The Role of Goals and Stress ReliefWhat we experience as ‘stress’ is really an interaction of events that happen in our lives (stressors), and our thoughts and resulting emotional reactions to those events. The way we perceive our stressors, and our emotional responses to those perceptions, are what trigger the body’s stress response, leading to the experience of ‘stress’. Therefore, a significant goal of stress management involves examining our thoughts about our stressors, which can change our feelings and our stress responses. Another goal of stress management involves minimizing the stressors we experience in a typical day. Both goals are important, and both require some forethought.
The Role of Goals in Personal HappinessAnother area of life that’s closely linked with stress and stress management is personal happiness and fulfillment. The growing field of positive psychology has been examining what factors contribute to happiness and resilience (rather than just studying unhappiness and pathology), and have identified several goals that, if met, can lead to greater overall happiness, fulfillment and resilience to stress. So, rather than only setting goals that minimize or manage stress, setting goals that lead to the opposite of stress can also be an effective route to a less-stressed lifestyle.
What goals to SetIf you’re feeling stressed to the point of being overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to focus your goals more toward minimizing and managing stress. If you’re feeling general stress, but nothing to severe, and are finding a general lack of fulfillment and happiness, it’s a good idea to set some stress management goals, but also focus on goals that promote happiness and meaning in life. Either way, stress relief should come from your goals, but it’s a matter of degree. It’s a good idea to become aware of which goals will lead to both outcomes. Below are some different categories of goals you may set. I’ve listed them according to the order in which they’re often most helpful, but you may want to review them all, and pick one or two that really speak to you.
- Goals for Reducing Stressors
- Goals for Managing Stress
- Goals for Stress-Relieving Habits
- Goals for Resilience
- Goals for Happiness
How to Maintain GoalsSome goals are short-term: acing a test, finishing a project at work, or finding a great relationship. However, many goals that will help with stress management, happiness and resilience tend to be ongoing, long-term goals: regular exercise, maintaining relationships, practicing meditation on an ongoing basis. These goals can be somewhat more challenging, but very rewarding to maintain, and are ultimately what can lead to a better life experience. There are a few tricks to maintaining goals or adopting healthy habits:
- Set the right goals
- Take small, concrete steps
- Reward yourself along the way
- Consider slip-ups to be part of the process
Reaching your goals can be a straightforward process if you know what to do. If you need extra support, here’s a free e course on making changes stick. Good luck!