How we manage and deal with stress can take a big toll on our lives and the lives of those around us. Some people might just tell you that your problem is not that big of an issue and “Just deal with it,” or this might be how you talk to yourself about the issues in your life. Stress can look like a lot of different things to a lot of different people. And one person’s stress is just that – their stress. You don’t have to have a life threatening disease or be in the middle of a failing marriage to feel that your stress is not “worthy.”
The definition of stress is this:
1. pressure or tension exerted on a material object. 2. a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
Depending on what is going on in your unique life, stress can show up anywhere. And if your issue causes you stress, than that is what it is, stress. For me my stress has appeared in a number of ways. Dealing with my husband’s cancer diagnosis and multiple surgeries causes stress. Bringing a new puppy into our home causes stress. Even though he is super cute, soft and cuddly, when he is not sweet and cute it can be stressful. Having our car broken into, canceling credit cards and now being super paranoid about leaving anything in the car can be stressful. Managing my kids daily activities and schedules, helping with homework and getting dinner on the table every night = stress. A messy house, ailing parents, car trouble, planning a vacation, planning a party, parent night at school, volunteering at school, work demands, money issues, making time for your extended family and friends. All these things, even though some of these issues will be fun and enjoyable, it can also be stressful on the road getting there.
With all this stress coming from so many different areas of our life, how is anyone suppose to manage it all? While I am not a doctor or therapist, I have had my fair share of experience with stress and I have also consulted my doctor and therapist about it in the past and there are a lot of ways to deal with stress and the anxiety and possible depression that comes along with being overwhelmed with the struggles that come up in everyday life.
Some of the things that work for me include:
Meditation & Mindfulness Time – Every morning for over the past year now I practice 15 minutes of mediation. I use an app called Headspace and I absolutely love it! Headspace has different sessions that target a variety of issues that you may struggle with, stress, self esteem, anxiety, depression and more. They just added a motivation packet that is targeted toward athletes and goals. They also have a session for pregnancy and a pack focused on children’s mindfulness. What I love about it is that it is my quiet time in the morning and it gives me little homework assignments to take through my day, so that I can bring mindfulness into my everyday life. When things do get stressful or I get anxious about some thought that has spiraled into a negative pattern, I try to stop thinking, let go of the thought and focus on what is right in front of me and be present with real life, not the negative story line I created.
Exercise & Getting Outside – Exercise is another way to really beat stress, going for a run, riding your bike, getting your butt kicked in a strength training class or chilling out in a yoga class, are all great ways to burn off some stress. Getting your heart rate up and getting the blood pumping will make your body feel great and also gets your mind off of what ever stress has been consuming it. Even just taking a walk and getting outside and focusing on the trees, the birds and the scenery around will help take your mind off your troubles. These days my walks consist of training a puppy to walk on a leash and behave himself, so not all my walks are stress-free, but I am grateful that this little guy continues to get me out of the house and walking way more than I used to.
Playing with A Furry Friend – Even though the puppy can be one of the causes of my stress, he can also lower my stress level at the same time. When he is napping and being sweet, just getting a little snuggle can immediately lift my spirits. And even though he hasn’t really figured out the concept of fetch yet, throwing a ball around the yard or watching him play with other dogs makes me happy and takes me right into the moment. Even if you don’t have a furry friend of your own, petting a cute dog on the street (after you ask the owner first) or snuggling a friends cat, can lift your spirits in seconds.
Talk About It – Talking about your stress and concerns can help tremendously. Just getting the thoughts out of your head and into the world somehow let them feel less stressful. Whether you are talking to a friend over coffee or a professional therapist, getting the issues out in the open helps and getting feedback that your issues are real and valid is reassuring as well. Writing in a journal or on a personal blog are other ways to express your feelings. In a journal, you can write your private thoughts without having to share them with anyone which may be comforting if you are dealing with issues you don’t want to share with others. Just putting thoughts on paper, allow them to be released. Writing a blog is a lot more public, but if you are willing to share your troubles and stress with the world, you may get some valuable feedback from people that are dealing with similar issues. Building a community with people who are also struggling could provide a supportive network for you.
Accept It and Make Good Choices – The bottom line is that stress happens, but it is really how we deal with the stress that causes more stress and pain. Once you are able to accept that the situation you are in is challenging and sit with it for a bit, then you can make choices on how to move forward. Maybe moving forward means crying in your bed for a day. And maybe you need that time for yourself to process and move on. Moving on and dealing with daily life may be difficult, but life keeps on going and there are a lot of positive things in the world to be grateful for, once you realize and appreciate all the things that are going good, the hard stuff will possibly become a side note or just part of your everyday. Once you have accepted the cards you have been dealt, then you can make a conscience choice to make the best decisions around it and not let your stress rule your life.