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Stress Management: 5 Proven Steps to Overcome Feelings of Stress

Dr. Andrew Miki, R. Psych
Founder & Chief Science Officer
Starling Minds

Janet Pun, Psych. Health and Safety Advisor
Senior Marketing Manager
Starling Minds

Stress is now considered the health epidemic of the 21st century.

But what is stress? It is defined as a feeling of strain or pressure caused by demands put on us by our environment, other people, and of course - ourselves. Many believe that stress is bad for us, but it can also be one of our greatest teachers. Stress is our body's way of letting us know what we may find harmful and adapting to changes in our environment. 

In reality, it is normal for us to experience stress from time to time as it’s part of our human experience. When stress is manageable, it can help us perform in challenging situations and build our resilience. Although it may initially drain our batteries, the elated feeling we experience after overcoming challenges can recharge some of the energy we lost.      

On the other hand, when stress is unmanageable, it can deeply impact your work and life. This is the type of stress that we should not normalize: chronic stress. If it goes on for a prolonged period, chronic stress can lead to strains on our bodies and minds because we are unable to relax and recharge. Being in a constant state of stress can interfere with our ability to sleep, relax, function, and enjoy life. It can also cause us to develop chronic conditions. 

Here are five steps you can take to effectively overcome your stress: 

  1. Acknowledge your stress. It’s important to acknowledge when we are stressed as this is the first step in managing it. By considering your thoughts, emotions, behaviours, and physical symptoms in times of stress, you can gradually learn to control and overcome them.
  2. Identify your stressors. Reflect on what is causing you to stress. Sometimes, it’s easy to identify the cause of your stress. At other times, it can be difficult. To identify your stressors, examine recent changes in your life and pinpoint when the symptoms started.
  3. Understand the reasons behind your stress. Stress is a response to a perceived danger or threat. Therefore, it’s important to ask ourselves the reasons why we may perceive a situation as a danger to us. 
  4. Try new strategies. Once you have gone through the first three steps, there are actions you can take daily to manage your stress. This includes taking care of the basics (e.g. sleep, healthy diet, exercise), making time to unwind by doing things you enjoy (listening to music, reading, etc.), staying connected with friends and family, and self-care practices (e.g. breathing exercises, accessing health-care professionals, mindfulness sessions, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), etc.).
  5. Evaluate. It’s important to review your progress and reflect on whether or not you feel less stressed and more relaxed and recharged. If you are still experiencing chronic stress, be sure to reach out to a mental health professional.

Stress is unpredictable and often unavoidable. But, if we can learn to manage it more effectively, it can help us perform better and keep up with life’s demands. Although we can’t always change the level of stress in our lives, we can learn to deal with it more effectively.

Feeling stressed? Give Starling Mental Fitness a try. This confidential digital mental health program is available 24/7 and includes check-ups, guided training sessions, mindfulness exercises, and a supportive community to help you overcome feelings of stress, anxiety, burnout, and depression. It’s free for OTIP members and eligible family members (16+ years old). 

You can find your Starling Minds access code here.

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