If you feel like stress is taking over your life, it's time to take control! Mareike Bout explains how with a series of simple steps... 

By personal trainer Mareike Bout

Hi and welcome to my ultimate guide to healthy living. If you've missed the first steps, here they are:

Step #1 was taking stock of your current health and fitness

Step #2 was addressing any issues that were uncovered during step #1.

Step #3 was moving more (by increasing your amount of exercise).

Step #4 was upgrading your diet.

And here's step #5: Managing stress.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and out of control, employing the following strategies will help you find serenity amid the chaos:

1. Figure out where the stress is coming from 

Sometimes when we’re stressed, it can feel like we are being bombarded by everything at once. Instead of feeling like you’re caught up in a whirlwind and being swept away uncontrollably, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family? By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.

2. Identify what you can control — and work on that

While you can’t control the state of the economy, the weather, or what another person says or does, you can control how you react to these things. Trying to control the uncontrollable will only compound your already stressed state. By learning to let go of those stressors you can’t control, you are able to free yourself up to work on those you have a part in.

3. Do what you love

It’s much easier to manage times of stress when you are fulfilled in other areas of your life. If your job is stressful, for example, find a hobby or activity that will provide purpose and meaning to your world. What are you passionate about?

4. Manage your time well

One of the biggest stressors for many people is lack of time. How often have you wished for more hours in the day to tick off those things from your to-do list? The key here is prioritising the tasks that align with your core values and those things in life that are most important to you, and spending less time on the distractions that can be big time wasters. (Facebook anyone?) Realize that your time is precious, and that everything you do is your choice.

5. Remove the negotiables from your life 

Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can remove from your schedule. Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities, or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes, and stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Ask yourself these questions: Do my activities mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning?

6. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress? 

Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and full of stimulants like coffee and sugar, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.

7. Preserve good boundaries 

If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re a bad person. But those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on extra work when you can least afford to. Be very protective of your time, and spend it on those things that add value to your life.

While stress is an inevitable part of life, it doesn’t have to get out of hand. Control your stress, before it controls you! 

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