One of the most important things to do - and sometimes one of the hardest – is to look after ourselves, especially if we've spent years looking after others.
Sometimes the stresses in life just build up and all of a sudden everything can seem out of control. If you made a list of all the situations that cause you to feel stressed, anxious, worried, frustrated and helpless, how would it look. Give it a try…
How did you do with your list?
Now, with each item, write down at least one way to modify that situation to reduce its stress and then implement that into our routine. Sounds easy? It's not! I
Sometimes we just need to set some boundaries and say “NO”.
Take a break between projects at work or at home. Trying to complete the list can result in some jobs getting done fast, but not providing a sense of accomplishment as they aren’t done as well as we know we can do.
Control your devices! Put down your phone! What’s with the phones – we check them every 15 minutes – fbook, Instagram, messages, emails, tiktok – what could possibly be so important? And, if it was important, the person would call us! This phone of ours has statistically caused us more stress than provide convenience. And, now many people are on call 24-7, for work and for their family! We need some down time, so put the phone down. It might be a good challenge to go off social media for a week, or a month even! There’s too much bad news or fake news anyways! Good challenge to see if you feel any better.
Who do you socialize with? Sometimes keeping a small social circle is a right comfort zone. At others times, it may be a way to reduce stress by socializing with people of different groups. You may enjoy spending time with a variety of people - your co-workers, your high school or college friends, your musician friends, or your church group. When we see the same people all the time, conversations can get repetitive. Introducing a new topic into the usual conversation can prove to be stimulating! This is a great way to keep life interesting!
Try to NOT take work home with you and keep work at work, home at home. Sometimes that’s difficult, as with this virus isolation. But do your best. Don’t just recognize that your work is done, but congratulate your efforts. And do your best!
Rediscover your passion! What have you always enjoyed doing? Maybe it’s time to dig out that guitar you played years ago, or the painting waiting to be created. Perhaps you’ve been thinking of writing your memoirs, or learning a different language. Now is the time to do it. When we wait for tomorrow - it may never come!
Another way to have some fun is to find a friend who can share your enthusiasm. I used to have 2 dogs. Rocky and Maggie were shih tzu’s who lived to be 15 years old. They passed about 2 years ago, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed them until recently. So, I decided to get a new puppy! A big decision, and although lots of work with the training and up-in-the-night outside puppy-visits, and the toys scattered all over, I’m loving it! (Typing has become a bit of a challenge with him sleeping on my knee though!) This little guy has brought much joy into my life when I really needed it. With regular walks, and a new routine, life has changed significantly, and I’m not talking to myself any more! Haha! I hadn’t realized how much I needed him, especially being isolated on my own. He has become my stress relief!
Of course, there are all types of physical ways to reduce stress.
- Exercise more. Even parking your car at the other end of the parking lot will help add some steps into your daily quota. Walking up the stairs instead of taking the elevator. We know this, but just starting today, one day at a time, will make the needed changes.
- Increase your water consumption. Decrease other bottled drinks – pop, alcohol, energy drinks, etc. Water will flush the toxins out and keep your system clean.
- Don’t skip meals. Eat all the food groups except the junk food group. As tempting as it is, it’s the culprit of many sleepless nights filled with chemical “food”.
- Get enough sleep. You know how much you need, but having a sleep routine will help your body clock and provide you with the necessary energy.
No one can tell you what’s the best way for you to relax. For some, it might be a day at the spa or the beach. For others it might be wilderness camping? Or a long hike in the woods!
One of the best ways to relax is to spend time with positive people and have fun! Stop listening to negative news! Look for something to laugh about every day. Not some ONE, but some THING!
Be thankful! Keeping a grateful journal will decrease any anger, or bitterness or unforgiveness within you, and help you to see the many ways we can be thankful. We will always see what we want to see! Searching for the positive things in our lives will train us to be grateful and improve our attitudes. We'll find what we're looking for!
The key to effective stress management is rarely a 7-day or 30-day program that tells you what to do to relax and how to find “balance”. The key is to discover your own “program” that works for you and your lifestyle and then make a commitment to incorporate it into your life. By setting goals, and determining what you want your life to look like in 5 years, you can make the necessary changes to move towards that goal.
The thing with self care is realizing that you need to take care of yourself. Like the flight attendants demonstrate on the airplanes, put the oxygen on yourself first. Although it’s not something we may naturally do, we need to look after ourselves first. Then we can do our best, and be our best when we’re doing life with others.
We pour out whatever is inside us.
I used to work at a street mission on Main Street in Winnipeg. The people would carry a cup of soup, and balance a sandwich on top of it. In the other hand would be a hot coffee. A backpack would be on their back. These people would maneuver through the crowded dining hall, careful to not spill onto others. If someone got bumped, the soup would spill, the anger would flare and on occasion, the fight would begin.
When you get bumped with life, what spills out of you? It is frustration? Or bitterness? We’ve all seen road rage! or the bully! Or the person who is angry with the salesperson. Are we willing to forgive? To see with compassion or empathy? Kindness? When we know a judgement or betrayal has happened, how do we react?
Life happens. We can’t always be prepared for the worst, but when it does happen, we can only hope to be the best representation of ourselves. It may take time to process but we can do our best when we are free from too many additional stresses of life.
Look within. Only you know what you need. You are uniquely created. Do you need security? (job, housing) Better health? More control over emotions? Healthier relationships? (co-workers, family, friends) Do you need to have more time? (constantly running with too many commitments, or overwhelmed and not accomplishing anything) Or more fun? Look within.
Can you find your balance?
___ Emotions – anger, bitterness, grief, unforgiveness
___ Occupation – enjoy your work? Does it align with your values?
___ Lifestyle – hobbies, creativity, fun.
Rate each section between 1 (needs improvement) and 5 (great). This will give you an indication of where you may need to focus. I can help you care for you!
I look forward to hearing from you.