The Skinny on Stress: How to Manage It Before It Manages You

By: Meghan Williams

Stress is about as unavoidable as death and taxes. It’s a condition of human tendency that has the power to be detrimental if not managed well. Doctors say it contributes in large part to just about every illness out there and therapists tout its ability significantly distort perception. But how does one manage stress? Without it managing you?

Here are a few simple self-management strategies that you can employ to help mitigate the negative effects of stress on your system:

1.     Keep it here and now. So often times, our stress is amplified by psychologically processing all the “what if’s” and “if not’s” that could potentially derail your current goal or desire. This spin creates a large part of the problem because it makes the problem seem much bigger than it really is. Try to stick to the facts and keep your awareness centered on what is actually happening and within your ability to manage. Ask yourself “what is true right now” and do your best not to let your awareness go beyond that. Keeping your awareness in real time will keep it manageable and make the next step much more obvious.

2.     Don’t hold an expectation of perfection. This is a BIG one. And we don’t realize how often we do it. The ego will automatically depict an image of the “perfect scenario” and then take it personally when it doesn’t work out that way. And the more we lean into it, the more we feed it. Life is not supposed to be perfect and neither are we. The sooner we are able to rest easy in this reality, the less chaotic your headspace will become.

3.     Trust your process. Faith is a huge help here. Faith in a higher power, your highest potential, the universe – whatever you can comfortably subscribe to as something that exists beyond you. And trust it. I mean, really trust it. Trust that you may not always know the way and if it’s not happening the way you think it should, maybe you need to be open to a better way that lies beyond your current field of vision.

4.     Don’t take things personally. Nothing – and I mean absolutely nothing – is personal. We are all individual beings having an individual experience that revolves around our individual needs, wants and desires. People respond to you based on their own inner state of being that has nothing to do with you. Don’t give them the power that comes with influencing your relationship with yourself. They are not a measure of your personal success, happiness or worth. Nor are you to them. 

5.     Don’t hold it in. Stress can harm the system when stuffed and left unresolved. If you can’t address the situation head on, either because you are not in the emotional place to or because confrontation is not an option, write about it. Get it out somehow. Journaling is one of the healthiest things you can do to constructively express emotion. It doesn’t have to rhyme, flow or impress in any way. It just needs to be real.

And remember – what resists persists. This is a natural law. The more we resist what is, the more power we give it to continue. This is where true suffering comes from – resistance. Pain in life is inevitable but suffering, ultimately, is optional. And absolutely everything can be seen with even the slightest glimmer of hope. Resistance breeds stagnancy while acceptance enlivens fluidity. Try to accept things exactly as they are and find the beauty in your life exactly as it is. Only then do you open your awareness up to change and motion.