So today was a very stressful day for me. I have a lot of things going on and today was the day that I felt like it was too much to handle….Now what?
My natural tendency is to hide. I do my best to just unplug from everything. When the kids were little and I had one of those days, I couldn’t just ‘not show up’. Instead I would do something that gave me great comfort. I would bake. For me, there was comfort in knowing that I could be there but the kids knew I was busy. I could focus on whatever it was I was making and I could manage, even for a little while, to not think about whatever it was that was too heavy to carry. So instead of dealing with those stressers, I would make bread, muffins, biscuits, scones, pies, puddings, cookies, even waffle or pancakes before school.
The kids are all older now and we are eating a lot healthier too, so I don’t bake as much. It doesn’t mean the stress is gone. As a matter of fact, some of the stresses have become even larger. So, dealing with stress has changed. Most days, I am either in the gym or on the trails, and that helps a lot for me. My mind can go crazy with thoughts, but the body doesn’t store it as much as it used to. What I do know now, is that I need to deal with the stress better so that it doesn’t take over.
How do you handle stress? We can’t escape stress totally. Well, some people do try. Dealing with things until we can see just a little more clearly is ideal. Stress is actually a much larger issue than most of us like to admit. It can have some very serious health consequences. Some stress can surface as headaches, stomach upsets, or even mimic other more serious illnesses. In extreme cases stress can lead to physical violence and potential chronic stress which can lead to anxiety, panic attacks and even depression. Your body also bears a lot of your pain in that stress can raise your blood pressure, lead to heart disease, stroke, even raise your ‘LDL’ levels, or bad cholesterol.
Coping with stress can come in many forms from regular alcohol, becoming excessive, drug abuse, poor eating habits, even blaming anyone and everyone else. There are times when we just need to get through whatever it is we are going through, we can’t eliminate it all together, but sometimes we can actually do some little things that can make a big difference.
1. Just say no. Don’t get overwhelmed trying to please everyone all the time. Instead, set realistic personal goals with enough time to achieve them. Prioritize your activities. Learn to say no to things that are not a high priority.
2. Stop procrastinating – take action. If you believe you perform better under pressure, you may be trying to convince yourself that you do. In fact, you may be making an excuse to procrastinate. Putting things off can be stressful. Instead, take action. Make decisions and be prepared to live with the consequences.
3. Get help when you need it. No matter how proud or strong you are, there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. By not asking for help, you may be needlessly stressed. Sometimes it’s best to delegate, asking others to lighten your load by doing tasks they can handle
4. Take a comedy break. Silly right? Yes, of course it is. That’s the point. Open that book, read that comic, watch that sitcom, read Lighten Up and Laugh. Your body knows how to laugh if you let it.
5. Take a break – walk away from stress. Sometimes, you just need to remove yourself from whatever it is that is stressing you. Don’t go sit and have a coffee, go for a walk, move your body, again, your body knows what to do if you let it.
6. Try setting a personal goal using a smart approach. Choose one small goal and write it down. Can you count it or check it off a list? Is your goal realistic? If not, make it smaller. Decide how to reward yourself when you reach your goal. Set a specific, realistic date to finish or achieve your goal.
There may come a time to find some help. Here are just a few options.
Your family doctor
The social worker
Other counseling services The public health nurse
Employee and family assistance program counseling
Individual and family counseling
Help is out there! Don’t give up. Finding the right help to cope with your stress may require a few attempts to find a good fit for you.