Setting a goal in three steps
If you're ready to reduce stress in your life, setting a goal may help. Try following these three steps:
- Find out what creates stress for you. Try tracking your stress to record stressful events, your response to them, and the coping strategies you used. If you have a smartphone, you can download a free stress-tracking app to help you monitor your stress. If you don't have a smartphone, you can use a spreadsheet on your computer. Or pencil and paper work, too. The important thing is to keep track of your stress so that you can both learn what is causing it and work toward managing it.
- Think about why you want to reduce stress. You might want to protect your heart and your health by reducing stress. Or maybe you simply want to enjoy your life more and not let stress control how you feel. Your reason for wanting to change is important. If your reason comes from you-and not someone else-it will be easier for you to make a healthy change for good.
- Set a goal. Think about a long-term and a short-term goal to reduce stress in your life.
Examples of how to set goals
- Sheila is a customer service manager for a computer company. She's also the mother of two young kids. Between her job and chores at home, she feels overwhelmed by all the demands on her. She can't remember the last time she took a lunch break at work or took a class at the gym. While she's lying awake at night, she is worrying about getting everything done. Sheila's long-term goal: Find a better balance between personal, home, and family needs. Short-term goal: Take a 15-minute walk each night.
- Ray is a pretty easygoing guy most of the time. But he gets stressed over small things. If a problem comes up at work, he spends the whole night thinking about it over and over. He feels anxious wondering how he could have handled things better. Ray knows he needs to let go of these events and move on. Ray's long-term goal: Practice positive thinking when stressful events come up. Short-term goal: Try breathing and relaxation exercises when he feels stressed.
- Marta is a full-time caregiver for her elderly mother, who has Alzheimer's disease. Marta can't remember the last time she took a vacation or even met a friend for coffee. Her sister helps with care sometimes but is often too busy. Marta finds herself getting frustrated easily. She needs a break. Marta's long-term goal: Involve her sister more in caregiving. She also plans to find respite care so she isn't providing all the caregiving on her own. Short-term goal: Attend a caregiver support group every week.
Tips for staying on track
- Plan for setbacks. Make a personal action plan(What is a PDF document?) by writing down your goals, any possible barriers, and your ideas for getting past them. By thinking about these barriers now, you can plan ahead for how to deal with them if they happen.
- Get support. Tell family and friends your reasons for wanting to change. Tell them that their encouragement makes a big difference to you in your goal to reduce stress. Your doctor or a professional counselor can also provide support. A counselor can help you set goals and provide support in dealing with setbacks. (See tips for finding a counselor or therapist.)
- Pat yourself on the back. Don't forget to give yourself some positive feedback. If you slip up, don't waste energy feeling bad about yourself. Instead, think about all the times you've avoided getting stressed by making changes.