"Stress Is Normal"—A Doctor's No-Nonsense Guide to Managing It

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Stress is a normal part of life. But how it affects us on a physical, psychological and emotional level and how we deal with it varies from person to person. Some people thrive on stress and perform at their best, whereas other people can be overwhelmed and function at a less optimal level.

I think the first step in effectively managing stress is accepting that stress happens to us all and is a normal part of our lives as a human. The next step is to reflect on how you have dealt with stressful situations in the past. Have you thrived or fallen? What was the end result? Positive or negative? How do you feel looking back?

I personally believe you can have a positive or negative outlook on anything in life. Whichever way you choose, the outcome tends to follow. If you embrace the mantra that sometimes stress isn’t optional, but how you deal with it is, you will start to feel more in control of the situation and your life in general.

We all need to develop a strategy to manage stress. There are many options available to us, including:

1. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). It’s a form of psychological therapy that is used to treat a variety of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, PTSD and anger management. The principle of CBT involves understanding how thought processes lead to behaviour. The aim of treatment is to help the patient develop a strategy to initially recognise the trigger to their symptoms and then take action to control them.

2. Exercise.

3. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and mindfulness.

A combination of all of the above tends to work best. Reflect on the type of stress you are experiencing, and then work on developing your personal coping strategy. For example, if you’re stressed and exhausted, exercise is best avoided and mindfulness and yoga are much kinder options. On the other hand, if anxiety-related stress is affecting you, exercise may help you let off some steam and then get a better at night’s sleep as a result. Stress can vary depending on where it stems from, let’s explore work versus home stress.