Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: December 2008/January 2009
Managing Your Stress
By: Simma Lieberman
Here are 13 ways to manage your stress, feel more in control of your life, and handle the external factors that affect you.

  1. Review your finances - Talk to a financial planner or broker and develop a strategy for yourself. Have plan A, B and C. It's important to have contingency plans. That way, you'll feel more prepared, and less anxious. Determine if you're fine for the next year or if you need to make changes. Are you planning to retire but not sure if you can? Are there financial decisions you need to make? Taking this step instead of staying vague about your finances will give you a greater sense of control. Treat budgeting like dieting: avoid any 'crash' budgeting that is too extreme. Instead, make a budget that includes an allotment for yourself so you feel you are taking care of yourself.
  2. Discuss Your Situation - Talk with your family and/or close friends about how you can support each other. You'll feel less alone, more supported, and find solutions together. It's much more stressful to keep it all inside.
  3. Analyze What Stresses You Out - Become aware of and list the specific reasons for your stress. You'll likely feel less overwhelmed once you have down in one place all the things that are stressing you. Also identify those areas of your life that feel secure and calm and make sure you are creating the time to focus on these areas.
  4. Change Your Thought Process - Use thought stopping to rid yourself of negative thoughts and obsessive thinking that can interfere with your ability to sleep or problem solve. Learn this powerful technique in my free article, Managing Stress by Stopping Obsessive or Unwanted Thoughts. Prevent or stop anxiety symptoms like heart palpitations and shortness of breath that can interfere with your ability to be productive or problem solve. It's common at times like this to start predicting the future and imagine the worst-case scenario. Focus on the fact that you have a house, clothes, food to eat, etc. This will help you get in the present, slow down your breathing, and calm down.
  5. Create An Action Plan - Determine which stressors in your life you can control or change and make an action plan. Example: If you are worried about expenses, select the ones that are not necessary and eliminate or reduce them. There may be some that you can control or change, but are not ready to do so. That's okay. Set a timetable for taking action to resolve them.
  6. Let Go of Things You Can't Control - Identify which stressors you can't control and learn to let go of them. Write the words "let go" next to those items so that you can begin to think differently about them. Worrying about or trying to control the uncontrollable takes up time and energy that you can use to control the things you can. Letting go is a process. Learn to use this process and let go at Stress; Control It, Change It or Let It Go!
  7. Write Out Fright - Keep a pad by your bed and when you find yourself worrying or getting stressed out, write down those thoughts and visualize them leaving your head. Imagine that your brain is a clear slate since you have given your worries to the pad.
  8. Breathe Out Your Stress - Lay down, close your eyes and take some very slow deep breaths as you let go of tension. Let your breath go through your body and allow your body to get heavy and sink into the bed or chair you are resting on. As you breathe in and out you'll feel the stress leave your body. If you use this technique at night, you will fall asleep faster and have a much better chance of sleeping through the night.
  9. Exercise - No matter how worried or anxious you are, take time to exercise every day. Walking with a supportive friend or family member is not only a great stress reliever but will also help you make decisions and sleep better. This is not the time to think you have no time to exercise because you have "so much to do." Drag yourself out. You can always go back home, but once you get started you'll keep going.
  10. Relax Before Sleep - Don't watch the news, listen to talk radio or read the newspaper right before you go to sleep. Get ready for bed by listening to relaxing music or reading a good book or magazine.
  11. Say 'No' To Naysayers - Eliminate or limit your time with people who are negative, whiners or victims. They are a drain on your energy and increase stress. These people want you to be like them and validate their complaining and get angry if don't commiserate.
  12. Draw Solace from Past Successes - Remember when you successfully handled another crisis. Think of the tools you used, who you spoke with, and how good you felt afterward.
  13. Laugh to Let Go - Find something that makes you laugh. Laughing will give you a temporary break from feeling stressed and will clear your mind so you can think about solutions.