What’s the most stressful thing you’ve ever done?
For me, it was campaigning to become DECA’s Western Region Vice President. To tell you why, I have to take you back. Around this time last year, I knew that I wanted to run for the position. It had been the journey of a lifetime to serve as an association officer, and serving as WRVP would allow me to continue to make an impact on our members. But the idea of actually doing it was terrifying!
I had to go through the gauntlet of Arizona DECA’s interview process and prepare all aspects of my campaign. Soon after, COVID-19 arrived and threw all my plans in disarray.
The key I have learned is that stress is not something you should try to eliminate, but rather manage. Life will always throw challenges your way, but the biggest challenges present opportunities for the greatest rewards. If you learn to manage it, stress will become less of a burden on your everyday life.
So, what’s the best way to manage stress? While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, here are some of the ways that work best for me.
1. Prioritize your well-being above all else
Although this may seem obvious to many people, for others, including myself, it is not. It is common for leaders to sacrifice taking care of themselves properly in an attempt to be more productive. However, it’s important to recognize that getting a proper amount of sleep, eating healthy and taking time to disconnect will help you feel and do better. This looks different for everyone. For me, it looks like taking regular breaks between work and giving myself grace for not being productive 100% of the time. (Bonus tip: An energy drink does not count as breakfast.)
2. Talk it out and vent
It has never been easier to call your best friend on FaceTime or Zoom to talk things through or walk into the living room to rant to your mom, even if she may not completely understand what is bothering you. It’s often helpful to release your bottled-up emotions and potentially even gain new insights on ways to cope with them.
3. Create a work environment that brings joy
It’s difficult for me to start an assignment without thoroughly cleaning my room, organizing my workstation, turning on music and lighting a candle. I’m convinced there is some science behind it. Those simple things put me in a better mood and give me the much-needed motivation to be most productive. Experiment in your room or work area until you find your ideal space.
These are just a few simple things that I have found success with, but is by no means an all-inclusive list of every way to reduce stress and achieve relaxation. You must discover what works best for you and set yourself up for success by consistently utilizing the same techniques.
Know that the most important things you do in life will cause you stress. That’s a sign that you care about what you are doing. Stress and anxiety are unavoidable, but finding ways to limit their negative impacts can make a huge difference in your life. I know I will continue to battle stress for the rest of my term, but it is worth it because I get to do what I genuinely love—serving the members of DECA.
If the reward outweighs the stress, the awesome moments of the journey will be the parts you remember, not the stressful nights you spent worrying. So, continue chasing your dreams, keep pursuing your passions and knockdown stress whenever it decides to pop up.
Looking for more ideas to try?
Check out these techniques to help you manage stress in your everyday life.
1. Eat Well - Eating unhealthy foods can actually increase your stress levels. Healthy eating equips your body with the nutrition it needs to fight stress. Avoid high-fat, high-sugar foods and go easy on the caffeine.
2. Get Moving - Physical activity releases endorphins—the feel-good chemicals that act as natural painkillers—and improves sleep, which in turn reduces stress. Try jogging, walking your dog or yoga.
3. Find an Outlet - You need a break most when you believe you don't have time to take a break. Find a new hobby, play sports, paint, draw, garden—do something that gives you an outlet from the tension of everyday life.
4. Think Positively - Stop negative thoughts in their tracks. Your thoughts create your reality, so flip the script whenever negative thoughts arise. Try saying positive affirmations such as, "I am calm; I’ve got this!" or "I will rise to the challenge, no matter what."
5. Build a Support System - Having a strong support system of friends and family is critical to weathering stressful times. Surround yourself with people who encourage you, listen without judgment and provide solid advice.
6. Make a Plan - Get organized, make a plan and stick to it. Prioritize your obligations each week and then schedule time for each—time for studying, working, family, friends, and yourself.
7. Laugh It Off - Laughing releases endorphins that improve your mood and decrease levels of stress-causing adrenaline. Essentially, it “tricks” your nervous system into making you happy. Call a friend or find a new comedy on Netflix.
8. Meditate - Meditation is a simple way to reduce stress that you can do almost anywhere. Begin with a simple technique such as deep breathing or use a guided meditation video.
9. Reduce Stressors - Do you ever feel that life is full of too many demands with too little time? For the most part, these demands are ones we have chosen. Practice selecting your priorities, pacing yourself and saying “no” when you need to.
10. Journal - You may already know that journaling is a great way to process life's problems and deal with everyday stress, but did you know it also boosts your immune cells, sharpens your memory and provides a greater sense of happiness? Try it out!