Our body reacts to stress as a flight or flight response, sending surges of hormones through our systems that in the height of a life or death moment are important, but as a daily habit can be detrimental to our health. People who suffer with stress are more prone to heart conditions, negative body image, pain and strain, anxiety and worry, and a host of serious, sometimes fatal, diseases.
Stress can come from a multitude of situations; workplace, illness, caregiver, financial, relationships, or a life-changing event. The trouble is, that we rarely get a break from stressful situations, and without a way to manage or reduce it's effects, we find ourselves being bombarded by stressors that compound and leave us somewhat crippled under the weight.
Why do some people seem to cope better with stress than others?
We each have a history of coping mechanisms that have served us for every situation that we have ever had to survive. Some of us have surrounded ourselves with an amazing support team that can offer help and encouragement, some of us have had excellent role models who have shown us the path of least resistance, and some of us have developed a habit of self care that has rewarded us and given us something to look forward to at the end of a stressful event.
But what if today is just one of those days for you that you need immediate help, what can you do for yourself right now that can reduce that heightened state of worry and stress?
1) Get it done- There are things that you've been procrastinating about. Small dumb things that you just don't want to do, and it's hanging out in the back of your mind as a constant reminder that your to-do list just never goes away.
Do the things. Do those simple little things so you can check them off your list. Make the phone call, file the report, organize that cupboard, clear off your desk, return that email. You know that you have these little things that you just need to do. Set a timer for 20 minutes and race to finish.
By getting the small things done, you relieve your mind of the worry of having to make time in your hectic schedule to just get them done. Nothing relieves stress as fast as a sense of accomplishment.
Ask yourself right now, "What is the easiest thing that I can do to check it off my to-do list?" Then do that.
2) Plan your meals for the week- Too many options bring stress. And being unprepared and hungry causes your body to make bad food decisions that ultimately make you feel worse, thus continuing the cycle of stress.
In a 15 minute session you can plan your meals for the week, and have a shopping list ready for the grocery store. If you can spare an hour, you can prepare some parts of your meals in advance by chopping fruits and vegetables, or making sauces or casseroles to freeze. Plan your cooking so that you can get more than one meal, and you can cut your kitchen time almost in half every week.
3) Delegate- You cannot be responsible for everything. What tasks eat away at your time that could be handled by someone else?
How much time do you spend cleaning your house every week? Have you thought about assigning tasks to your family members, or investing in a housekeeper?
Just because you know how to do something doesn't mean that you are supposed to be doing it. If you are strapped for time, hire someone or delegate responsibilities to someone else. From cooking, to yardwork, to bookkeeping, to car-washing, there are people out there who would appreciate being hired to do the tasks that you don't want to do.
4) Say no- We know you are a good person. We also know that you hate to see anyone struggling, so every time someone asks for your help, you say yes, often times burdening yourself in the process. Say no. Say no right now. If you are feeling frazzled and undervalued, and strapped for time and resources, it is not fair to you, or to anyone else if you continuously say yes to things that will bring more stress into your life.
No you can't babysit.
No you can't volunteer for that committee this year.
No you can't organize the housewarming party.
No you can't sell those fundraiser tickets.
No you can't take that extra shift this week.
I'm not saying that you have to say no to every opportunity that crosses your path this week, however, if it doesn't fit in with what you can possibly achieve without overburdening yourself, then you have to say no.
5) Take time to connect- When we are really overwhelmed most of us tend to go inward instead of reaching out. Much of our inner strength is cultivated by the relationships that we keep.
Instead of hiding behind your work and responsibilities, take time this week to reach out to someone who's company you really enjoy. Have a coffee date, or a chat on the phone, or if you can manage, go to dinner with a group of friends. Being socially involved with others reminds us that no matter what we face, we are never alone.
When we spend time involved in good conversation we tend to see ourselves as part of a broader reality. Laughing and connecting with others is one of the best ways to reduce stress, and the benefits last longer than just the time spent together.
Remember to take care of yourself this week. Your well-being is the most important gift that you can share with others.