This can be a busy time of the year with settling into the new school semester, preparing for spring vacations, and cheering on your favorite sports teams. Our schedules and to-do lists can quickly become overwhelming and stressful. We all talk about being stressed from time to time, but what really is stress? One of the most commonly held descriptions of stress is when our demands exceed our personal and social resources such as our time, energy, or money. In other words, let’s say you have an important deadline at work and you lack time to complete the project; you may feel stressed because the demand of the project requires more time than you have available. Most people will experience this type of stress at some point in life and want ways to help de-stress. Here are three simple tips to help reduce stress:
Understand your stress
When do you usually feel stressed? Some common stressors are long to-do lists, life transitions, being overscheduled, conflict, financial problems, parenting, traffic, work, and school. When we experience stress our body often responds with the fight or flight response to help us get through the situation. However, being in a frequent state of stress can wear out our body and mind. The more we know about what is stressful for us the better plan we can put into place to help reduce the stress we are experiencing. For example, if you know you often feel stressed when you arrive home after work it is probably not the best time to have an in-depth conversation with friends or try to help your kids with homework. Instead, plan a short break for yourself when you get home or while you are driving to reduce stress.
Identify what you control
Some stressors are within our control and some are outside of our control. For example, how many activities we plan for the week is within our control while a rainy day or a sick kid is outside of our control. If we are feeling stressed by something within our control we can make changes to our situation to help reduce stress. These changes could be deciding to reduce our workload or scheduling more free time on the weekends. Sometimes even small changes can make a big difference in how stressed we feel day to day.
Find coping strategies
Some stressors cannot be changed such as the amount of homework due, medical bills, or slow traffic; but we can still reduce stress by finding coping strategies. Coping strategies are simply activities or things we can do to help reduce stress such as planning ahead, going
outside, setting a boundary with someone, being creative, going for a walk, finding a new perspective, and many more.
By Jennifer Wilmoth, LMFT