymore. It is a pity he chose to commit suicide but who are we to judge and call him all manner of names? The truth is when you first think of stress, it is easy to assume it is work related but there are many pressures apart from work which we face such as relationships, money matters, debts, loss of a loved one, peer pressure and many more. Our inability to cope with these pressures is called stress.

Last night at this event, I shared the following ways of dealing with or coping with stress.

1. Avoid whatever causes you stress
Are there people in your life or things you do that cause you to be stressed? Maybe every time your partner opens his/her mouth to speak, you end up arguing or fighting? Maybe you have a friend or relative who is very dependent on you and gives you no breathing space. You feel pressured and need some time to yourself but it isn’t happening? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then now is the time to say NO! End that relationship or friendship if it really stresses you out and leaves you moody all day. You deserve to have people around you who make you happy and feel appreciated. I once ended a relationship that left me drained and angry. My way of dealing with my feelings was to end my relationship with and avoid the individual I felt so much resentment towards. Even when he was around me, I kept things professional. I told myself I cannot live like this, I cannot be an angry person – I need to be a happy person. Adopt this attitude.

Do you watch too much CSI and Criminal Minds and now have bad dreams and are paranoid? Well I used to be into crime drama of any kind. I only stopped when I started dreaming about them and was worrying about people’s motives especially strangers (lol). Avoid anything that gives you stress – it could be football, politics or discussions about religion.

2. Change the situation
Now if you can’t avoid what causes you stress, then you can try to change it. You can’t get rid of a trouble child but you can try to get your child professional help. How about coming to a compromise with your partner – you can both decide to make small changes.

Are you stretched too thin for time? You can learn to manage your time better so you don’t end up rushing to get things done at the last-minute. Plan ahead of time – when you are stretched too thin, you lose focus and begin to panic and even snap at people around you.

3. Change how you react by adapting to the situation
Where it is impossible to alter the stressor you can try to adapt to it. Ask yourself if the situation is worth stressing yourself over. Most times we worry about the things we cannot change. If it isn’t a do or die affair, then learn to let it go and focus your energy on something else.

Maybe you have too high a standard and just can’t get things done the way you want or find the right partner? Revisit the “list” and do some trimming you will notice many of what you want is totally unnecessary. You need to be reasonable in your expectations from life.

Are you striving to be a millionaire by all means? Not everyone will be rich – some will lead and others will follow; some will serve and others will be served. If you can pay your bills, take care of your family, have a roof over your head and can give yourself a treat every so often then be happy. Many people will give anything to be in your shoes.

4. Change how you react by accepting the situation
There are many situations in life we cannot control but accepting them and learning from them can help us deal with such situations if they do arise in future.

When you lose a loved one, there is nothing you can do to change that situation but unfortunately, the only way you can manage this is by accepting it. This is a tough one but time they say is a great healer. If you are struggling to cope in anyway, then please speak to someone – a friend, your partner, family member or even your church leader. Just having someone listen to you and share in your pain could make you feel better.

Do not keep bitterness in your heart. Bitterness makes you angry and sometimes act irrational or say the wrong things. You see the offender and you just feel this rush of anger and act in a way you wouldn’t normally act. You need to learn to forgive and move on. It is not as easy as it appears – I know that but you can start one day at a time until you can master the act of forgiveness.

5. Relax and have fun
Yes you need to relax and have some fun and it doesn’t have to cost the earth. You also need to exercise and don’t need a gym membership for this. You can exercise and have fun at the same time. You can go jogging and running on the beach; have a picnic with family and friends; have a pamper session at the spa; have drinks with work colleagues after a hard days work; stay home on a Saturday, order take away and just sleep and eat all day – there is nothing wrong with having a lazy day; you can also have a long warm bath with scented candles and glass of champagne or your favourite drink – this works like magic! You can do it at home, you will immediately feel like you are on holiday at some exotic location. Think of all the things you love to do. Invent new hobbies and make sure your perform them. You will soon begin to appreciate life and all the goodies therein.

The list is endless but I do hope you get the point I am trying to get across. For any of this to work, we need to make conscious effort to practice these tips often. Even if it doesn’t appear to be helping, keep practicing them and with time you will begin to feel light.

Watch out for my next post on coping with debt (specially for those with no access to help or support)
Stay strong.