It’s Stress Awareness Month and this is one topic that I can certainly relate to! Stress is the silent killer. Many times we don’t even acknowledge that we’re stressed, yet we have to juggle all different kinds of responsibilities. It’s no wonder that our necks and shoulders are tense at the end of the night and we end up having that glass, or glasses, of wine – or is that just my house??
Acting like an octopus with so many arms in so many different directions will do that to a girl.
So let’s talk about stress…
Stress happens when you believe that what is demanded of you is more than you can cope with. Whether it be work, school or relationships, stress is always lurking when you begin to feel overwhelmed.
While some stress is good and can be motivating – think work deadlines or an exam – constant stress has serious consequences. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure and a weakened immune system. Long term stress can lead to the development of major illnesses, such as heart disease, depression and obesity.
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.
Do you mention something about being stressed, overwhelmed, or ‘being too busy’ often?
Are you even aware of the negative effects of stress in your life?
Do you get aggravated or frustrated easily?
Have you stopped doing things that make you… you?
Have you noticed a decline in your decision making skills?
Do you feel like you’re less productive or never have enough time to get everything done?
If you answered YES to ANY of the above questions then you need some stress alternatives. Here are some easy ways to decrease the stress in your life in addition to the standard exercise/eat well/meditate routine.
Stop being SuperWoman (or SuperMan)
Learn how to delegate your responsibilities at work, 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.
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.
Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper. One 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.
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.