Sometimes it seems like no matter what we do, stressful situations have a way of finding us. But, it’s important to remind ourselves that experiencing stress isn’t always a bad thing.
Everyone experiences stress. Small amounts of stress can be helpful to motivate you, but long-term (chronic) stress can have serious consequences for your health and well-being. Preventing long-term stress can help to lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, depression and anxiety.
Learning to notice when you feel stressed, and to anticipate and prepare for events that can increase your stress, is a great step towards managing and reducing stress. That way, even if the situation doesn’t change, you’ll be in a better position to handle it.
Many of the other tips on our site can help you manage your stress, such as prioritizing sleep, eating well and moving more.
If you think you could be doing more to reduce stress, you’re not alone. 50% of Manitobans believe they aren’t doing enough or could be doing more when it comes to managing their stress (Doctors Manitoba 2023 survey). Below you will find suggestions from doctors about simple steps you can take.
Here are some tips to help manage and reduce your stress.
Talk to someone you can trust. Family or friends can help validate how you’re feeling, reframe your thoughts, and work towards positive solutions.
Try avoiding or reducing alcohol, smoking tobacco or marijuana. They may seem like they lower stress in the short-term, but your body can rebound to a more stressful state later.
Give yourself time for you every day, even just 10 minutes for a hobby, relaxation or to get outside and enjoy nature.
Go outside and enjoy nature. People who spend 2 hours a week in nature report significantly improved health and well-being.
Practice Gratitude. People who intentionally take time to think about the people and things in their life they’re thankful for can handle stress easier.
Plan ahead. Prioritize tasks to do first, but also cut yourself some slack. If you’re self critical, feel shame or blame yourself for your stress, it’ll most likely grow. Instead, try talking to yourself like you would speak to a friend, with kindness and understanding.
Try starting a journal. It’s a good way to help you download your worries.
Turn your screens off and take a break from social media. Scrolling may seem like “relaxing time” but it’s actually a numbing activity. Instead of helping you cope, they prevent you from dealing with the situation, while only wasting your time. This can make your stress feel even worse.
It’s ok to ask for help. People around you may not know how stressed you are or what you need unless you ask. And most likely, they’ll want to help.
Practice saying no. Commonly people say yes when they mean no to make others around them feel happy or to avoid conflict. Sometimes saying no is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Deciding on your boundaries and learning to protect them can help keep your stress low.
Connect to your spiritual side. A greater purpose, and connection to a higher power can reframe your life and reduce your stress.
You may have access to an Employee Assistance Program through your employer. Speak to your human resources department to find out what services are available to you.
When to Call a Doctor
Sometimes stress can become overwhelming and it could be important to talk to a doctor. Some of the reasons include:
Ongoing stress getting in the way of your work or school, or if you are unable to cope with everyday life.
You are having trouble sleeping, your appetite changes, or other physical symptoms that could be the result of chronic stress.
You find yourself withdrawn from friends and family.
You are finding unhealthy ways to cope, such as relying on drugs or alcohol to make it through the day.
If you’re feeling like your stress is too hard to manage, or you feel out of control, anxious all the time, sad, guilty or hopeless most of the time, can’t sleep or eat or you have thoughts about dying.
You can learn more and get additional tips from these sites:
Resources for Managing Stress and Anxiety from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.
Reducing Stress, a guide from Heart and Stroke that covers the basics and suggested actions to reduce stress.
Guided Meditation, free from UCLA.
Improving focus, a series of articles and resources from Mindful.org
How to Manage and Reduce Stress, a free resource from the U.K. Mental Health Foundation.
10 Ways to Reduce Stress, a series of tips from the Cleveland Clinic.