Action Plan for Stress Management

One of the summer classes which I’m enrolled in is titled ‘Healthful Living’.  It is essentially a class based on the minimization of risk factors in one’s life, with a heavy concentration on the topic of stress management.  Forty percent of our final grade is based on an action plan that we program and carry out in an effort to reduce the negative effects of stress on our life.  We were asked to type up our action plan in explanation of what we’ll be doing for this project.  Here is my action plan, with further explanation of what I’ll be doing at the end:

“Where does stress come from?  The obvious and honest answer is from everywhere; stress comes from life.  In daily activities, we encounter situations that stress our physiological and psychological systems.  When these situations have an ill-effect on our functioning, they are deemed distress.  Positive situations, those that enhance function, are referred to as eustress.   Efforts to eliminate stress from one’s life would be futile; stress is unavoidable.  Instead, it would be advantageous to learn how to manage one’s stress.  With proper management, it’s possible to minimize distress, while capitalizing on eustress.

As a college student, many of my daily activities fall into Hans Selye’s model of eustress.  Challenging work performed in classes, daily exercise, and working are all daily stressors that will help me get better at being me.  Ironically, with a very busy schedule, I find that many opportunities that are eustress can become distress.  Now, this doesn’t occur on chance; my own mismanagement of situations can lead to my personally benefiting activities becoming negatively stressful, despite their planned intentions.  While specific obligations in my daily and weekly schedules are welcome occurrences, the sum of all these eustressful parts becomes distressful, and I frequently find myself reacting negatively to them.  While this does take a toll, it is not futile; I’m quite aware of my personal power over how I interpret and react to these stressors to minimize their negative effects on me.   I plan on doing this by focusing on a specific 8.5 hours of the day.

Eight hours.  This is the quantity of sleep most beneficial to our health, according to numerous health and wellness interest groups and medical bodies.  My first step in increasing my tolerance for stress is by ensuring that I obtain those 8 hours of sleep, which will increase my physiological, as well as psychological, health.  Additionally, I plan on starting two daily routines.  Upon waking in the morning, I plan on performing an invigorating ‘stretching’ routine to further wake me up and prepare my body for the day.   This ‘routine’ will be based on active stretching/ mobility techniques, self myofacial release, as well as including breathing techniques.   I will focus on a variety of breathing techniques, exploring methods that work best for me.  Prior to retiring to bed for the night, I plan on performing a similar routine, perhaps in reverse, to help clear my mind, relax my body,  and allow for me to leave accumulated stress at my desk and in my work.  While I admit to taking a physiological approach to techniques routed in mysticism, my bias against some yoga practices is stopping me from jumping straight into that realm.  However, save foam rolling, I will be including a number of yoga poses, with an attempt to focus on breathing while accomplishing my necessary stretching.  I believe that these short 15 minute routines before and after I sleep will allow me to relax both physiologically and psychologically, and this increased relaxation will allow me to react to daily stressors in a more beneficial manner.

This physiological aspect towards stress reduction contains numerous benefits for psycholigcal health as well.  In addition to these practices, efforts to further enhance my lackluster organizational skills will also be beneficial.  My recently discovered passion for lists has certainly helped me in my quest to be less stressed.  Despite years of requests, or pestering in my opinion, I’ve come to realize that mother is always right, and being organized surely does make things easier.  Religious monitoring of my Google calendar, use of a oversized white board in my room, and daily and weekly lists written on paper have certainly allowed me to increase my efficiency.  With a half hour of dedicated stress relief practices in place, I hope to find that my time management/organization skills increase as well.

Stress is impossible to eliminate.  In fact, the majority of the time, I welcome it;  I like working under pressure.  While that may be the case, I do need to limit the amount of stress that can negatively effect my health.  With proper exercise and nutrition in place, healthy sleeping patterns, organizational skills, and now dedicated personal time, I hope to reduce the amount of distress which I encounter on a daily basis.”

Now, I purposefully left out a specific plan of what I’ll be doing in the action plan.  Why?  Because I honestly have no idea what the hell I’ll be doing, that’s why!  Will I be completely in the dark on this?  Of course not.  I do have a general idea of how each routine will be performed.  In the morning, I plan on waking up to my foam roller, and then performing a number of static stretches and low-grade mobility drills.  Essentially this comes down to a number of yoga poses, but I don’t really like yoga, so I’m not calling it that. (It’s yoga, without the mysticism.)  This is obviously more of a physical wake up, so I’ll be making an effort to monitor my breathing so I’m breathing properly.  Crap, I might as well be doing yoga.  Maybe I’ll even say ‘Om’!

Now, the evening routine will be even further away from my norms!  I won’t tip-toe around it this time; I will actually be doing yoga at night!  In fact, contrary to what I think, I’m going to be doing that relaxing yoga!  While as a daily workout I think it’s a complete load of crap when people mediate and stretch for 2 hours and feel like they’ve gotten a quality workout, but I think it would be nice for me to try it.  Granted, it’s NOT for the physical effects; I’d actually like to clear my head before I get in bed, so I don’t take the stress of the day to bed with me.  Also, we could always use more stretching, so that will be beneficial for me.  Even as I write this, I realize I’ll be doing yoga before bed.  I hate yoga.  This is going to be fun!  I look forward to expanding my horizons, and I’m not going to make a conscious effort to be more relaxed and stress-free.  I’ll report back on this when the class project is over, and hopefully a few times between now and the end of the month.

As I’m making these efforts to reduce the negative effects of stress, or distress, in MY life, ask yourself this:  What are the major stressors in your own life, and what are you doing to manage them?

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