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The Importance of Navigating Your Stress

Continuing with the series on the foundational parts to developing your Strategic Wellness Plan the next topic to tackle is stress management. It’s no doubt that how you deal with your stress on a daily/weekly basis has an impact on your overall health and well-being. So, in order to effectively manage your stress means you need to understand what causes you immediate stress, what ongoing stress is impacting you, and what mechanisms of stress management are easy for you to implement.

With this in mind the first thing to identify is what typically stresses you out. There are many things that can create stress in your life, taking some time to identify the regular stressors in your life will assist you in finding ways to cope with them. These stressors could come from work, family, environment, expectations (yours & others), health issues, financial, life transitions, technology, or just daily hassles. Everyone’s level of stress that they can handle is personal and different. What stresses one person out, could be a place of calm for another. So knowing what impacts you the most is the first step to identifying how best to manage the stress you feel.

Stress typically falls into two categories – ongoing life stress from any of the above mentioned areas and unexpected stress from a situation that pops out of the blue or can be a part of our daily lives. Initially both can be managed similarly but ongoing life stressors are the ones that will have the most impact on your health if not addressed. So let’s tackle those unexpected, out of the blue, stressors first, then we will discuss some ideas on how to handle your ongoing stressors.

When something unexpected happens that ignites your stress fire, do you have a plan to get back to where you once were or to navigate through the situation as best you can? How do you vent off steam, regain your composure, and set yourself on a manageable path forward?

There could be a number of things you can do to handle that immediate stress response. Some choose breathing exercises, taking a walk, finding a place to decompress, progressive muscle relaxation, grounding techniques, positive affirmations, reframing, stress balls (or like items), removing themselves from the situation, walking/playing/petting your pets, aromatherapy, humor, calm music, a combination of these, or other go to stress reducing techniques you find calming. Most important is to find a way to navigate your immediate stress in a manner that works best for you and the situation you are facing.

I have personally used several techniques throughout the years based on the situation I found myself in. If stuck in traffic my go to is breathing then reframing. Breathing allows me to calm down and center myself to understanding that traffic is what it is, and I have no choice but to deal with it. Reframing allows me to find something useful with this extra time that I now have, like listening to a podcast that is of interest to me or enjoying a new music playlist our kids have compiled. It’s not ideal to be stuck in traffic, but you are, so what can you do to pass the time and reduce your stress?

Another go to for me over the years has been to remove myself from a situation that is causing frustration and stress. When the kids have gotten on my last nerve, I exit the room they are in, telling them “Mom needs a breather”. I do that to avoid the yelling that I have been prone to do. It helps me separate my immediate stress from my reaction to the stress, which is typically to yell. Not a great thing to admit, but it is the truth none the less. I find doing this helps me reset and calm down. When I do that, I can see the situation with clearer eyes, less fire, and my response is calmer and more thought out. Which leads to better outcomes.

In Brené Brown’s book Dare to Lead, she provides an example of how taking a breather and “circling back” to an issue is actually a good thing when confronted with a problem at work. Unless there is an immediate need to solve it, sometimes taking the break provides the space needed in order for all involved to clear their heads and reduce the immediate stress of the moment, which enables all parties can think more objectively and come up with solutions they might not have thought of before once they return to the table.1

These are just a few examples of how to deal with immediate stressors, I am sure each of us could provide many more, but the key thing here is to recognize that your stress level is getting high and to do something about it before it gets toxic to your system. However you choose to do that is up to you, just know that it is important to address these pop-up stressors before they become simmering, under the surface emotions that make other things in life much more difficult to manage and will start to negatively impact your health.

The other stress to gather a clearer picture on is your ongoing stress. Many of the same things I mentioned above can not only be short-term, immediate stressors in your life, but can become ongoing, persistent issues that you must contend with. These are the ones that truly do negatively impact your health if you do not find a way to manage and address them.

When it comes to ongoing stress the techniques we discussed above can be great to help with calming your nerves when stress rears its ugly head, but you might want to consider other resources if the stress you feel is not easily managed, or put out, by these techniques. This is when seeking out a resource such as a therapist or other qualified professionals to assist you through the issue you face can be of service to you.

Friends who you can talk to openly can be a great resource as well when you need to work through a problem. Others find that regular exercise, mindfulness and relaxation, hobbies, journaling, practicing daily gratitude, building resilience, practicing self-compassion, spiritual guidance and groups, or other self-care techniques can be helpful in mitigating the effects of ongoing stress. The key is to find what truly will help you manage the stress you feel so that you can deal with the issues you face in life.

Stress is of course, an inevitable part of life, and it isn’t all bad. However, when the total amount of stress you are experiencing at a given time exceeds your ability to cope with it, that’s when stress wreaks havoc on your health.

Even though we know we need to, managing our stress seems to be a challenging thing for many to incorporate into any wellness plan. Managing our stress can actually be stressful! As ironic as that sounds, it can be. But clearly stated, if you’re not doing some form of stress management, you will sabotage all of your best efforts with diet, exercise, and supplements. It is just that essential!

With that in mind, know that taking time for yourself is not selfish – it helps you to be the best mother/father, spouse, friend, employee, and person you can be. Though this is obvious, it is often overlooked or neglected. Be kind to yourself, to your body, to your mind. In return, your body, mind, and spirit will take care of you, enabling you to live the best, healthiest life you can live.

To your health & longevity!


1. Brown, Brene. 2018. Dare to Lead. London, England: Vermilion.

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