Stress management is something that I have really been struggling with over the past year or so. I am not necessarily a complete `stress head’ but a fair few things in my life have caused me stress in the past few years.
I have gradually been eliminating them, but it is a process that I have to work on daily. Of course I’ve learned a few things along the way and thought I should share them with you.
We have to start by knowing what things are potentially stressors (i.e. that cause a stress response in us). Some common stressors include:
- relationships (partner, children, friends, relatives etc)
- things that keep you up at night
- special needs child (ASD or other disabilities)
- being a carer for a family member
- job security
- environmental (physical, toxins etc)
You don’t want the stressors to take over your life, but you do need to acknowledge that they are a part of your life. If you sweep them under the rug you will eventually become overwhelmed by them. You have to do something about changing the situation in order to remove some of the unwanted stress from your life. It’s way too easy to lose focus on what you are doing as a person or family… and even who we are.
Here are my ten ways to manage stress…
1. Know your stress threshold
We all have a threshold in terms of managing our stress.
When we are constantly pushing ourselves past what we can manage our system tends to shut down:
- neurologically (can no longer deal with information),
- emotionally (totally overwhelmed) and
- physically (lack of sleep, inflammation etc)
So make sure you keep your stress levels in mind when dealing with difficult situations.
2. Allow yourself to slow down to speed up
We live in a world where we are told that faster is better and that we need more…and faster”. But is that really the case? Do we really need more…faster?
We tend to try to do more and feel overwhelmed. Then when we feel overwhelmed we end up doing less because we just can’t get over that feeling which is paralysing us. We end up feeling burnt out, as do those around us. We need to mindfully make a choice to slow down.
I have found that by doing so I tend to get more done. I am thinking clearer and prioritising my days and that feeling of dread is no longer there “blocking” me from doing what I need to get done.
- slow down the pace of life
- slow down the amount you are trying to cram into your day
- slow down the pace of your activities
- slow down the pace of your communication
- don’t be in a constant frenzied state
3. Use the internet in moderation
(Remember this is my discovery….I’ve learned by experience. These words are for me too!!)
Technology is a great thing don’t get me wrong here. (How would we have met otherwise?)
But the internet and the information that comes with it can be a blessing and a curse. There is some really good resources out there and then there is some garbage. Anyone can put anything on the internet.
Be a discriminating consumer and don’t get sucked into things that aren’t relevant, helpful, and based on fact or experience.
There are also some wonderful places on the internet that are out there like communities, blogs and websites BUT…
- Guard your time as the internet can be an amazing time sucker! Think about the amount of time you spend participating on things like Facebook, Pinterest, forums and research etc.
- Guard your mind and think about the quality of what you are looking at. Don’t get sucked in and lose hours you could be using in other areas of your life.
Use your intuition. Ask:
- Does what I’m looking at resonate with me?
- Does it make sense?
- What does my gut feeling say about it?
Use it in moderation and not allow it to become another stressor in your life. Don’t let your “I’ll just have a quick peek at Facebook” turn into hours.
Facebook is a time sucker for me so I try to stay off there as much as possible. My personal account friends would confirm that.
4. Find a mentor or source of support for yourself
It is important to have someone or a group of people who we can tap into regularly. It helps to keep us emotionally healthy and is an essential tool for managing our stress.
Depending on your goals for the support, sources you can tap into regularly are:
- close family member (partner, sibling, grandparent)
- support group(s)
- personal trainer
- coach (life, food, business etc)
- community of people (in real life or online)
The support needs to be someone who you can be open and honest with about what you are dealing with. Somewhere or someone who you is a good listener and from whom you will receive support and encouragement. They don’t have to be an expert!
When looking for a support group/person ask yourself:
- What am I looking for?
- What do I want to get out of it?
- Do I need a professional?
The mentor or support person/group should serve a positive purpose for you. You should feel better about yourself and about your situation. If you come out the other end of a session or conversation feeling drained, negative, or unsupported then that person or group may not be the right fit for you.
5. Take time for others
I know, right! Most of the time people are telling you to take “Me Time” (that’s coming up.)
But what about time for the ones that are closest to us. Sometimes with the stress of daily living and work commitments we can forget those who are closest to us. Take time for your partner, children, parents, grandparents…those you consider to be close family.
We tend to leave these loved ones behind with our stressors taking over. Don’t be sacrificing the health of your family or your relationship with your partner to the stresses of everyday living. So go out and do things together! It can be as one big group or individually. For a cup of coffee, a quiet walk or a big game of Frisbee!
6. Me time
This is one that I struggled with for years! As a mother of four little ones there was a lot of “I can’t spend time for myself it means I’m not spending it with my kids!” happening. I now know though, that it makes me a better person and parent if I take time out for me. It’s not selfish.
- do things for yourself
- make time to do the things you enjoy
- get in touch with yourself
- guard your “me time” (against over scheduling)
- have quality “me time” (is the internet really quality ‘me time’?)
- think about who you’re spending the time with
- get in touch with one thing you used to enjoy
I’d forgotten what “me time” was all about. I had a sense of no longer knowing who I was. At first it even get overwhelming with the choices that there were for things to do in my me-time. I found it helped to jog my memory or think of something new to do if I had a list of potentials. Here are a few that were on that list (in case you need some ideas):
- hobby (new or old)
- lunch dates (with your partner or friend)
- reading, for enjoyment
- have a cd on in the car for your enjoyment (i.e. not the Wiggles!)
