There are foundations in everything we do. Foundations in construction, parenting, communication, and business. The same is true for stress management.
When we glean over or entirely bypass the foundation phase of a process, eventually, things come crashing down like a house of cards. The same is true for stress management.
To ensure you have the basics in stress management, here are three foundational elements to ensure you are addressing every day.
Research indicates that the more control you have over outcomes, the less stress you experience(1). Here, we’re not referring to micromanaging or being overly controlling. In this context, control means the influence, engagement, empowerment, and intention you have over your destiny. When you actively participate in shaping your outcomes, your brain interprets it as having choice and freedom, which helps keep your stress response in check.
Consider this: lacking control over your work leads to high-stress levels and burnout. Neuroscientists emphasize that your sense of control significantly affects how you perceive your ability to cope with stress. Less choice leads to frustration, stress, and even an early grave(2). Those in high-stress jobs with little control over their workflow die younger or are less healthy than those with more flexibility and discretion in their jobs and can set their own goals as part of their employment(2).
“What we found is that those people that are in entry-level service jobs and construction jobs have pretty high death rates, more so than people in professional jobs and office positions,” says assistant professor of organizational behavior and human resources at the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University(2).
Consistency plays a vital role in managing stress. The more your life follows a predictable and predetermined schedule, the fewer stress-inducing disruptions you’ll encounter. Every significant change in your routine triggers your stress response, flooding your bloodstream with cortisol and adrenaline. Excessive changes can turn your stress into a chronic issue, negatively affecting your body and overall well-being.
Consider how you react when your schedule falls apart or unexpected work meetings disrupt your planned day off. Inconsistency can throw your stress cycle off balance, resulting in problems like insomnia, poor nutrition, exhaustion, and various stress-related side effects.
Stress is a biological and physiological reaction, and countering its effects requires action at the cellular level. One effective way to do this is by stimulating the release of oxytocin, often called the ‘cuddle hormone’ or ‘love hormone.’ Socialization is a recommended coping strategy in stress management programs because interacting with others increases oxytocin levels. This hormone builds trust, forms bonds, and fosters intimate connections. As oxytocin levels rise, cortisol and other stress hormones decrease, leading to fewer and less intense stress-related effects.
First, pick one of the foundational steps above and make it a focus. Ask yourself how you can be more in control of your daily life. How can you create consistency in your day? How can you connect more regularly with others? Hyperfocus on one at a time until you have each one mastered. You’ll then have a solid foundation to build your stress management program.
- Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., Siegel, SD. (2005) Stress and health: psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Annual Review in Clinical Psychology. 1:607-28. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.1.102803.144141.
- Gonzalez-Mule, E., Cockburn, B. (2016) Worked to Death: The Relationship of Job Demands and Job Control with Mortality. Kelley School of Business- Indiana University. Oct.