Alternative Stress Management Techniques

Reducing stress can be complex at times and maintaining stress management techniques can get mundane or even ineffective if we possess only a few strategies. It is important that as one continues to grow and change with life that they expand upon their stress reducing tools to include those internal in nature for mental stress, external using physical movement, and incorporate techniques that target the actual source of stress which are often gained through the support of work done with a professional.

Take time management for instance, a skill, often called social orchestration when attempting to minimize stress as opposed to avoiding it, that requires scheduling prioritization, the ability to reorganize factors and elements to one’s advantage, analyze problems to clear stress-prone obstacles, and execute daily responsibilities through the best use of the time available (Seaward, 2015). Stress induced by the constrictions perceived or induced by time, a factor created by the human kind, for the purpose of mastering our natural environment, can be difficult to control especially when considering that we are a goal driven society that equates success and financial gain with the amount of duties and responsibilities we have to fill our schedules. As a culture, we look at and judge a person’s status by how busy they appear. We have shifted into a society of “hyperproductivity” (Seaward, 2015. Pp. 334) that looks impressive, however is detrimental to one’s health.

Time management created with the intention of reducing stress will actually produce better results and higher levels of functioning. Take for instance the workaholic, time juggling multitasker who works extensive hours and is always overbooked. These individuals are most often perfectionists obsessed with every detail who get caught up in lifestyle behavior traps because they can’t say no to every presented responsibility that end up overwhelmed, stress ridden, and ill. They could find balance by first taking the time to prioritize their duties, projects, or responsibilities in order of importance or categorize them through the method of important-versus-urgent. Second, creating an effective schedule, such as breaking the day down into 30-minute segments and placing each action or activity in order of importance to keep on task, a technique referred to as “time mapping” (Seaward, 2015. Pp. 347). Third is the execution stage where the prioritized schedule is implemented, and tasks are completed. Of course, there are additional tips for effective and rewarding execution such as breaking larger projects down into smaller, more manageable components, assigning deadlines, completing one task at a time, and my favorite, always celebrating accomplishments with small but motivating rewards. Finally, when it comes to reducing stress through time management it is important to plan for or expect schedule interruptions, include personal time (in writing), delegate where possible, and maintain healthy boundaries.

Creative problem solving is another technique that is useful in our day to day routines that is also quite necessary during times of crises, frustration, and the inevitable situations of change. Creativity, although often thought to be inherent or a gift, is a skill that can be developed by anyone when the right attitude and strategy is exercised. To initiate creative problem solving it is important that one first understand what the problem is, which requires looking at it objectively from all directions, even from the perspective of others. Then the challenge to generate ideas comes to play. It is here where an individual can pull from the available resources of personal experience, the theories of others, books, articles and so on to explore all conceivable or viable solutions. From there comes idea selection and refinement. Choosing more than one option to manipulate until the idea that fits the problem best is found, one that the outcome can be visualized, weaknesses pinpointed, and adjustments can be made to avoid major pitfalls until there is a solid game plan or strategy which allows for idea implementation or trying the idea out in the effort of finding resolution. Of course, with every implementation comes the need to evaluate and analyze the outcome. Sometimes the initial solution ends a bit rough and requires more refinement but when one remains curious and open-minded creativity will keep stress at bay.

Stressors come in many degrees of intensity and distress. Often an individual distorts situations to an extent far beyond how bad it truly is which is defined as “cognitive distortion” (Seaward, 2015. Pp. 218). In these situations, it becomes important to alter the perception of the precipitated feeling or the perception of the stressful circumstance through cognition changes, or cognitive restructuring which is where negative and self-defeating thoughts are replaced with positive and affirming thoughts with the intention of shifting the perception into a nonthreatening stance (Seaward, 2015).

Cognitive restructuring can be a very in-depth transformation for those who battle with negative self-talk, pessimism, catastrophizing, blaming, perfectionism, magnifying, and conditions such as “polarized thinking” (Seaward, 2015. Pp. 224), defined as always viewing in extremes whether it be extremely good or terribly bad, or the continuous self-reprimanding through “should” statements. For these individuals, the journey toward cognitive restructuring will only begin with awareness. Stressors will need to be identified, investigation into why the stressor causes distress, recognizing what emotional attitude is tied to each, and the defensive or negative feelings or perceptions will require acknowledgement. From here the person must be willing to reappraise the situation from alternate viewpoints with an open frame of mind with the intent of locating a more neutral and positive stance to handle the issue without rationalizing or suppressing emotions, one with acceptance for what is out of their control.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge for the individual working on cognitive restructuring, or attitudinal change, is in the act of implementing the desired and new outlook they have created (Seaward, 2015). Breaking habits and being comfortable with the unknown can be frightening, which is usually when defense mechanisms will kick in and the familiar responses will come out. Adopting or substituting old, less favorable attitudes and behaviors with more appealing responses takes practice, but the more they are repeated and the more the positive results are experienced they will become as natural as their predecessors. It is crucial however, with every change, to take the time to evaluate its outcome. The goal is to benefit from the hard work, don’t be afraid to go back to the drawing board and continue to make adjustments.

Personally, I find that cognitive restructuring is the most useful stress management tool. In my practice, I have implemented relaxation techniques to unwind and clam my mind (Seaward, 2015) in order to dismiss negative perceptions and allow my consciousness to move into a receptive place capable of widening my perspectives that allows me to analyze thoughts, feelings, emotions, opinions, and beliefs with positivity and enlightenment. Through this practice I am also able to take personal responsibility for those things that I do have control over and let go of the toxic feelings associated with those things I do not have control over which allows me to further finetune my expectations from a realistic perspective and thoughtful perceptions. Most of all my goal with this practice is to reframe my internal dialog with self-confidence and esteem building thoughts with the use of positive daily affirmations and a desire to accentuate positive attributes in the moment, teaching myself not to dwell or focus on the negative, simply to acknowledge it, and then locate the lesson within for continued growth and stability.

Resources

Seaward, B. L. (2015). Managing stress: Principles and strategies for health and well-being (8th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning. Chapters 9, 14, & 16.

Published by Tricia Parido https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/alternative-stress-management-techniques-tricia-parido/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *