Stress is dangerous. It will siphon your energy and pretend to help when really stress just eats away at happiness. It can also do major physical harm to anyone afflicted, despite being little more than an invisible force. Symptoms may range from acne breakouts to chronic stomach pains. Because life is demanding, stress is unavoidable; everyone has at some point or another felt burdened.
Despite its inevitability, stress can be mitigated. We wanted to share long-term solutions for stress relief, so we consulted Kelly Campbell, professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino. In addition to her research, she has written about how to achieve happiness and offers other relationship guidance in her Psychology Today column, More Than Chemistry.
Ahead, Campbell provided several tips for stress management. Some are more easily implemented than others, but in the end, they all contribute to finding freedom from what weighs you down.
Eliminate the causes of stress
“It is important to live with intention, which means people are aware of how their day is spent and what causes them stress versus happiness. Major sources of stress should be deliberately addressed. If it’s your job, it might be time to change careers (consider going back to school to pursue your passion); if it’s a relationship, go to therapy to get help and/or consider ending the draining relationship(s) from your life; if it’s finances, find ways to live within your means—cut down on expenses and do what you can to earn more income (again, this might require sacrifice in the form of educational investment for some years before it pays off but movement towards this goal should already help a person feel less stressed).”
Know what boosts your endorphins
“The class of neurotransmitters that is responsible for increasing pleasure and decreasing pain is called endorphins, and they increase during exercise, sexual activity, and other things such as listening to music. People have different triggers or activities that result in an endorphin rush, so they should get in touch with the ones that make them feel good and do those things on a regular basis.”
“A person’s time should be divided up to include some time alone (meditating, exercise), time at work, time in hobbies, and time with family and/or friends. It is important that one of these domains doesn’t dominate or get ignored. If the person finds that more time needs to be spent in a certain domain to achieve balance, make sure that happens. Balance is important for health, well-being, and even productivity—you’ll do better at work if you spend more time achieving balance.”
“A person may feel as if they are the only person experiencing their problems, but many people are in the same boat. They need to gain perspective of what’s causing them stress, pinpoint the exact issues, and realize they probably aren’t as big as they think. Help is available to deal with issues (e.g., therapy, financial counseling, parenting classes, self-help books), so they should utilize the resources available to them. People have a tendency to overexaggerate their problems and then anxiety builds and builds. By sitting down and specifically identifying the sources of stress, they are able to gain perspective and implement an action plan.”
Make a gratitude list
“This simple task can shift perspective from the glass half empty to the glass half full, which will reduce anxiety and shift focus to problem-solving rather than dwelling on what’s going wrong.”
Get a support network
“Some people already have a great friendship group they can turn to for support, and in that case, make it a point of getting together with them more often. For those who don’t already have a group, they’ll want to locate like-minded, good people. Sometimes these sources of support can be found through church, hobbies, online, or through clubs at work (e.g., exercise club, book club). These groups will not only provide support, advice, and perspective, they will also provide a source of balance.”
Don’t be hard on yourself
“We often treat ourselves worse than we would treat other people. If your friend had a bad day at work, what advice would you give them? You’d say, take some time to relax, take a bath, go for a walk, treat yourself to dinner. But when we have a bad day at work, we don’t take our own advice. It’s important to treat ourselves well and take care of ourselves. We are the first example to the world for how others should treat us, so if we aren’t treating ourselves well, other people likely won’t either.”
Pay attention to warning signs
“If your health is suffering or if your relationships aren’t doing well, whatever it is, pay attention to red flags and address them. If you ignore things that you should be paying attention and tending to, they will only get worse and the stress will increase. By addressing things as they emerge, you can prevent catastrophes down the line.”