Updated: Apr 13, 2021
You can prepare yourself to reduce the stress of certain occasions or incidents.
Become More Aware by Creating a Stress Journal
If preparing yourself for stress is a completely new concept, it can be helpful for you to start the process by creating a stress journal. A stress journal can help to increase your awareness of your own stressors.
Start by recording events that have been stressful. Note the date, time of day and locations of the events. Then write out who you were with and how you remember feeling both physically and mentally. What do you remember thinking and doing? Rate the intensity of your stress (0-10). Pay attention to things that triggered you and the effective things you did in the moment. This will help you to identify what works and what does not. A journal will allow you to develop strategies for coping.
Prepare Before the Event
In order for your brain to be fully competent and able to help you cope, you need to be prepared (if time allows). Here are some things to consider at least a couple of days in advance of a stressful event:
Biological needs – Are you treating any illness, taking medications as prescribed, and getting enough sunlight (vitamin D)?
When we are physically run down or when we have not been taking the medications
our body needs, we are setting ourselves up for vulnerabilities. Think about the last
cold you had. Were you functioning at 100%? Probably not. Make sure you are caring
for your physical body in times of stress.
Eating – Are you giving your body what it needs and avoiding things it does not work well with? (This goes along with the first tip.) We all have unique needs based on allergies or intolerances, activity levels, taste preferences, etc. If you are not feeding the body and brain, they will reserve accessible energy for basic biological function (breathing, digestion, circulation). Things like memory, emotion control, concentration will NOT be a priority.
Mood Altering Substances – Some substances do not work well with our minds. Assess your caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol and drug consumption.
Think about this: Caffeine can increase anxiety (refined sugar affects blood sugars and
can increase anxiety, anger and fear,) alcohol is a depressant and drugs can heighten
Sleep – Knowing what is effective for your sleep is crucial, including the number of hours you sleep. Do not over or under sleep prior to your stressful event because it will change your overall effectiveness.
Exercise (or movement) – It is important to be moving your body. We've all been told that sedentary lifestyles are detrimental to our physical health. Lack of movement is also detrimental to our emotional health. Move at least 20-30 minutes a day, preferably at a rigorous pace.
Rehearse for Upcoming Stressful Events
It is important to look at upcoming events and assess your thoughts about what could potentially occur.
Ask yourself, “What is the event (be specific-who, what, why, where) I am concerned about?”
Next, ask yourself “What is my fear? What is the threat?” Think specifically about your own reactions.
Imagine yourself going into the situation and acting EXACTLY how you would want to. Imagine using strategies that would make you proud. WRITE them out.
Practice this imaginative story over and over again until it seems real and your stress reduces. This may seem trivial, however, it is the MOST important part of this practice. This is a highly researched and effective strategy that I use with athletes to improve their performance and it can work for you too.
Reward yourself afterward with a relaxing activity: maybe schedule a massage, take a bubble bath, or go for a walk.
The more you prepare for stressful events that you know about and can plan for, the more effective you will be in the spontaneous stressful events. Planning for stress can improve your own confidence, relationships, and self-concept.