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The Big Five of Stress Management

Author: Dr Lubhana Malik
Identify stress and learn about stress management.

We all get stressed.

One of the most common ailments that run as a common thread among all of us is stress. From a home-maker to work moms, from children to teenagers, service to business industries, stress seems to have hit us as an epidemic! Have you ever wondered what stress is, how you got stressed, why you got stressed, and how you could work through your stress? If any of these have crossed your mind, then applying these five steps in your daily life, will be helpful for you! 

1) Identify your stressor.

In moments of stress, the smallest of things is enough to get you worked up. And like a ping-pong ball, stress infuses itself into every aspect of your life. So, it becomes essential to identify from where the string of stress began. If you pause to think deeply, gradually you will be able to figure out the primary source of your stress. The concept behind identifying this source is that uncertainty causes more helplessness.

Therefore, identification allows you to understand your stressors.

2) Try and differentiate your stress from another person’s stress.

After identifying the source of stress, it’s necessary to determine if this is something you need to be stressed about. Often, we pile on upon ourselves other people’s stress – regarding their choices, decisions or actions. So, it is essential to ask yourself: is this something I should stress about or is this someone else’s stress? It also becomes helpful to differentiate the areas of stress; whether it is related to your relationships, work or unfulfilled desire.

3) Evaluate your stress. 

If you are stressed, ask yourself if it’s necessary for you to get stressed about the specific situation or at that particular time? Since stress has become a standard part of our lives, we are not able to sometimes evaluate if our stress is related to factors we have no control over.

Over-evaluating or overthinking creates undue stress. 

4) Build a tolerance towards your stress. 

Since stress has become as common as cough and cold (or probably more), it is necessary to build tolerance for it. How you talk to yourself determines the majority of your reactions. So ask yourself:

A. What are the triggers/events that lead to stress in your life?

B. Could it be that your own beliefs/ belief systems are causing you to perceive a neutral situation as a stressful situation?

C. What is your behaviour in a stressful situation; does it add to your stress? If so, what aspect of your behaviour can you change for the situation to become more neutral? Add disputing thoughts to neutralise stress, questioning the stressor or trigger. Questions that begin with “how”, “what”, “why” and “could it be…”. So, how is this event bothering me so much? What aspect of this event is causing me stress, and why?

D. Could it be that I am over-personalising the situation? Could it be that I’m upset about a past incident and my current reaction is because of that and not because of the current situation? 

Try to understand your triggers/ behavioural, and reaction patterns. And then explain to yourself in positive words that this is a common phenomenon and should be taken within your stride. Once you can achieve this, then with each stressful passing situation, you will choose to fret lesser and lesser! 

5) Cope with your stress.

Let’s make a tool bag that will equip you with different coping skills to help you sail through your stressful times. Here, I have listed some of the most common coping tools for stress:

Physical exercises, breathing exercises, mindful meditation, positive self-talk, craft, play dough, sketching, colouring, painting, playing interactive games (indoors and outdoors), baking, sculpting, creating a gratitude list/journal, following a regular routine and spending time with children/ pets. Try all of them to understand which ones are most apt or most helpful for you! 

Wondering how, and if, you will be able to apply all this in your daily lives? Don’t stress about this today! This is tomorrow’s stress! One step at a time and you will be able to handle it. 

I suggest following the pattern indicated above and trying to recognise and understand how to strengthen/ develop these “big five” steps of stress management. Identify the core of your stress, differentiate between yours and others’ stress. Evaluate the requirement of stress, increase your tolerance for stress, and develop your tool bag of coping skills to help you sail through your stressful times.

This article is written by our expert Dr Lubhana Malik, Psychotherapist, based in Delhi. Follow her on LinkedIn or send her an email on [email protected] to learn more from her.

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