That’s right, the dreaded 6 letter word. It’s a silent killer, especially amongst North Americans. Stress affects anybody at any time. It doesn’t discriminate. Some of us have the ability to adapt to stress easier, while others fall prey to it at the drop of a dime; so which is worse? I always thought being more resilient to stress meant that I was stronger than the average individual. The fact that I could multi-task; juggle five or six projects; deal with my friends and their issues; while being a HOT MOM – I thought I was a strong and completely resilient to stress…I thought I was as strong as they come, because NOTHING affected me. Boy was I wrong. What I didn’t realize was, though life’s everyday stressors were not affecting me emotionally, they were attacking me physically. When something did not go as planned, I had the ability to shrug it off. A tiny spat with a girlfriend; I would dismiss it and deal with it another day – an argument with the boyfriend, well needless to say I’d sweep that under the rug, but all I was doing was avoiding (bottling) every situation around me. Rather than dealing with the issue at the present time (which, infact, I thought I was dealing with the issues by dis-engaging myself), I was putting them off. Think of it as kind of withdrawing the problems and depositing them all into another account. Eventually the account is going to get full with continuous deposits (issues)…and now think of it like accounting, where debits are credits and credits are debits – so think of these deposits as credits (as in the bad) – Did I confuse you?
Okay, plain english. Stress is ugly. When it comes it attacks in many different ways. It can appear through mild symptoms such as fatigue, upset stomach, irritable bowels, a mild headache here and there or a couple of extra pimples on the face and chest OR something as severe as a migraine, blurred vision, chest palpitations, anxiety, panic disorder, depression, aggression – you name it. Stress has been linked to many terminal illnesses such as cancer, anginas, heart attacks, strokes, anurisms and much more. The good thing to know is that because stress is normal and because it is a part of every day life, it can be managed. It is best to nip it in the bud when you start experiencing the milder symptoms of stress. The key is to know your body and how it functions on a daily basis.
Never take on more than you think you can handle. I always have to tell myself, “Rome was not built in a a day.” I am the first to want to try to cram everything into one day and then have a whole slew of activities and tasks for the following day.
Another thing to look out for is your mind being in constant over-drive. There is such thing as emotional stress as well. Give your mind a break or you will drive yourself mental – LITERALLY. Constant worrying is a killer and will only make you age much faster (you don’t want that). Remember that worrying doesn’t solve anything. You simply cannot solve ANYTHING WITH WORRY ALONE (Remember this). Has staying up all night worrying about an exam ever helped you pass? No, but I am almost certain that preparation far enough in advance would be a much better solution, right? So the idea here is to substitute worries with solutions. Worried about money? Seek financial advice from someone you can trust (financial planner or advisor); Worried about how your kids are doing in school? Sit down and have a conversation with them – talk to their teachers; Worried that your boyfriend might be cheating on you? If it’s a genuine concern and you really don’t trust him anymore with enough grounds to believe he could really be cheating, kick his ass to the curb! Case and point – worrying about the problem doesn’t solve ANYTHING.
Now that we’ve gotten the two main points out of the way, the question remains: How does one MANAGE the stress in their life? It’s not easy, but it can be. You have to be committed to wanting to manage the stress. Find the source(s) of the stress. If it’s work, kids, family or relationship/marriage related, sometimes these are the stressors that we cannot avoid completely, but we can minimize them. Here are some simple ideas:
1. Make time for YOU EVERYDAY…You deserve your 30 mins to an hour (whatever your schedule permits), but at least a half hour. This YOU time is YOU time. Not you and Boyfriend or you and Girlfriend(s) time, but YOU time. Whether you spend this time soaking in a bubble bath, taking a run or jog in the morning or at night, sitting in your car listening to your favourite playlist; curled up in bed with a book or watching pre-recorded shows on your PVR – this is YOU time…YOU by YOURSELF time.
2. Have a wind down period before bed. If you are trying to de-stress after a long day’s work, unless it is absolutely necessary, avoid the dramatic phone conversations or text messages which are just going to keep you riled up and your adrenaline going. By all means a friend in need is a friend in need. You will know when a friend reaaallly needs your help at 10 o’clock at night.
3. Wake up 15-30 minutes earlier. If you can avoid starting your day in a panic, all flustered and not knowing your head from your tail, that might be more helpful. Wake up early. Take your time getting ready. Eat breakfast at home and save money. Leave home a little bit earlier, which will allow you to arrive to work a little bit earlier. Waking up just a few minutes early can allow you more grace than having to run around like a chicken whose head was chopped off.
4. Avoid negative people. It doesn’t really matter who it is.
5. Have a purpose. If you are currently wandering through life with no aim, that can be kinda boring and maybe somewhat depressing. What do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies? What are your goals?
6. If you’re in a bad relationship, END IT.
7. Exercise. It is proven that exercise relieves stress and helps to prevent it. You don’t have to be BUFFY THE BODY or in the most incredible shape to start an exercise regime. Walking is simply good enough. Even something as simple as playing frisbee in the park.
8. Keep your finances under control. Money (alongside relationships) is one of the biggest stressors. If you are currently living outside of your means, now is the time to stop. Once you establishing a savings plan, you will see how fast your financial worries will dissipate. There is nothing more comforting than knowing you have that emergency stash incase your car breaks down unexpectedly…for the fourth time that month 😦
9. Stay healthy. Take care of yourself. Your emotional self; your mental self and your physical self. Good health is the best gift anyone can have so if you have it, don’t take it for granted by being careless.
10. Take ownership of your life and stop blaming others.
11. Don’t harvest negative feelings like ANGER, for instance – if you’ve had a falling out with someone, forgive them. If they aren’t interested in coming around, at least you have done what you need to do to lift the burden off of your shoulders. Let that be their business if they choose to carry it.
12. Get proper rest. Sleep is essential. It is needed. At least 8-10 hours a night (some of us can get away with 6 or 7 – though not recommended). Don’t burn yourself out. If you find you are not getting enough rest during the week because of work and a hectic schedule simply doesn’t allow, it is okay to borrow some hours over the weekend (i.e SLEEP IN)
13. Meditate. It is proven to be more effective than any prescription, recreational or over the counter drug; more effective than alcohol and/or any other chemical or non-chemical suppressant.
14. See your family doctor/naturopath regularly and treat yourself to a massage at least once a month
15. Drink more water – lots more and less caffeine.
16. Smile often. It’s not the end of the world. Provided that you take the time out of your day to practice all the things listed above, you will be just fine.