Stress – 12 Ways to Keep Your Sanity
Everyone fights with stress. Parents. Singles. Working and non working. Even our children face difficulties. The thing that sets people apart isn’t what they face, it’s how they handle it.
Lately I’m not handling it so well.
Don’t worry – I’m not going to list every little thing that is stressing me out. It’s much easier to say “everything”. It’s a culmination of recent events, the ages of my children and the fact that my body decided now was a great time to start that awesome journey to ‘the change of life’. I’ve been, as they say, at my wit’s end for many months now. I know I’m not going to break in half, but I feel the possibility of it sometimes; some days I can almost hear the hairline fractures spreading across my sanity. I keep telling myself “It has been worse in the past. Why are you falling victim to stress now?” I honestly have no answer for that except to think that the hormone rave party going on inside my body has weakened my former resistance.
I tried the medication route. I’m all for zombies in my movies and books. I’m not, on the other hand, thrilled to see one staring back at me in the mirror. Prescription medication is a wonderful tool for many people and has made great changes in many lives – but it wasn’t for me. Now I’m eating healthier, supplementing soy when I can, taking my vitamins – all that jazz. But natural methods don’t fix you over night. So what do you do in the meantime, while you slowly reboot your body?
Here are a few tips that won’t make your stress disappear, but might help you manage it better.
Stress – 12 Ways to Keep Your Sanity
1. Act Happy
Laugh – often. You don’t feel like it. It may feel like scraping nails over a chalkboard, but do it anyway. Find someone who loves to joke with you and ask them to activate your funny bone. Laughter not only releases endorphins, but it also boosts your immune system which results in feeling better. This one is a little difficult for me since I’m not much of a laugher even when I’m not stressed. But, on a whole, it really does help. Try it with your kids; see who can laugh the loudest, silliest, etc.
2. Control Your Time. Don’t Let It Control You.
If you don’t have time to work, shop, play with your children and other daily activities – how will you ever have time to concentrate on managing your stress? Sit down at the beginning of the week and make a priority list: what needs to be done first and what can wait until you have more time? When you feel out of control with your schedule and work load – your stress magnifies. Stay focused and you’re more likely to stay calm. Prepare yourself for any sudden changes that may happen to your oh-so-planned schedule as well. Things never go 100% perfectly (especially when you have children) – if you accept the possibility of changes before they happen then you won’t feel so caught unaware.
3. Learn to Say No
This is probably one of the hardest things for most people (especially parents) to do. You’re already stressed to your limit and a friend calls asking for your help with a preschool party tomorrow. Our instant thought is, “If I say no I’m ‘that’ mom”. Don’t feel put on the spot. There’s no need to answer right at that moment. Take time to consider your schedule and your stress level before calling them back with your answer. Unless it is a family emergency or something that only you can handle – the obligation you feel is self created and you won’t become the neighborhood outcast just because you didn’t bake 58 cupcakes.
4. Let’s Get Physical
One of the fastest ways to release stress is to do something physical. Take a short, brisk walk or a few laps in the pool, put in your favorite workout video, go work in the garden – whatever physical activity appeals to you. Sometimes I just run up and down the stairs a few times until I elevate my heart rate and feel the endorphin release. Not only is exercise an immediate outlet for stress, it’s good for your body, helps you sleep and gives you time to clear your mind.
4. Surround Yourself With Positive People
You already know which of your friends and family members are positive and which can be a drag on your mood. Choose who you socialize with carefully and make sure you have people around who will uplift you instead of dragging you down to their own bad moods or complaints. Avoid places where you know negativity is the usual. The same goes for being online. While I have a wonderful group of friends online, I can’t always control the other ‘Debbie Downer’ people who join in. You can quickly, and easily, find yourself angry over something a complete stranger said and bam! up goes the stress level.
5. Pick Your Battles
This applies to work, friends, family and especially your kids or spouse. One of my favorite phrases is: Will this matter tomorrow? If you have to honestly say ‘no’ then it shouldn’t matter today either.
6. Learn How to Calm Your Body
Just relaxing your body can have a noticeable effect on the state of your mind. When you feel your stress level peaking – step away from the situation (even if it’s literally 2 steps backwards), relax your arms, roll your shoulders and breathe deeply and slowly. Learn yoga techniques to calm you wherever you are: inhale slowly to the count of eight. Exhale through your mouth to the count of fifteen. Repeat this several times while you refocus and get ready to deal with whatever the situation is at hand.
7. Eat Healthier
Your body is a finely tuned machine that runs on food for fuel. If you put cheap fuel in that machine – you’re going to have problems. Eating healthy cleans your body of toxins, raises your energy level, helps you sleep better, replenishes your body with vitamins and nutrients that support your mind, and it may help reduce some of the physical ailments and pain that only add to your mental discomfort. You should also never skips meals. Being hungry is a quick track to a bad mood.
8. Take Time to Count The GOOD Things in Your Life
Take time each day to think of all the positive things in your life. Are your children happy? Is your job still secure when others are looking for work? Does your roof keep out the rain? Start with the big things and work down to the smaller. Before you know it – your ‘good’ list will be longer than your ‘bad’ list.
9. Stay One Step Ahead of Your Stress
If you know you have a big work meeting coming up – prepare your materials several days before hand instead of running around crazy the morning of. Fill your gas tank when it’s at the half mark instead of on empty. Backup your computer. Still have two days to finish that costume for the school play? Do a little each day. Even something as simple as picking out Tuesday’s outfit before bed on Monday can have an impact on your day. Whatever you find stresses you out the most – plan for it.
10. Get Out
Get out of the house. Even if you can’t do more than walk to the mailbox that day – take your time and enjoy it. Stop to look at your flowers, wave to neighbors or just stare at the clouds. Any moment you can steal to completely empty your mind of the day’s requirements is healthy and positive. If you can get away for an afternoon try a massage or even browse an aromatherapy store. The most important thing is to remove yourself from where the stress is generated. “But with the kids it’s just as stressful to pack in the car.” I hear you. Next time the kids are having play time or (gasp) actually chilled out for a change – get up from your desk and stretch. Walk around the house and look out the windows or open a door and get some fresh air.
11. Cancel Out the Clutter
One of my tried and true ways to noticeably reduce my stress is to clean up my work space. No matter if your desk is in your home or in an office – clean it up. Clutter is a breeding ground for stress. You’re already having one of ‘those’ days and then you can’t find your notes from the conference call, your son’s report card or that business card you desperately need. Not only does staying organized mean you can access what you need when you need it, but it also makes your work space feel more open and less confining.
12. Set Small, Daily Goals
Put the life long bucket list in a drawer. Instead, make a one-item goal list each morning. Today I will find my silver necklace. Today I will finish 2 work assignments. Today I will find something to laugh about. Instead of drowning yourself in goals that won’t come to fruition for months or years – give yourself something to look forward to each and every day. If you have an important long term goal – break it up into steps. Instead of writing down ‘Get a New Car’ – go in steps. Monday: Go over household finances. Tuesday: Search local auto listings. Wednesday: Make list of 5 cars we can afford. etc. When you can cross off your task each day you’ll feel more accomplished and less stressed. Before you know it – all your steps will be done and you won’t feel crushed in the process.
I’m already putting most of these tips to work for me. While the process isn’t instant, it’s definitely happening. Stress still comes knocking at my door – but at least it doesn’t catch me in my underwear anymore.
What are your worst stress situations? What methods do you use to get through them?