Stress. We all know how it can spur us forward with motivation or cripple our chances of success. When we perceive a stressful stimulus, a physiological reaction in our body is triggered towards “fight or flight” symptoms that include: increased heart rate, faster breathing, tightened muscles or increased blood pressure. Stress can never be entirely eliminated from our lives, however, we have the ability to take advantage of stressful situations by reacting to them in a positive manner.

Through introspection (metacognition / thinking about thinking), we can observe and understand how our thoughts become our behaviour and ultimately part of our belief system.

The trick to effective stress management is identifying whether if it is triggered by external sources or if it is self-induced. Once you have gained awareness on what triggers your stress, you are one step closer towards abolishing that stress for good. Next, ask yourself how you would like to react instead and start working towards that goal.

Here are several research-based strategies that will help you manage your stress:

Better time management: Prioritising your time throughout the day will give you a sense of control and achievement. This reduces any anxiety that comes from being pressured by time.

Learn to set limits and say ‘no’: Know what is good for your well-being and plan ahead. Don’t be afraid of saying no and succumbing to pressure.

Self-regulated breathing exercises – belly breathing: take a deep breath and focus on expanding your belly and flattening your stomach when exhaling.

Adopting a positive outlook on life:  Positive self-affirmations: write or tell yourself positive self affirmations based on your strengths.

Practice mindfulness and gratitude: use the “mindful pause” when you encounter a stressful situation. Take a 10-seconds breath and ask yourself how can you use one of your strengths to take positive action towards growing into your ideal self.

Develop a forgiving mindset: forgive yourself and others.

Visualise your ideal self: take 5 minutes of your time each day to visualise how you would like to be instead, taking into account your strengths into the reality.