Today it seems that no matter who we are or what we do, we have more stress in our lives than our parents or grandparents did. There are many factors and demands that cause stress in our lives: things such as demanding careers, relationship conflicts, financial worries, health concerns, parenting challenges, legal issues, fear of the unknown and so many others.
If that were not enough, the stress and worries these situations cause further diminish our ability to function well and to be healthy. In fact, stress can cause depression, fatigue, irritability, withdrawal, insomnia, appetite changes, head aches, lower sex drive and many other ailments and diseases. Some studies suggest that as much as 80% of all major illnesses are attributed to stress. Take note of that again — as much as 80% of all major illnesses are attributed to stress! It is quite obvious — stress is NOT good for us, and we are wise to get rid of as much of it as possible.
So how do you do that? First, do you know what things in your life are causing you stress? Think about it and write down those things. Next, go through your list and write possible solutions and ways to ease stress for each of those stress causers. Then, make a plan to do those things. That plan may look like a daily reminder that you read, post-it notes on your computer or a daily quiet time of prayer.
For those stress items that we cannot remove from our lives and for the unexpected stress that creeps into our lives, try these tips:
• When you feel tense or stress, stop what you are doing, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Inhale slowly counting to 10 and exhale slowly counting to 10. Try to do this at least three times. You may need to do this several times a day.
• Start an exercise program. You may be amazed how much stress is relieved when you exercise. The endorphins that are released can reduce your stress, improve your mood and give you an energy boost.
• Play relaxing music or soothing sounds that calm and relax you.
• Plan a day off or at least plan some time just for yourself and do whatever is relaxing to you: sleep in, lay in a hammock, have coffee with a friend, take a bubble bath, have a glass of champagne, go for a hike, get a manicure or read a book.
• Count your blessings. Record things you are happy and thankful about. Read them daily and add to your list as you recognize new blessings and things to be thankful for. The goal is to have a longer “thankful” list than “stress” list. Focus on the positive and remind yourself of the positive things in your life often.
• Simplify your life. Are there unnecessary things in your life that you could remove? Are you over-extended or over-committed? Are their things in your life that you can outsource to simplify your life? Are your children in more than one extra-curricular activity? Is that adding more stress than is worth it?
• Find more joy. Are their things that can truly add joy to your life? What are they? Are you focusing too much on work or negative things in your life? Are you taking time to stop and enjoy your life, your family, and your children?
Make today the day for new beginnings and for removing as much stress from your life as possible. Find joy. Make joy.