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Have you noticed when you feel stressed in one area of your life, it seems to attract other stressors? Like when your alarm doesn’t go off and the day starts out hectic, you forget your keys, then traffic is bad, the coffee shop messes up your order, and on it goes until you burn dinner and the dog pukes on the rug?
Life has a way of throwing us curveballs, challenges, and changes, so it’s important to know how to cope with stress so each incident doesn’t snowball like that! Not to mention the impact that stress has on our health, mood, and relationships.
To equip yourself to respond to stress better, I’ve got five simple tips to keep in your toolbelt the next time your boss comes to you with a big project or your kids come down with the stomach flu. You’ve got this.
1. Know Yourself. By now, you probably have a pretty good understanding of what stresses you out, and how you respond to it. Unfortunately, many of us don’t use this information to mitigate the situation. Take some time and list out or journal exactly the things that stress you the most and how it affects you.
I know that when I’m upset or overwhelmed, my appetite goes and I have trouble staying asleep. Others may overeat, find it hard to fall asleep, or even sleep too much. When you can recognize signs of stress in yourself, you can better respond to it the next time it happens, or even plan ahead when you see something stressful on the horizon.
For example, if you know a big project is due at work and deadlines get you worked up and then you forget to eat, try having nutritious snacks on hand to keep your blood sugar balanced and energy up. You know yourself best, so try and identify your stress triggers and responses.
2. Be a Problem Solver. When something stressful is on the horizon (or in your face), see if you can solve the thing causing the stress. Pinpoint what the problem is as specifically as you can, and then break it down into smaller, manageable pieces. This can reduce overwhelm and even give you positive feedback and create momentum as you tackle the issue.
This strategy works great when you’re facing something with many moving parts, like a home renovation or planning an event, but it can work for other problems as well. Is your relationship with your teen stressing you out? Try identifying what is causing the stress, and the smaller steps to help solve the issues.
3. Try Something New. When you see a pattern that is bringing stress into your life or is a negative way that you respond to it, try developing a new behavior. If you find yourself overwhelmed because you’ve taken on too many things (again), you might learn to be more assertive or see a therapist to help with that. Perhaps you need to learn more effective time management strategies, how to avoid procrastination, or delegate.
When my children were little, I said “yes” to way too many things because I wanted to be helpful. Eventually though, I realized that I couldn’t do it all on my own and have a heart-to-heart with my husband and ask for his help. At the time, it was difficult because my pride was hurt, but the situation helped me learn and grow.
4. Find Support. We all need a support network around us, and I know that I’ve consciously developed good relationships around me. We all need someone to reach out to for help when we need it, but a support network is more than that. In The Extraordinary Life Tribe, the members benefit from having like-minded women to share ideas and help them work through problems with. And remember to actually ask for help, and to also offer it when your people need you, too.
5. Relax! How many of us know we should make more time to relax and have fun, but don’t actually do it? Dedicate a small part of every day to relaxing and doing something you enjoy. Go for a walk after dinner, listen to a guided meditation during your lunch break, or make a tennis date with your friend once a week. Develop hobbies that help you “switch off” and lower your stress level.
These days, I love my early morning routine. But when my kids were little? Not a chance! The second they heard me move around they’d be awake. During that time, yoga was one of the ways I decompressed and took time for myself.
If you can, plan a staycation or weekend away every so often. Plan it ahead so you have something fun to look forward to (and so it actually happens!). Getting out of your regular environment can really freshen up your attitude and lower your stress and help you see things from a different perspective.
These five strategies are simple enough, but if you don't plan how to manage and cope in various life situations before you're in them, you may find yourself experiencing distress instead. For more tips, download my free PDF guide, Release: 24 Techniques to Beat Stress.
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