4 Stress Management Methods to Keep You Relaxed

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Burnout" by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you feel stressed? What are some stress management methods to help you stay relieved?

Burnout by Amelia and Emily Nagoski gives great advice on managing stress. Their four techniques are specifically geared toward women, but really they can help anyone.

Let’s look at these stress management methods so you can see a positive change in your life.

How to Manage Your Stressors

The authors explain that stressors are stimuli that indicate danger. For women, stressors tend to be things like patriarchal standards, unrealistic expectations, and self-doubt—things that indicate your potential to fail yourself or others. But with four stress management methods, you can overcome these stressors and lead a better life.

They elaborate that there are two main types of stressors: controllable and uncontrollable. Controllable stressors are things like self-doubt or health issues—there are steps you can take to eliminate these types of stressors. Uncontrollable stressors are things like misogyny or external barriers that hinder your ability to meet goals or expectations—no matter what you do, you can’t eliminate them. 

(Shortform note: Adding to the authors’ classifications of stressors as controllable and uncontrollable, experts have proposed other ways to categorize stressors that may be helpful. First, they classify stressors as either physiological or psychological. Physiological stressors are things that put strain on your body, such as overexertion, pain, or injury. Psychological stressors are events, situations, people, or anything that you interpret negatively—for example, losing your job. Second, they classify stressors as either absolute or relative. Absolute stressors are things that anyone would interpret as stressful, like natural disasters. Relative stressors are things that some people might interpret as a stressor but others wouldn’t, like paying taxes.)

The authors recommend a few stress management methods that will help you overcome both types of stressors. If the stressor is controllable, you can either make a plan to overcome it or change your expectations and measures of success. If the stressor is uncontrollable, you can either find value in the barriers that are hindering your progress or accept that some goals and expectations are unattainable and move on. Let’s explore each technique in detail.

Technique #1: Make a Plan

The authors explain that stressors emerge from the realization that we might fail in some way. But if your stressor is controllable, you can overcome it by devising a plan that will ensure you meet your goal. Coming up with a plan will show your brain that your goal is possible, and the threat of failure (the stressor) will go away. The authors recommend doing this by analyzing the problem that’s hindering your progress or success and brainstorming solutions to that problem. 

Technique #2: Change Your Perception of Success

The authors explain that sometimes we set unrealistic time expectations for ourselves and our slower-than-expected progress can be a stressor. When you’re making slow progress due to unrealistic time expectations, redefine your expectations and perceptions of success. If you give yourself a more realistic time frame and celebrate small successes along the way, your goal will seem more attainable, the incremental feelings of accomplishment will keep you motivated, and the fear of failure will diminish.

For example, you might have the unrealistic expectation to lose 10 pounds in one month but only lose two pounds. In this situation, create a more realistic time expectation (like losing five pounds in two months), and celebrate the smaller successes you’ve made along the way (like sticking to your regular workout routine for two weeks straight).

Technique #3: Value the Barriers

Sometimes, stressors are uncontrollable barriers that slow our progress toward a goal and make us feel like we might never succeed. In these situations, the authors a third stress management method of finding value in the barrier—consider the lessons you might be able to learn from the experience or how it might help you grow as a person. If you find value in the barrier, your brain will stop viewing it as a stressor. Instead, it’ll be an added bonus on your journey toward your goal and empower you to push forward.

For example, working with a misogynistic person can be frustrating and can slow your progress when working together. Oftentimes, stressors like these are uncontrollable—you can’t change the other person’s personality and biases, but you can learn to value the lessons you learn from your interactions with them. Maybe their misogynistic behavior has helped you increase your conflict management skills or your ability to stay calm in frustrating situations. 

Technique #4: Consider Moving On

The authors explain that some goals are simply unattainable and that it’s unhealthy to hang on to them. Instead, you need to let go and move on. If you don’t utilize this stress management method, you’re likely to get stuck in a painful in-between area where you want something that you know isn’t possible and continue to make futile attempts to reach it.

For example, imagine you have a naturally slender build but want the curvy figure you see all over social media. After nearly a year of working out, you realize that this image isn’t attainable for your body type. In this situation, let go of the impossible goal and stop pointlessly over-exerting yourself to reach it. Instead, the authors recommend practicing self-compassion, which we’ll discuss in the following section.

4 Stress Management Methods to Keep You Relaxed

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski's "Burnout" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Burnout summary:

  • Why women are more likely to suffer physical, mental, and emotional burnout in today's society
  • How women can handle these stressors and thrive
  • How to recover from burnout and get back on your feet

Katie Doll

Somehow, Katie was able to pull off her childhood dream of creating a career around books after graduating with a degree in English and a concentration in Creative Writing. Her preferred genre of books has changed drastically over the years, from fantasy/dystopian young-adult to moving novels and non-fiction books on the human experience. Katie especially enjoys reading and writing about all things television, good and bad.

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