4 ways to effectively handle and prepare for stress

Stress is unavoidable, but it doesn't have to hurt your health

It's pretty much impossible to live a completely stress free life. Mild stress is a normal part of everyone's days, but sometimes it can pile up and cause even more anxiety. Stress is an evolutionary necessity that keeps us aware of our surroundings and prepared for danger. But if you remain in a prolonged state of stress, you can experience headaches, elevated blood pressure, sleeping problems and even chest pain. You immune system can end up compromised as a result. Knowing this, it's important to learn how to effectively manage and prepare for stress.

1. Make time for yourself

We all have busy schedules. You can get lost in work or homemaking and forget to take care of yourself. By not taking time to relax or unwind, you're only ramping up your stress levels more. While taking a me day can be helpful, it's also important to have time to yourself on a regular basis. This can be as little as 10 minutes in the evening to read a book or as much as setting aside a few hours on the weekend for a Netflix binge. Whatever helps you unwind at the end of the day will help you manage your stress.

2. Cut back on stressors when you can

There are a specific set of responsibilities you already have at work, school or at home. You're also probably encouraged to go above and beyond and take on more responsibility. Be careful about the responsibilities you take on. The last thing you need is way too much on your plate to handle. If you find yourself incredibly stressed by an extra curricular activity, cut it out of your life or take on a less demanding role. Or maybe replace a stressful hobby with a new relaxing one. This will give you more time to focus on more important responsibilities. It will also give you more time to relax at the end of the day.

3. Make exercise and sleep a priority

Living a healthy and balanced life can do wonders for your stress levels. Just eating healthier, getting enough sleep and regularly exercising has been shown to reduce stress cross the board. You don't have to go to the gym every day, but making exercise a part of your weekly routine can help. With our busy lives, it can be easy to miss a couple hours of sleep. Maybe one night or two with little sleep is okay, but if you make it a habit, you'll only end up increasing your stress levels. Missing out on sleep not only makes you tired, but also makes you less motivated and makes concentration and productivity increasingly difficult. If you continue to not get enough sleep, you'll end up in a perpetual cycle of stress. Don't do that to yourself.

4. Prepare for the worst case scenario

An easy way to avoid stress is not to think negatively. And it is a good strategy to have a more positive outlook on your life day to day. However, you should still think ahead to the worst case scenario. By planning out what you might do in a bad situation, you'll be able to better manage the unexpected stress if it does arrive. Think of it as a thought experiment, rather than a possible depressing reality. Additionally, it is unlikely that the worst case scenario will actually happen. Preparing for the worst can help you cope with a less unfortunate situation as well. That said, don't let thoughts of the worst case cloud your every day life. Think about it, plan your action, and set it aside until your situation changes.