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The paper will include a definition of stress and stressors, a list of author’s personal stressors, descriptions of various relaxation techniques to be utilized, methods to enhance communication, discussion of anger management involving steps to resolve anger and conflict, a description of eating behaviors and plan to change negative eating behaviors, as well as the development of a FITT (frequency, intensity, time, type) plan for cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength training programs.
Stress bears great significance in everyone’s lives. It is a major factor in a person’s health, lifestyle, habits, and behaviors. Improper handling of stress can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Critically high levels of stress can decrease a person’s productivity, can cause damages in relationships, and can harm one’s health and well-being. On the other hand, proper management of stress can enhance a person’s quality of life significantly. There are various ways through which one can get the most out of life not by eliminating stress completely, but by reducing stress and managing that which remains. By identifying causes of stress, and then identifying ways that are effective to the individual specifically, stress management can be accomplished. Stress management is the key to living a happier, healthier, and more satisfying life.
Romas and Sharma defines stress as “the response of the body, mind, and behaviors as a result of encountering stressors (external events), interpreting these, making judgments about controlling or influencing the outcomes of these events” (A Comprehensive Workbook, 2014, p. 14). The concept of stress can be understood through three main models: response-based, event-based, and interactional. The response-based model defines stress as the popularly known “fight or flight” syndrome. An individual is faced with two options in response to a stressor: to fight it or to run away from it. The event-based model suggests that there is a certain amount of stress experienced by an individual for every life event; Holmes and Rahe attempted to measure stress using this concept when they constructed the Social Readjustment Rating Scale. The interactional model, on the other hand, recognizes an individual’s perception of stress as the most important factor. In other words, the degree to which a person is exposed to and affected by the stressors is dictated by how the individual perceives the stressors, and thus the actions the individual chooses to take in accordance to that perception (Romas & Sharma, 2014, pp. 2-5).
As can be gathered from the above definition of stress, a simple definition of a stressor is that it is an external event in an individual’s life. Specifically, Romas and Sharma defines stressors as “the demands from the internal or external environment that we perceive as harmful or threatening” (A Comprehensive Workbook, 2014, p. 5). The stressors can also be divided into different classes: life events, chronic stressors, and nonevents. Life events are those events in an individual’s life that are discrete and major, and requires some adjustment on the individual’s part, such as marriage and childbirth. Chronic events are ongoing, everyday occurrences in one’s life, such as traffic. Nonevents are those anticipated, desirable events that may cause stress when they do not occur even though they normally occur in the life of particular group of people (Romas & Sharma, 2014, pp. 5,7).
Our relationships with other people is a major cause of stress in our lives. Often, the cause of these relationship-related stressors is miscommunication. There are times when we say the wrong things, in the wrong tone, at the wrong place, and when the time is not right. Sometimes, these mistakes are unavoidable. Although sometimes, they are. There are simple steps that we can take in our lives to minimize miscommunication, and thus the stress that comes with it.
One key to avoiding miscommunication is by understanding and realizing that everyone has their own perspectives, in other words, we all see the world differently: “[…] the words we choose to describe something are not reality. They are our understanding of reality” (Power to Change, n.d.). It is important to always ask questions and not make assumptions to make sure that we are really understanding what other people are saying. We should ask and then we should listen. We listen with our ears, but we also listen with our hearts. It is important to make an effort to observe the people we want to understand. When we observe that people are opening to us, we also should be willing to open ourselves to others, by sharing how we feel and what we think. Communication always has to happen from both sides, from all sides.
In my life, in order to communicate better, I need to listen more attentively. I also need to avoid saying things without thinking first. I need to say the words in my head first and develop the proper tone to make sure that the other person does not misunderstand what I am trying to say.
I definitely need to work on how to better resolve anger and conflict. First of all, I need to understand that contrary to the popular belief, it is unwise to just “let out” my anger. Although it is also unwise to hold it in, letting it out may only do more damage: “[…] outbursts and tirades only fuel the fire and reinforce your anger problem” (Anger Management: Tips and Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control, n.d.). Even though I often cannot control the situations I get into and how it makes me feel, I have total control over how I choose to express my feelings. I don’t need to hurt other people or myself. I also should realize whether I’m truly angry or whether my anger is just “masking other feelings such as embarrassment, insecurity, hurt, shame, or vulnerability” (Anger Management: Tips and Techniques for Getting Anger Under Control, n.d.). Identifying thought patterns, such as overgeneralizing and jumping to conclusions, which lead me to feeling angry may also be helpful; I need to realize that my perception of what happens more than what really happens is what I need to monitor.
