Stress. It’s everywhere and comes at us from every direction. It annoyingly rears its ugly head into our everyday lives. Sleeping past your alarm, being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, arriving late to work, dealing with an overbearing boss, arguments with a spouse, eating takeout for the fourth day in a row, skipping the gym to stay up late and binge watch the newest Netflix obsession…lather, rinse, repeat – you get the picture. Without a doubt, our modern lives are riddled with stress from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. It’s well known that chronic stress is bad for us, but is there anything we can do to combat this ubiquitous foe, silently undermining our health?
Yes! Fortunately, there are several strategies you start using TODAY to prevent stress from taking over your life tomorrow!
- The first step to managing stress is to identify it. Before you can fight the enemy, you need to know what or who it is. Stress will look different and be different to everyone. What may cause one person tremendous stress, may hardly phase another. Stress comes in numerous forms as well, such as mental, emotional, spiritual, physical, and so on. The demands of work, financial strains, dysfunctional relationships, a negative coworker, traumatic news, the loss of a loved one, living in a toxic world, chronic diseases, poor diets, sedentary lifestyles, etc. The list is a long one and any or all can slowly chip away at our health.
- Notice your reaction. Once you’ve identified the stressors in your life, pay attention to how you feel when confronting them. Do you shut down or ramp up? Do you panic or face it head on? Are you more irritable and anxious or calm, cool, and collected? Taking note of your natural response to stress can increase self-awareness and help you regulate your behavior in the future.
- View your stress as a trial you can overcome. This alteration in mindset will automatically equip you to better work through the situation at hand. Instead of melting down in the midst of stress, view your current storm as a challenge you will get through, no matter what. Continuing to push forward little by little, will in turn make you a more resilient person.
- Let your emotions out. When people vent, they typical do so in response to a stressful situation, because it provides relief. Whether you confide in a person you trust or put it down on paper, communicating your experience helps you work through the strains you’re currently feeling. Recognize it’s normal to feel overwhelmed but try not to get stuck in that mind frame either, which may inhibit you from moving forward.
- Speak up! Whether that means asking for help or learning to say no, it’s important to know when you’ve reached your limits. Delegate tasks to coworkers or family members when needed, many hands make light labor, after all! In addition, know that you are not required to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, especially when your plate is already full! Kindly decline and tend to your existing priorities.
- Find activities that help you decompress. For some, decompressing means a spa day, yet for others it’s hitting the gym. Some like to relax by surrounding themselves with a group of friends, while others recharge by spending time alone. Hobbies can help take your mind off a present struggle as well; painting, listening to your favorite band, playing video games, a match of racquetball, cuddling with your pet, or watching a funny movie – any will do the trick! Every person has their own unique escape that can alter and lift their mood in a healthy way, restoring some balance back into their life.
- Schedule YOU time. It’s not selfish to set time aside to relax. It’s essential to devote time to physical, mental, and emotional recovery. It’s unrealistic to think you’d be able to put your best self forward when it’s worn down, frazzled, or neglected. Purposefully setting time aside in your day or week to unwind, will restore you to your finest state, allowing you to be great at whatever you wish to do.
Once you begin managing the stress in your life, you will feel more in control when life seems simply out of control! The reality is, we cannot avoid stress, but we can learn how to better handle it. Don’t let sneaky stress prevent you from living your life to the fullest!