Stress management has become such a cliché term; we often forgot how important it is to prevent stress from taking over our lives. Of course we get stressed out; we are student affairs professionals. What do you expect? Well I have good news! Instead of lecturing on the definition and consequences of stress, I thought it would be much more beneficial to discuss a few techniques to help challenge some of the anxieties that go along with the daily grind and cause us to get stressed out.
Try Not to Focus on those Issues and Problems we Have no Control Over – Believe it or not, the majority of issues we fret over that cause stress are out of our control. Take time out and make a list of issues or problems that weigh you down mentally (The mere act of writing down your problems helps relieve stress). Next, cross off the items you have no control over and/or cannot influence. Don’t waste time, sleep, or a single thought over these issues, as they are not within your grasp. With the remaining items on your list, the ones you have control or influence over, create a realistic strategic plan to either conquer or address the problem.
Confront those Issues You have Control Over – Chose how you should deal with each issue based on the situation and your comfort level. However you choose to address the issue, make sure you always deal with it actively and directly. For example, to directly deal with the problem, try changing the source, confronting the source, and keeping a positive attitude in your attempts to do so. Other techniques for confronting stress-causing problems include: talking about the issue, making positive self-changes, and getting involved with groups and organizations outside of work. Avoid inactive ways of dealing with stress like avoiding the problem or having a drink to calm your nerves. These actions can actually make the stress worse and in some cases can cause illness.
Keep a Journal – Writing is a very effective tool for reducing stress. Writing, acts as a tool for releasing built up pressure and anxiety. In your journal, set goals and reward yourself when they are accomplished.
Take Care of Your Body and Mind – Maintain a healthy diet. Eat properly and try to avoid sugar and caffeine (I know this one is hard especially with a hectic lifestyle). Get out of the house or apartment. Take a walk and exercise regularly. Get a massage, buy a relaxing CD, or simply take a hot bubble bath.
Breathing Techniques – Sit in a comfortable, quiet environment with your eyes closed. Take deep breathes and inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Remember to use proper, rhythmic breathing patterns.
Meditation – After establishing a comfortable breathing pattern (as discussed in the last section), picture yourself in a peaceful and relaxing environment. Maybe your place is in a meadow or lying in the grass underneath the stars. Visualize yourself in that place and as part of the place. Focus on your breathing. Like stress, you are in control of your place. Anything you want can happen in your place. Continue until you feel relaxed and refreshed. Now count to 5 and stretch your muscles. As you finish, take a deep breath. This exercise can be performed with relaxing music such as sounds of the ocean or in a quiet room.
These are just a few proven techniques for living a stress-reduced lifestyle. Take time to create your own techniques and do what makes you feel comfortable. Remember, you are in control of how much stress affects you. Keep a positive attitude and eliminate as much stress as possible.
Submitted by Aaron J. Hart, Assistant Community Coordinator, Arizona State University