Stress is unavoidable, but now more than ever it’s important to understand the sources of our stress and how to find healthy ways to manage it.
Does Stress Affect Men and Women Differently?
Studies have shown that women are more likely than men to report having a great deal of stress, and almost half of all women (49%) surveyed said that their stress has increased over the last five years, compared to just 39%.
Women are also more likely than men to report emotional and physical symptoms of stress, like having a headache (41% vs. 30%), feeling like they could cry (44% vs. 15%), or having indigestion or an upset stomach (32% vs. 21%) as a result of stress.
Of course, just because women feel the impact of stress more than men doesn’t mean that men shouldn’t also work to develop their stress tolerance — the following exercises can help anyone to manage stress levels.
How Does Resilience Affect Stress?
Emotional resilience is something that we’re all born with, but it presents differently in men and women differently.
Furthermore, resilience can (and should) be learned and developed. Learning to enhance your emotional skills and to understand what makes you feel stressed can dramatically improve your overall mood, physical wellbeing, and help you bounce back from adversity.
Below are six steps to help you get started:
1. Recognize Your Signs of Stress
Stress manifest itself in many different ways including:
- Headaches and migraines
- Difficulty concentrating
- Cold hands
- Tight muscles (especially your back, neck, and jaw)
- Clenched teeth
- Feeling irritable and withdrawn
… and these are just some of the symptoms you may feel! Be sure to take note of your physical sensations when you are stressed.
2. Become Aware of Your Emotions
A big part of emotional resilience is emotional awareness, or understanding what you’re feeling and what’s behind those feelings.
Sometimes people feel overwhelmed with their emotions to the point where they feel “emotionally frozen” and unable to process thought and manage day-to-day tasks.
One of the best tools for understanding these emotions, and what causes them, is to keep a journal. When you start to notice signs of stress, explore how you’re feeling in your journal in order to understand the link between your emotional state and physical reactions.
3. Make Time for Yourself
Self-care isn’t selfish or indulgent; it’s an essential part of managing stress and wellbeing.
Try to prioritize taking care of yourself on a daily basis. This might include saying no to requests and prioritizing your needs.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate self-care into your daily routine:
- Make time to exercise and stretch. Lift weights, meditate, go for a walk, or simply stretch your muscles after a long day at your desk. We love Yoga With Adriene for accessible and easy stretches you can do at home.
- Eat healthy meals. Eating well is proven to positively impact both physical and mental wellbeing. Foods like fatty fish, fresh nuts, eggs, dark chocolate, and turmeric all have elements that can help manage reactions to stress.
- Get creative. Studies have shown a positive link between creative pursuits like painting, writing, and other art forms and decreased stress and anxiety levels.
- Occupy your mind. Stress can occupy our minds to the point of being overwhelmed, so make time at least once a day to unwind with a book, podcast or audiobook, or listen to music that makes you happy.
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4. Don’t Be Afraid to Try New Routines
Changing habits isn’t a sign of failure; it’s a sign of self-awareness!
From going to bed earlier, to blocking off time to plan and do specific tasks, creating extra structure (or changing existing structures that aren’t working) can create a daily framework for you to attune to your body’s signals.
For example, if you’re typically a night owl who struggles to get going in the morning, take 10-15 minutes to plan out your day so you can wake up knowing what’s in store.
This gives you the chance to mentally prepare. Writing in a day planner or calendar helps your brain “put down” thoughts around whatever’s ahead so you can rest.
5. See Problems Through a New Lens
Keeping situations in perspective is one of the most effective ways to boost resilience.
Changing the way we think about and respond to stressful situations, also known as “reframing,” can go a long way towards developing your resilience and managing your emotional response.
As an example, reframing your commute as a chance to listen to music or a podcast, or simply take in the views around you can make the experience more enjoyable.
Instead of mirroring someone’s anger, irritation or frustration, imagine what might be happening in that person’s life and work to respond with kindness.
6. Invest in Developing Your Resilience and Optimism
For some of us, the idea of building stress tolerance and resilience might seem overwhelming — and that’s normal!
To get started, try reading books about resilience (we have a great list here if you’re interested), or talk to your friends and trusted colleagues about the changes you want to make. Finally, consider investing in self-paced programs on the topic to give you a framework for success.
Reduce Stress and Increase Resilience Today
One of the best things about resilience is that it’s a skill that can be developed over time, which means anyone (including you) can do it.
A great place to start is with our Learn to Be Resilient self-paced course, but if you’re not ready to sign up yet, just subscribe to our newsletter and you can have useful insights just like this post delivered right to your inbox once a month.