How to Get A Handle on Stress
(This Q&A was originally featured in the #AskAthena Self-Help Column in Cosmopolitan Magazine)
I’m 23 and having a bit of a rough time because my stress levels are so high! Are there any tips that you can give me to help me out? Thanks, Julia.
First off, recognizing that you are having a hard time and reaching out for support is one of the most helpful acts that you can do. Neuroscientists have found that chronic stress can actually negatively impact long-term changes in brain structure and function, so getting a handle on your stress is so important! Here are three practical action steps that you can take to help you in this process:
Step 1: Review what is causing you stress
Gain clarity on what is actually causing you stress. Is it your job, relationship or health? Sometimes stress is caused by factors which we have the power to change (lifestyle choices, finances, screen-time or relationship boundaries). And at other times it’s due to things way beyond our control (due to illness, death or loss). When you gain clarity on what you can and cannot do- you can then take steps to either change your circumstances or move towards acceptance.
There is also difference between acute stress (which is short-term) and chronic-stress (which is long-term and pervasive) and how to go about treating them. For example: if you are in an abusive relationship , you would be under chronic stress. If you find yourself, in that situation, please empower yourself by exiting the relationship and learning how to maintain healthy boundaries within your future relationships. If on the other hand, your stress is related to a work project that has a hard deadline then you are working with an acute stressor. Then it’s about maximizing your inner resilience whilst you work on that deadline.
Step 2: Evaluate what you can do
Evaluate how you can help yourself. That may look like setting some time out to do a meditation (proven to be effective in lowering stress) every morning and at a night before sleeping. Or maybe that means reaching out and speaking to a friend who is empathetic. It can also mean accessing expert help so that a professional can assist you.
Step 3: Engage in Physical Activity