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Stress Management in the Face of Change

Change is inevitable but it can also be stressful. Even good changes, such as a promotion, can be stressful. Revisit tried-and-true stress management techniques for healthy coping.

You've started yoga, learned how to say no to some of the demands on your time and taken up an enjoyable hobby. You've gotten your stress under control, and your family life and work life are well-balanced. With your stress management plan in action, all seems well with the world.

And then it all changes. You've been charged with reorganizing your department at work. Your son's been skipping school. Your dad's health takes a turn for the worse. The road you drive every day closes for construction.

These kinds of life changes are inevitable and normal. When they occur, though, they can threaten to derail your success at stress management, which, in turn, can affect your health. Here are some ways to handle stress management in the face of change.

Recognize changes that may test your stress management skills

Life is bound to keep changing. Even if your son's school problems get resolved or your father's health returns, other changes are likely to occur in your life that may trigger stressful reactions all over again.

Here are some typical but major changes in life that can cause stress:

  • Death or illness
  • Accidents
  • Marriage
  • Pregnancy
  • Divorce
  • Job promotion or layoff
  • Moving
  • Money problems
  • Retirement

One of the reasons that these changes are so stressful is that they're emotionally charged. If you try to repress or disregard the emotions surrounding these events, your stress level is bound to skyrocket.

Even small changes can be unsettling and stressful, though. Traffic jams, long lines at the grocery store, a perpetually crabby child ? these ordinary, everyday events can push you off the stress charts, especially if it seems like they're happening constantly.

These changes, large or small, can initially seem to throw you off your stride in terms of stress management. Take some time to acknowledge the stress you're feeling and any other emotions you might have related to these changes. Then, the best thing you can do is go back to the basics of stress management.

Revisit your favorite stress management techniques

When stress comes back into your life, it's important to get it under control again as quickly as possible, before full-blown stress and chaos erupt. Revisit the stress management techniques you've used in the past. Review which stress management techniques worked well for you before. And take note of which ones didn't work well for you.

Then put your successful stress management techniques into practice again. The techniques may include:

Re-prioritizing work goals and tasks

Making sure to carve out time for physical activity every day
Not skipping meals or resorting to fast food
Delegating household chores to other family members
Taking short breaks to practice relaxed breathing or muscle relaxation
Putting a positive spin on negative thoughts
These simple but important stress management techniques can help you restore a sense of calm and peace of mind.

Have a stress management plan in place

You can also have a stress management plan in place for times of change. This may include:

  • Understanding that change is inevitable
  • Recognizing types of life changes that can lead to stress
  • Learning the warning signs of stress, such as anxiety, sleep problems, irritability or mood swings
  • Nourishing a strong support system of family and friends you can turn to in times of stress
  • Identifying and then acting on healthy strategies for dealing with stressors that you can control
  • Strengthening your resilience skills, which help you adapt to and cope well with change and hardships

You already have the skills to manage stress. You've managed stress successfully before and can do it again. Don't let change itself derail your best stress management techniques.

And remember, during times of extreme stress or crisis, or when self-care measures aren't working, consider getting professional help.
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