If you’re like most people, you’ve got a fair amount of stress in your life. You know it takes a toll on your physical and mental health, but what can you do about it? Well, there are two ways to deal with the stress in your life: stress relief and stress reduction.
Stress relief is all about finding ways to counteract the stress you’re currently dealing with. This includes using various essential oils to counteract the anxiety, insomnia, depression, brain fog, lack of energy, and muscular tension caused by your stress. Other popular, and equally effective, options are listening to relaxing music, meditation, exercise, massage and bodywork, certain herbal teas, yoga, reiki, special breathing exercises, and laughter.
Stress relief is great and everyone could benefit from more of it; but have you ever considered stress reduction? With stress reduction there is no reactionary protocol, there are simply proactive measures. Proactive’s good, right? The path of stress reduction isn’t for the faint of heart, however. It can involve a lot of discomfort (especially at first), some disagreements, a fair number of misunderstandings, tantrums, and some major life changes.
The purpose of this blog post isn’t to lay out a step-by-step plan for how to reduce the stress in your life (you’re the only one who can do that), but merely to get you thinking about some of the ways you might be willing to go about it. I have a few suggestions – somewhat oversimplified in the name of saving space – to get you started:
Don’t overcommit. Just say no if a request for time, baked goods, your presence on yet another committee, etc. makes you shudder, cringe, or reach for the wine. Many people will appreciate your honesty if you decline their offer by saying you’re already overextended (provided you really are – no lying now, because that creates it’s own stress); they don’t want you doing a half-*ssed job for them, anyway. As for the one’s who don’t care that you’re already overextended and beg you to help out anyway… ask yourself: do you really want to do a favor for someone who doesn’t care about you or your health?
Declutter your house. This doesn’t mean making it as spartan as a monk’s cell, it simply means getting rid of the “Stuff.” You know, the stuff you thought you needed or wanted but haven’t used for years. If you haven’t used an item or worn a piece of clothing in 3 years or more, it’s time for the old heave-ho. Besides generating some space in your house, it will give you more energy because constant acquisition, maintenance, and storage of items that we don’t want, need, or use saps our precious energy.
Simplify your life/Prioritize. This means different things to different people, but basically it boils down to assessing what’s important in your life and cutting out the extraneous activities and things in order to make enough room to focus on the important ones and put them first.
Change your job or career. Being uber stressed all day at work takes it’s toll on your mood which decreases the quality of the time you spend with your family. Remember, people of all ages have changed jobs and careers; some have even started their own businesses in their 50’s or 60’s. It’s never to late to do what you love, or at least to not hate what you do.
Change friendships. There’s no rule that says once you’re friends with someone that you have to stay friends with them forever. It’s great if you’re still best friends with the person who was your best friend in high school or college; but it’s also great if you’ve grown apart (hey… it happens), recognized that, and let the friendship go. Both are healthy and neither are guilt-worthy.
Change romantic relationships. There’s a cliche phrase that cycles through email and social media from time to time that says: people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. The reason this saying continues to make the rounds is because it speaks a truth. Changing a relationship doesn’t always mean ending it, but it might. It can also mean changing some of the rules or dynamics of the relationship, your partner willing of course. My point is, if your romantic relationship stresses you out, something about it needs to change. What change that turns out to be is up to you.
Change your expectations. There’s very little that’s as frustrating as when your expectations aren’t met. You’ll know your expectations haven’t been met if you say things like “he should…”, “she shouldn’t…”, “how could she…”, “I can’t believe that he did/didn’t…” Do any of those sound familiar? If so, it helps to reframe your expectations. Ask yourself, “what’s the reality of the situation?” Then adjust your expectations to meet that reality. For instance, if someone has the unfortunate habit of lying a lot, it would be foolish to expect them to tell the truth. Ever.
Get enough sleep. Sleep is when the body repairs and heals itself. Without enough sleep, the body slowly loses the heal and repair game and becomes more susceptible to infections and chronic illness. If you chronically deprive yourself of sleep, for whatever reason, the easiest way to get more sleep is to slowly increase your sleep time. Start by going to bed 15 minutes earlier than you have been (or setting your alarm 15 later, if that’s your preferred method of sleep deprivation), after about 3 weeks that should be a habit (provided you did it every day). Once it’s a habit, bump up your bedtime (or bump back your alarm time) by another 15 minutes. Repeat until you’re getting the amount of sleep you need.
Remember: you are responsible for your own happiness and no one else’s. Just as you can’t change someone else, no one can come along and magically balance your life and commitments for you.
I would love to hear from you. What have you done to reduce the stress in your life? How did it work? Please share so that others can benefit from your experience.
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