Written by Hadar Naftalovich
At some points in life, everyone is bound to experience some form of stress. In a city like NY, it would be surprising if we did not experience feeling stressed at least once a day! This stress can take a toll on us, especially those chronic everyday stressors.
What are we to make of this? Are we supposed to try to eliminate stress entirely from our lives — Move to Hawaii, chill in a hammock by the beach and let the world pass us by? Though it might sound tempting, it’s not a very practical solution —and besides, there are stressors in Hawaii, too. Now that we’ve ruled out getting rid of stress entirely, let’s move to plan B: learn how to deal with it.
To start, here are some of the basics about stress. In the short term, stress takes the shape of the “fight or flight” response that is often described when dealing with anxiety. Cortisol and adrenaline are released into the blood stream, causing our heart rates to increase. Our blood rushes to the major muscle groups, giving us the energy and focus we need to get tasks done, and our breathing might become more frequent and shallow in order to get more oxygen. In the long term, these effects can cause other symptoms, like headaches or insomnia. In the moment, in some sense, stress feels energizing because we feel that we are ready to take on the world! Overtime though, if we have too much stress, we see changes in our bodies that have the opposite effect: these changes are draining and detrimental to our work and productivity.
So, if you’re feeling stuck, here are some tips to better handle your stress:
- Engage in a behavior that is incompatible with the symptoms of stress for 5-min/day. A good example of this is deep breathing. Taking longer and deeper breaths can trick our bodies into thinking we are no longer in a stressful situation and allow us to focus on our tasks in a more efficient manner.
- Restructure your to-do list. Go through your to-do list again and take five items off the list. We may be feeling stressed because the big list needs to be done, so ask yourself: Does it all need to be done now? Restructure the list based on what needs to get done today, and what can wait. Another option is to restructure your to-do list into weekly goals and daily goals, thereby creating a manageable timeline for your tasks and helping you feel more in control.
- Give yourself a reward. Aside from helping us get our tasks done, this step can also help motivate us to do tasks that we would otherwise not partake in. If we combine one daunting task with one fun task (like exercising and watching TV, for example) we’ve created a situation where we can not only reduce stress by crossing items off our to-do lists, but also by merit of our enjoyment itself.
In sum, stress can have negative, long lasting effects, but by taking a deep breath, planning your day more efficiently, and rewarding yourself and you’ll be on your way to getting unstuck in no time!