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Your stress-relief playbook

Woman stressed at work

We all have stress – but far too many of us are content to live with it, push through it or bottle it up. Ready to feel better? With the help of Dr. Orli Shachar, a family physician at Women’s College Hospital’s Family Practice Health Centre, we’re sharing three steps for navigating your everyday stress-inducing triggers and developing more sustainable routines. “Learning to effectively manage stress is essential to stop it from getting to a point where it’s affecting your mood and function,” says Dr. Shachar. With our stress-relief plan, you’ll learn to identify the areas of your life that incite stress and worry, and then you’ll set goals and learn long-term coping strategies.

Step 1: Identify your biggest stressors
We can’t tell you what your individual sources of stress are but, according to Dr. Shachar, chances are they might fall under one or more of these universal categories: work, money, time-management, families and relationships and health. Sound familiar? Take some time to identify your top sources of stress or worry. The following questions may help you along.

What are your top sources of stress or worry? Identify your biggest stressors.

What stress-related health effects have you noticed in your life?

Step 2: Set realistic goals
Now that you’ve identified your stress triggers, you can brainstorm ways to alleviate whatever sources of stress you can – and learn healthy ways to cope with those you can’t. “Create small, tangible goals that you can realistically achieve,” says Dr. Shachar. Need help getting started? The following questions will help you assess your situation and set realistic goals.

Evaluate the amount of work you take home (and the amount of non-work-related issues you deal with on the job) and decide what parameters you’ll put in place.

What are some ways you can better manage your finances?

Which of your relationships are fulfilling – and which affect you negatively? What can you do to improve or let go of stressful relationships?

What unnecessary sources of stress are weighing you down? How can you resolve these problems?

Step 3: Learn to cope and build resilience
Next, you’ll start to incorporate healthy, productive coping strategies that can actually make a long-term difference on your day-to-day mental health. In addition to the ideas below, check out our self-care tools for managing your stress.

Get moving. Evidence suggests the exercise can be a strong stress reliever, as can doing something you enjoy: try reading, listening to music or finding a creative outlet like writing or painting. List some activities you genuinely enjoy doing and how you can incorporate these things into your everyday life.

Eat well (even when under pressure). If it’s helpful, record the foods you gravitate toward when you’re feeling stressed.

Get good-quality sleep. Set yourself up for a healthier sleep by designating regular sleep and wake times for yourself.

Let others help you. “Find the areas where you can optimize support and delegate tasks that need to be delegated,” says Dr. Shachar. Figure out where you can ask for help or modify your current habits to better achieve your stress-relief goals.

Stay present with mindful meditation. Dr. Shachar suggests using a handy meditation app as an easy way to incorporate meditation into your routine.

Remember, if stress is seriously affecting your mood or how you function day-to-day, talk to your family doctor for additional support.

THE EXPERT Dr. Orli Shachar, a family physician at Family Practice Health Centre, Women’s College Hospital

This information is provided by Women's College Hospital and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on January 3, 2020.

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