It’s Stress Awareness Day (and week!) and this is one topic to which I think we can certainly all relate! Many times we don’t even acknowledge how stressed we are; juggling work with family, health, money issues and all the responsibilities that just come with life.
So how do we overcome stress?
Sometimes it can seem as if there’s nothing you can do about your stress level. When you are operating from your logical brain, the brain says things like… “The bills aren’t going to stop coming, there will never be more hours in the day for all of the errands I need to run, and my career and family responsibilities must be done or calamity will strike”.
We’re very aware of the negative health effects of stress, but there is another reason to tackle stress management: stress keeps us from truly living our lives.
Whilst in the middle of stress, the very best part of us ceases to exist. We get stuck in fight or flight mode. Which is our bodies natural response to a frightening situation. But when we’re OFTEN in a fight or flight response, we’re continually existing in survival mode. We are not thinking or acting, we are reacting. We lose our ability to rationally respond to the world and are only focused on how overwhelmed we are.
Stop being Superwoman (or Superman)!
Learn how to delegate your responsibilities, or share them. Making yourself indispensable to your boss or family is great and all, but it increases the likelihood of your feeling highly stressed. It’s not worth it.
Know WHEN to say no:
A big part of saying NO is identifying what triggers you. A situation that causes one person to become over-stressed may not be a problem for another. Write a list of the situations that tend to affect you and act accordingly. If you get stressed when someone asks you to do something and you’ve just not got the time… but you don’t want to “let anyone down”; know that this is a HUGE trigger situation. Learn to say no. It’s okay.
This is for the stress deniers out there. You know who you are. Having your act together so much that to admit that you’re overwhelmed feels like failure. Stop that. Right now.
Admit it! Each of us have different stress signals: neck or shoulder pain, shallow breathing, stammering, teeth gritting, queasiness, loss of temper. Find out what your stress signals are and claim it. Say (yes out loud) “I AM STRESSED”.
When you name it you claim it and THEN you can address it. When you recognise your personal stress signals it helps to slow the buildup of negativity and anxiety.
Writing provides perspective. We’ve talked about the benefits of journaling a lot and this topic is no exception.
Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. On one side list the stressors you can change on the other side list the ones you can’t. Make a plan of action for the things you CAN change and let the other ones go.
Make a short, clear, positive statement that focuses on your coping abilities. Affirmations are a good way to silence the self-critical voice we all carry with us that only adds to our stress. The next time you feel as if your life is one disaster after another, repeat 10 times, “I feel calm. I got this.”
Schedule stress time
You don’t have to deal with everything all at once you know. Set aside 15 minutes a day to deal with stress. Write it in your calendar as “Stress Time”. Make little notes throughout the day to deal with these small stressors during your scheduled time. Don’t let stress control you – YOU control the stress.
There’s a solution to every problem. If you take a passive stance, thinking, ‘I can’t do anything about this’, it will definitely increase your stress levels. Feeling out of control is one of the main causes of stress. Become a problem solver.
Work smart, not hard
Learn how to prioritise and focus on the tasks that make a difference. Put the least important things on your to-do-list towards the end of your day. Gain some acceptance that some of the work will still be there tomorrow and that’s okay.
Exhale and Breathe!
Feeling stressed can cause you to breathe shallow, which causes your body to be even more stressed. Pay attention to your body signals. Shallow breathing equals less oxygen which increases tension in your muscles which leads to headaches which leads to feeling more anxious. (Get the idea?)
Check yourself. Chest feel tight? You might be holding your breath without being aware. Take a moment to slow down and take a deep breath. Imagine you are in front of a birthday cake then… smell the cake and blow out the candles.