When the problem also concerns another person, it can cause conflict between me and the other person. In these kinds of situations, I no longer only need to manage my own anger but I also need to be able to handle the other person’s anger as well. Taking a break when the conversations turns into more of a confrontation is a good idea; it is also wise to avoid creating unnecessary tension. Sometimes, it is also best to just forgive and forget; in this way, I give myself and the other person a chance to start with a clean sleet.
As a college student, I am susceptible to anxiety problems, like a lot of people. I constantly worry about the past, the present, and the future. There are nights when I will be up at night, unable to sleep, and my mind too busy thinking and worrying of the things that sometimes I have no control over. There are also mornings when I will just wake up and immediately negative thoughts and unnecessary worries about the days ahead will fill my head.
What I need to work on the most is accepting uncertainty. I have gotten better over time. I no longer plan too far ahead, and I don’t always feel the need to stick to my plans. I leave it all in the hands of the Lord. His plans for me are surely better than mine. According to HelpGuide.org, writing down my worries might also help worries disappear because of the harder work associated with writing than simply thinking about them (Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks, n.d.). Another tip suggested by HelpGuide.org that might prove very useful and effective is the creation of an “anxiety worry period”—a specific amount of time I can set aside each day devoted to worrying and negative thoughts. In this way, the rest of the day can be devoted to more productive and positive thoughts (Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Attacks, n.d.).
Stress management does not only deal with maintaining a healthy mind, but also maintaining a healthy body.
My guilty pleasures when it comes to food include a lot of desserts, especially chocolates. I consume chocolate and other sugar-filled snacks almost every day. It is a part of my lifestyle that I think will never change, nor do I want to ever change. Another guilty pleasure of mine is coffee. Recently, with my class schedule, I have been having coffee or something with caffeine content at least once a week.
Another unhealthy eating behavior that I have developed into a habit is skipping meals. Since taking this class, I have been doing better in eating a full breakfast meal, but sometimes I still do skip breakfast. I also tend to skip lunch which leads me to overeating at dinnertime.
It will be unrealistic to expect myself to totally change my eating behaviors with regards to desserts. A simple change that I can probably manage though is monitoring my consumption of sweets and making sure that I do not excessively eat too much sugar. It will be good for me to set a limited amount of sweets that I can consume per day or per week. In order to do that, I will not tempt myself by having them around the house. I also have been controlling my intake of caffeine. I keep track of when and how much coffee I have during the week and set rules on when I can next have some more of it. When I feel that I will be tempted, I leave my money at home so I cannot buy coffee. With regards to skipping meals, I encourage myself to eat breakfast by eating with my parents. I will also try to remember to eat lunch and avoid overeating at dinner, except on very special occasions.
Over the summer, I discovered that dancing is a very good and enjoyable exercise for me. For my cardiovascular exercise, I plan to make time to dance at least for 30 minutes, for at least three times a week. I also plan to incorporate some flexibility exercises as well as strength exercises within my dancing routine. In most choreographies, there are flexibility exercises found such as the adductor stretch and the hip flexor stretch; most of the dance steps also include bending from the waist and touching the toes without bending the knees. When dancing, I also add and sometimes they are automatically included in the dance steps demonstrated in the YouTube videos, a couple of strength exercises; the most common include the goblet squat, split squat, and squat to overhead press. With regards to intensity, these dancing routines will be fairly moderate; however, I plan to increase the intensity gradually by dancing to songs with a higher tempo. For me, I think that incorporating the cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength exercises will be the most effective because otherwise I would think that the exercise routine is too inconvenient, and thus I may eventually stop doing it.
The first step is to set definite priorities, and it “should be determined both by urgency and importance” (Hargreaves, 1998). It is important that I make myself aware of how much I am spending on certain activities and then compare it to the amount of time I want to spend on these activities. I need to also be more active in creating to-do lists with assigned priorities; recently it had been really helping me keep up with my responsibilities. What I need to get better at is setting a start time and sticking to it instead of being focused on the deadline, and ending up procrastinating. Planning the day ahead can help me do a quick walkthrough of my day so I know exactly what I want to accomplish in a particular day; it will be helpful for me to remember the popular quote: “Most people don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan.” It is also important to identify my long term goals, making sure that my short term goals are aligned with and helpful in reaching those long term goals.
Over the semester, the relaxation techniques that I found most effective for me are the Yogic Breathing and Autogenic Training. I will also continue using the Visual Imagery relaxation technique. These techniques helped me clear my mind and gave me a chance to just focus on the present and thus helped relieve the constant feeling of anxiety. The visual imagery allows me to focus on the positive and indulge in the feeling of happiness rather than on negative thoughts and emotions.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle does not come easily; in fact, most things do not. Everything that is worthy to have require a huge amount of effort, time, and patience. Every solution starts with the first step and I believe that by creating this stress management plan, I am at least one step nearer to the happier, healthier, and more satisfying life I desire.
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