Life is full of stress: kids, marriage, jobs, transitions, and the unexpected health scare. When you are in a constant state of being stressed, you can feel frazzled, forgetful, and unhealthy. Stress is a killer too. It is linked with cancer and other diseases that destroy your physical health, as well as your emotional well-being. So what can you do if you find that you are always stressed out?
Let me first say that I am not an expert on this by any means. In fact, I’m dealing with my own stress and sometimes I fail miserably. At times, you will need a good therapist to walk you through how to handle stress. Here are some tips I’ve learned through therapy and experience that I hope will help you too.
Evaluate Your Stress
I know, not rocket science, but taking a good look at what is actually stressful might help. Do you have too many things going on? Are you overworked? Are you bored? What exactly is causing the stress? Make a list of stressful things and keep it handy.
Kick It or Keep It
What on your list is worth keeping? Can you get rid of anything or lessen the load somehow? As an example, I was getting majorly stressed out by having to deal with a certain agency for my autistic daughter. After freaking out, my husband decided to deal with it because he’s just better at handling conflict with other people than I am. So that was a weight that I was able to let go of. There are other things that I just can’t let go of and those are things I need skills to cope with. Cross off anything that you can get rid of or give to someone else.
Break down stressful things into smaller tasks
Ok, so you can’t offload your stress. How about breaking it up into steps that are doable? Instead of looking at the entire basement you have to clean, create small steps you can do every day that will help. Check each step off as you go and before you know it, you’ll have it done.
Breaking things up into smaller tasks is easier than trying to do the entire thing. If you are like me though, you might hate having things hanging over your head. I still have had to learn to be OK with the list of things to do and to be happy with getting 1-2 things done instead of the entire thing. Learn to be OK with not being perfect.
For other ideas on managing tasks, try the Pomodoro Method or research time management skills. Sometimes we are stressed out because we don’t have a good system for managing our day-to-day tasks.
Lean on a family member, friend, or a therapist for support. There’s no reason why you have to deal with your stress alone. Even if we have no one to help us, we can learn to be our own support by using self-care. We can show ourselves compassion and kindness by allowing ourselves to take breaks, to leave the stress for a day or a week, and for reaching out for help in the form of friends or therapy.
The more isolated we are, the more stressed we become so practice self-care and find the thing that brings you joy and relief.
Cry like a baby
Maybe this is just me, but when I cry hard, it is cleansing. Sometimes I just need to let it out even if it looks ugly. Instead of lashing out at your family, co-workers, or friends, just take some time to process your feelings. And if you do flip out on someone, try to forgive yourself. You are carrying a lot. It’s bound to happen. Learn to cry or talk through your fears, the stress, and the hardships of life. Again, I recommend a therapist that you can talk to regularly who can help you walk through it with you. If your therapist sucks, be sure to find one that you click with.
Sleep it off
You can’t get rid of your life problems with sleep, but sleep does help our moods. It helps us manage the stress we have and gives us energy to cope. Unfortunately, stress can lead to many sleep problems, so it’s good to prioritize your sleep. Naps can also do wonders for us when we feel emotionally exhausted. Learn to rest when you feel tired and make sleep a priority.
Exercising has been a great way for me to work off my stress. When I skip my routine, I can tell. It is a great way to release stress and tension in your body and in your mind. Yoga is also great for mental health. Even walking regularly can do this, so try to incorporate some exercise into your routine.
Schedule Fun Into Your Life
We can get into thinking everything is a task. We go to work, drive the kids to school, come home and clean, cook dinner, and go to bed stressed out thinking about the next days’ tasks. If we never have anything fun to look forward to, we can start to get depressed and anxious. Try to schedule fun into your life. Maybe it’s a date with your husband, an outing with a friend, coffee with your teen, or a short getaway. Having something stress-free to look forward to can really change your outlook.
Throw Your Hands in the Air Like You Just Don’t Care
Sometimes you just have to say “Screw it”. Consider if this thing is really worth your stress. Is a friendship causing you to feel bad about yourself? Are obligations causing you to feel tired and not yourself? Nothing is worth your sanity. We need to shift our thinking from “I have to do it all and be all or I’m a failure” to “This is not worth my mental health”. If anything causes you to feel stress whether that’s too many junk emails, friends that are emotional vampires, or a soul-sucking job, maybe your energy could be better spent elsewhere. Drop it like it’s hot and move on. It’s not worth it.
As a chronically stressed woman myself, I know that I can’t eliminate every stress in my life. However, I can do things to eliminate stress and take steps to find balance in my life. Reaching out when I don’t feel like it has been the best thing I’ve done for me. Sometimes it takes a conversation with yourself about what is working and what isn’t and then a realistic plan to make those changes.
Be kind to yourself. There’s only one you.