Effective Stress Management Techniques to Apply Daily

Stress is a part of life and impacts everyone. It comes in all forms and levels of intensity, and has both positive and negative effects. Stress is a critical topic to address because it is affecting people at work, at home and in their overall lives. In most cases, stress causes problems when left unchecked. The issue is never whether people have stress or not in their lives; everyone experiences stress. The issue is how much is your stress impacting you and how well are you managing it?

Here are some healthy strategies and techniques to help you be aware of your stress and to turn your stress into productive action so it is does not impact your overall well-being, relationships and performance!

Stress Triggers

Stress is the reaction we experience physically, mentally and/or emotionally to some event or situation in our life.  Different people experience stress differently and for different reasons, but generally some common triggers that create stress for people include issues like:

  • Heavy work load, increased responsibilities or other demanding work and/or home situations
  • Conflicts or relationship issues at home, school or work  
  • Expectations not being met - either of oneself or others  
  • Anxiety or fear of a situation or outcome
  • Pressure to achieve goals or results
  • Major life changes
  • Health issues and injuries   
  • Financial stressors

Feeling stress is not always bad! Some stress actually keeps us motivated and drives us to improve, grow and achieve more. It keeps us absorbed, attentive and competitive. Without some level of stress, we may even be bored or complacent.   

Negative Effects of Stress

However, when people do not use stress productively, they can experience negative effects such as lack of focus, poor performance, appetite changes, sleep pattern changes, feeling sick, tense muscles, faster heart rate, fatigue, and many others.   In fact when negative stress persists for a long time, the body’s resistance weakens and can make one susceptible to more serious health issues and depression.

Negative effects of stress also show up in behavior. Some people who are stressed display aggressive, rude and combative behavior, while other times people can withdraw, engage in negative self-talk, or other destructive behaviors.  These types of behaviors end up throwing people into an ongoing negative spiral that increases the stress even more and creates more and more negative outcomes.

Too many people look for an easy answer to stress management techniques by using external dependencies to cope such as alcohol or drugs, prescription or otherwise, Many don't pay enough attention to what it's doing to their behavior and internal mindset, and continue to mask their stress without addressing it holistically.  This can be of further detriment and many times continues to compound and worsens the situation.

Some people can mask stress well and can appear as if everything is fine on the outside, while others may not be able to mask it as well. However, what's most important is how well one is managing stress on the inside. Effective and sustainable stress management starts from the inside.  

Below are some techniques that have been proven to be very helpful in managing stress:

7 Strategies for Effectively Managing Stress

1.  Control your thoughts!

Thoughts are our biggest cause of stress! In most cases we create our own stress through how we perceive a situation. Learn how to take control of your thoughts, stop assumptive unproductive thinking, and build resilience when faced with difficult situations. Mastering this technique of building your own personal mind power is essential to your success, peace of mind, and relationships!            

2.  Have a vision and a plan with attainable goals 

Studies have shown the importance of having a vision and goals as a way to help us grow. However, another important factor in having a vision is it fuels us with energy and reminds us where we want to go. In times when stress is high, a positive reminder of our vision and goal can recalibrate our persception. The balance, however, is to make your goals attainable so they don't become negative stress! 

3.  Manage your time and stay focused on executing your plan

Time managament is another technique for relieving stress and increasing productivity.  One of the factors that creates stress is the time you need vs. the time you have to get things done. So managing your time helps you stop procrastinating or juggling too many things.  It takes discipline to stay focused on your plan and to ensure you are making time to fit those things that are most important. Be wary of the standards you set, relax them if they are unattainable, adjust your plan accordingly, and learn to balance present and future needs!

4. Connect with the right people and work on building the right network

People who have a strong network manage stress better.   Studies have demonstrated that having a network of supportive relationships contributes to one's well-being, sense of belonging, self-worth and sense of security.  In times of stress, reach out and connect with the people in your network that can directly or indirectly help you with your stress. A strong network consists of family, friends, people you know from business, school, community or others with whom you have developed a relationship or meaningful connection.  

Be selective with who you associate with, and surround yourself with positive people and people who you trust, respect and from whom you can learn and grow.  Studies have shown that we are influenced by those closest to us. Jim Rohn, a personal development philospher said the 5 closest people you hang out with, will average out to who you will become. Make it a priority to build relationships with the right people, connect with them whenever possible, be genuinely interested in connecting, help them whenever possible, and reach out to those that give you the energy you need in times of stress. Having the right network is extremely powerful. Learn how to build it and nurture it and it will pay you back exponentially in dividends.

5.  Take time for leisure and enjoyable activities

As part of your daily activity find time to do something you enjoy.  Listen to music, go out in nature, play an instrument, write, work on your hobby or start one, go out and find things you enjoy.  Most of all find time to have fun and don't forget to laugh. Laughter is a great medicine for reducing stress.

6.  Take care of yourself

When you're stressed, it is most important to remember to take care of yourself.

  • Exercise – We know exercise is a stress reliever. However if you don't feel like going for a rigorous work-out, just taking a walk  or even just stretching can improve your mood. Exercise releases endorphins that make us feel good. So don't think of it as exercise. Think of it as doing something that will make you feel good! As you exercise, eliminate any thoughts of stress and just focus on your body and your breathing. 
  • Eat well - Stress levels and a proper diet are closely related. Avoid sugar, fat starchy foods and too much caffeine. They are the worst foods when you are stressed. Instead include in your diet fruits, leafy vegetables, avocado and salmon, which are some of the foods that have been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress
  • Sleep enough – Lack of sleep can greatly impact your stress. Don’t deprive yourself of sleep because it eventually catches up to you. Turn off distractors and plan to get 7-8 hours.
  • Disconnect and  Relax - And finally disconnect yourself from the madness of the day! Turn off your phone, learn to practice mindfulness and find "alone" time to just relax and meditate.  

7.  Invest in your own personal development

And last but not least, invest in your own personal development.  Personal development is a life long journey that gives us the ability to grow from many different perspectives. Get curious about how you think, what makes you tick, what your stress triggers are, how your react to them and how you can overcome them.  There are many programs, advice, articles, videos from different speakers and authors that build on this topic of Stress Management. The topic of Mindfulness, Emotional Intelligence, Resilience, Mind Power and Leadership provide another angle of developing oneself  from the inside out!  


rania-kortRania Kort is an Independent Management Consultant and Business Advisor with more than 20 years’ experience helping Fortune 100 companies successfully implement strategic initiatives. Rania has managed large-scale programs and programs, established and run PMO's and implemented process improvement in many different industries. She ran and grew an IT Management Practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers for more than seven years managing over 300 consultants.  Currently, she serves as an independent consultant focusing on achieving results through collaboration and a team leadership approach that ensures alignment, accountability and trust to develop high-performance teams.

If you would like to contact me, I can be reached either through my contact page or through LinkedIn.