Stress. We all have an image or idea that pops into our head when we hear that word... and it's usually not good. We all experience stress and we all have our own ways of dealing with it... and it's not always good. When we get overwhelmed because our stress levels have become too much, we are usually forced to take a rest: whether we like it or not.
Many of us have a hard time knowing when our stress levels are getting to the point of poor return (poor results on our investment of time and energy). Not all stress is bad, though. Sometimes it's just a response to change or the unknown. Stress will come, but knowing how to manage it can help reduce or avoid any negative effects.
Know the Signs
One of the key steps in reducing the effects of stress is to know the warning signs. Particularly, your signs. Your body will tell you when life is starting to take its toll and it's time to rest and rejuvenate. The signs of stress and the effects of stress can be the same, they just get worse as times goes on. How can you tell when you are getting stressed or overwhelmed? Common signs that you may need to pay attention to:
Signs/Effects of Stress
Lack of motivation
If you’re experiencing these signs repeatedly, for whatever reason, it may be time to start doing something different. So what can you do to get a handle on the stress in your own life...
Take responsibility for your life, your decisions, your actions.
Many of us tend to go through the motions of life just doing what has to be done. Following our usual routine: barely awake, crawling out of bed, going to work, running errands, preparing dinner, helping the kids, dealing with our family, time with our significant other, making a dent in chores, working on our business ideas, catching up on our shows, trying to read something worthwhile... all before falling into bed too late to get a good night’s sleep. Then you wake up the next morning to do it all over again.
Although you do a lot in a day, you rarely feel like you’re making progress toward your dream life mostly because you haven’t done anything that will actually get you there. So time to take charge and take responsibility! This is your life! Act like it.
Be intentional... about how you spend your time rather than just going through the motions of the day.
Prioritize... what has to be done now vs. what can wait until tomorrow, the weekend, next month. How important is it to you? How urgent is it? Is there a deadline for getting it done? Schedule your time and energy in a way that mimics the priority.
Delegate or delete... tasks that do not need your direct attention. Consider what you can take off your plate or not do at all. Everything does not have to be done by you. What are you taking on that does not (and should not) be your responsibility.
Special Tip: If you have things on your list that are constantly being pushed to the bottom because you can’t get to them, that’s a sign to re-evaluate:
>Is it your task or a favor you agreed to do for someone else?
>Who else can do it? Are you the ONLY one who can get it done or are you just telling yourself that? (Be honest with yourself. Everything doesn't have to be done your way.)
Value, respect, and care for yourself
>How are you treating you? Are you taking care of yourself… physically, mentally, spiritually?
>Are you treating yourself the way you expect others to you? Are you valuing yourself the way you want others to value you?
>How are others supposed to know how to treat you, if you aren’t good to yourself?
>How will you recognize when you are being treated poorly, if you’re doing the same to yourself?
Valuing yourself means attending to your physical, mental, and spiritual needs, This can look different for different people, so figure out what you need and how to get it.
Put yourself first.
This is not selfish. And it is not a sin. God commands us to "Love your neighbor as yourself." So we should be caring for others in the same way that we care for ourselves. Hence, our self care should be our model... not an afterthought.
We’ve all heard the cliché of taking care of yourself before (and so) you can take care of others. People often use the airline emergency analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. We hear it over and over again because it's true. The idea of running yourself into the ground to provide for others doesn’t actually work in practice. You end up making yourself exhausted/ill (or worse) to the point where you can’t care for others anyway. Be kind to yourself. Be there for yourself. Be your best self.
Reward yourself for achievement.
You have to be your own and biggest cheerleader. Look for the small achievements in your life every day and be proud. Give yourself credit for little accomplishments and celebrate your progress. If you find it hard to identify these moments of success, re-evaluate. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a day, week, etc. and set your goals accordingly.
It’s not that serious. Trust me. Look for the humor in any situation. Stress can take it's toll on our emotions and be a downer on our sense of humor. Changing your facial expression can help change your attitude. If you walk around with a negative look on your face, you may attract negative energy wherever you go. When we have a negative interaction with someone, we tend to let it affect our mood as well... worsening our experience of stress. If you find that you’re surrounded by negative energy, check your own energy first and make sure it’s positive. Finding humor, especially at yourself, can reduce stress and positively affect your overall well-being.
Take a break.
One way to help you accomplish the above three... take a break! There are times when you need to just drop everything and be unavailable. Cell phones seem to give us the impression that we're always on call or that we're missing something. Your friends get annoyed when they can't reach you. You feel weird when you haven't checked your phone in a while. When you do check it, many times we get caught up in a rabbit hole of emails, social media, or google-ing. Let it go and get over it... Take a break!
Short or long, simple or extravagant, just do it! Turn your phone off (or at least put it on do not disturb) then take a walk, watch a movie, read a book, enjoy a meal, or meditate for a simple break from the day's routine. For a much needed longer break... a staycation or weekend getaway can do wonders for your energy level.
Try these strategies to get a handle on the stress in your life. It's a part of life, but it doesn't have to consume your life. If you need help reducing your own stress level, give me call or schedule online for a 15-minute free consultation.
faith, hope, love