How to Manage Stress and Tools You Can Use to Help Deal with Stress

Dave Erickson, Wednesday, December 22, 2022

The development industry can be a very stressful career for many people doing digital development, project managers, developers, QA and UX engineers. Real and imagined deadlines can make one’s work and after-work life very stressful.

A little stress can be a motivator in life, but most often we let our thoughts and feelings about the things in life that we do rage out of control creating that sinking feeling in our stomach of too much stress.

“I’ve been feeling so stressed.” This statement and its equivalents are pretty common, but many stressed people don’t truly understand the adverse effects of prolonged stress. Worse still, some don’t even know when they are stressed. 

But considering that 49% of people admit that stress negatively affected their behavior and another 21% felt less physically healthy due to stress, it’s hard to trivialize this issue. That said, let’s talk about some simple and effective tools to manage stress:

Practice Introspection

Before you can get better at managing stress, you need to know what stress feels like for you and what causes it. This is where introspection or self-examination comes in. Talk to yourself occasionally (and it’s okay if others hear you). Remember, meditation can be continuous and not something you take a break to do. Ask yourself how the day is going. 

Do you feel in control and well-prepared for your tasks, or are you in a rush and playing catch-up? Zoom in on the small things, like whether you are comfortable in your chair or not. Stress isn’t always easy to detect, especially since it has no concrete universal definition. 

Some dismiss it as normal fatigue from a long work day, while others believe a certain amount of stress is good for productivity. Ultimately, introspection helps you notice patterns and identify any anomalies. It all starts with being present (some call it being mindful or in the moment). Pay attention to whatever is happening within and around you, whether it’s a sour taste in your mouth or extra heat in the room.

Eventually, you’ll connect the dots and realize that some negative vibes are random and rare, while others recur when something specific happens. This is how you’ll discover your triggers, like bosses saying the team is underperforming or hearing that a loved one is sick. Reflection may not happen immediately, but it’s more effective when done continuously. You get to see whether your mood is changing or not.

Perform Physical Exercises

“So, how much weight should I lift at the gym?” That’s exactly how not to think about exercise. Instead, take physical exercise in its simplest form. What we mean is, do something. Engage in an action that is an intentional response to an oncoming feeling of stress. 

For instance, if you sit at your desk for a short time but already feel more tension in your neck and back than you usually have, get up and stretch a bit. You can also go to the washrooms and splash some water on your face. 

Some take a short walk around their work premises or in their home compound to momentarily change scenery and take their mind off something associated with a particular space. If you’re in a more restrictive setting, you can try playing some relaxing music through your earphones, taking deep breaths in controlled intervals or singing to yourself inside your head. 

And if the cause of stress is something that also affects others around you, you can talk to them briefly and share your feelings. For example, you can say, “It’s about to be a long day,” and your colleague replies, “For sure, but it will end, we’ll get through this one too.” Such a short exchange can remind you that you’re not alone and challenges come and go.

If you are working in an office, ride your bike to work if you are within a reasonable distance. That morning and afternoon ride is a great way to exercise, and provides time for you to talk with yourself and look at your day while the endorphins are elevated due to the ride.

Obviously, if you are working from home, you can arrange your day so that for lunch you can ride, swim, run or walk, then come home and eat a quick meal before going back to work. That mid day exercise break will really help your relax and get the stress out of your system.

Change Habits

There’s always room to improve, and setting a new goal can help you stop fixating on a problem and falling into a negative thought loop. Find something you like but don’t get to do frequently or something you do a lot but don’t really need to. 

Such things are usually connected to your stress levels, and you shouldn’t neglect them. For example, if you often eat junk food when things don’t go your way, try resisting this urge the next time things don’t go your way. Instead, do something related to what you like. 

Maybe you like swimming but fitting it into your schedule is tricky. When you feel stressed, you can look up some nice swimwear and plan to buy it. Then, follow that up by searching for affordable swimming pools near you. Before you know it, you’ll feel a stronger urge to realize your next swim session. 

You might even divert some of the money you spend on snacks into your swimming fund. The whole point of this approach is to redirect effort from counterproductive actions to more positive and beneficial actions. Over time, you’ll find yourself doing this in every aspect of your life, and you’ll gradually feel better more often. 

Seek Professional Help

Sometimes, you may experience more extreme and persistent stress. If you feel stressed even when things go your way, there’s no shame in asking for help. But more importantly, go beyond confiding in an older relative or religious leader. 

Stress is sometimes related to a medical condition like a pituitary or psychiatric disorder. If so, most of the tools mentioned above may not help much. If you feel that your stress is beyond the suggestions in the blog, we advise you to seek medical and professional help.

They may point you to a psychologist or psychiatrist who’ll provide more effective remedies. You can also search online for charities and other non-governmental organizations that champion mental health and reach out for help. Many countries have mental health hotlines where you can call in and they will help you get connected with a mental health professional.

Wrapping Up

Don’t think about managing stress as a competition. It’s hard to know what’s really going on in anyone’s life. You can have all your bills paid and still not have job security. Someone may have a romantic partner but still feel lonely. Some people make good money but have too many dependents. 

Life is not perfect, and although in life you may feel many responsibilities, how you deal with those feelings is really up to you. Many of the suggestions in this article can really be effective on managing one’s stress level, and a having a positive outlook in life is one of the best remedies for stress.

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