- take a class
- try something new
It is important to take the time to be you and nurture the relationship you have with yourself. In doing so you are nurturing your own health and wellbeing.
7. Don’t get involved in too many things
I laugh at myself when I think about what I used to be like. I wanted to help everyone but ended up helping no one. I would over involve myself a lot! I’d get to a point where I could no longer function properly. Then I just stopped… as I was so overwhelmed. Everything was always last minute. Although some of my best work is done on a deadline (aka last minute). Not necessarily a great way to live though.
You have to make the decision not to over involve yourself. Especially if you find yourself in a place where you are so overwhelmed you can no longer function properly.
Think about how much you are going to do?
How many activities do you want to be involved in? In your job, at your child’s school, in your social circles (sports, etc).
Can you manage the number of things you are involved in?
Are your kids growing up in the back of a car?
There is a balance and you need to find it and know that you can feel good about your involvement. That you can do a good job where you choose to be involved.
Don’t forget that “more is not necessarily better” and slowing things down isn’t always a bad thing.
The purpose of meditation is not just to handle stress and tune out. It is to tune in and get in touch with yourself. To find a peace within.
Meditation is one of those things I have been “meaning to do”. Periodically I listen to relaxation music and affirmations (all great by the way) but I can’t say I have meditated in a very long time.
I was recently listening to Jason Seib talk about it (Paleo Lifestyle and Fitness Podcast…Episode 60) as being part of his daily routine. I had thought I needed to add this to my day for some time, but it never really happened.
Some of the benefits of meditation include that it:
- reduces stress and burn out
- enhances concentration and memory
- improves creativity and problem-solving skills
- decreases depression, anxiety, and insomnia
I have found that a morning meditation before the kids get up is a fantastic way to start my day in a positive way. It means I do have to wake up that bit earlier (surprisingly I don’t fall back to sleep) but it has been worth it every time.
By helping yourself and taking the time out for yourself you can then be more present for those around you.
9. Take good care of your health
I’m sure we all agree, our health is VERY important. If we don’t have good health our lives can become very limited and that affects us but those around us.
Unfortunately when we are living with that constant stress we tend not to look after ourselves even though we know it is the best thing for us. It’s easier just to put our own needs aside as they’re just one more thing that cries out for our attention. If you are in constant crisis, not able to prioritise, and neglecting your physical and emotional wellbeing, it has an immediate impact on your stress levels. Then, just like a ripple effect, it impacts those around us.
The more common ways we can neglect our health include not eating, or overeating, or eating things that are destructive to health (as opposed to promoting health), not getting enough sleep (we’re too busy…or just plain too tired to sleep!).
If you are going to be successful and manage your stress you need to reduce chronic high levels of stress and anxiety.
It is important not to sacrifice yourself in the name of accomplishment.
You know your own issues and what you are ignoring now, both personally and in your relationships with others in your life.
Think about the one step that you can take to address your stress (& health) issues. It doesn’t matter how small it is, go ahead and make that change. The little steps turn into big and positive changes.
Here are my suggestions:
- take some time out of the day just for you.
- make sure you’re eating regularly
- get out walking… around the block will do for the start
- work on getting enough sleep
- eat well
Even though sleep could be under the previous heading, I have given it its own section. It is so important when it comes to managing stress. If you didn’t get a good nights sleep last night you tend to be short with people, you are drowsy when driving or you feel like you have constant “brain fog.”
Lack of sleep can cause:
- weight gain
- “dumbs” you down
- age your skin
- impaired judgement
- other health issues (diabetes, heart disease, stroke and more)
If you have a sleep issue you may have another underlying health issue. So it’s important to make sure you investigate why you are not sleeping well and fix it.
On the other hand the benefits of enough quality sleep include:
- improves your mood
- live longer
- reduces inflammation
- improves memory
- sharpens attention
- lowers stress
- avoid accidents
- aids weight loss
And here are some tips to help you get a good nights sleep:
- establish a bedtime routine (dim the lights, candles, a warm bath…)
- avoid certain foods (caffeine & alcohol) and habits (smoking) an hour or more before bedtime
- go to bed when you are tired
- turn the TV and computer off a good hour before bedtime and
- avoid artificial light (Chris Kresser has a great article about this)
- get your daily dose of vitamin D
You can find out more about sleep and some tips on better quality sleep here in a previous post.
OK. Now it’s time to TAKE ACTION!
- I encourage you now to write a list of the stresses in your life.
- Now, take that list and find the one that stands out as the biggest stress for you right now.
- Take that one stress and find one thing out of the Stress Management list that you can do to turn your one stress around for you. Think about which one resonates the most to you.
- Now go and take a step, big or small, and apply that to your stress.
Its not about getting rid of all the stresses in one go. Its about taking the small steps now and getting yourself and your family in a healthier place. Then work on the other stresses over time. This will help you move forward.
Don’t get consumed with everyday life so much that you forget to live.
My journey in all of this continues. I’m kept very busy with four young children, (one of them with Autism Spectrum Disorder), hubby, home, etc. Stress can quickly become an overwhelming factor in my life, so I have to be on guard. Thankfully the girls are all at school this year, so I am making plans to work on some more positive changes.
I’d love to hear how you deal with stress in your life. Feel free to leave a comment below.