If you’re reading this right now and you are feeling overwhelmed, go grab a pen and paper because I’m going to share some of the best ways to deal with stress. We’ve all experienced stressful days: the feeling of not having enough hours in a day, not being able to cope with uncertainty, or feeling like family and friends are just dumping their problems on you and you don’t know how to help or what to do. Trust me, I’ve been there done that…many times. I feel like I’m always stressing out about SOMETHING. Learning how to manage your thoughts, emotions, and schedules are the most important ways to deal with stress.
1. Identify the Sources That Cause You Stress
I might actually cause you some stress with these ways to deal with stress, but certain things need to be said. Your morning latte or daily tall coffee frappuccino could be one of the sources that is causing you to feel overwhelmed (gasp!). Are you still breathing? Okay, good. That’s right, ladies…cut down on your sugar and coffee. Both sugar and coffee provide a temporary high but ultimately will make you feel like crashing in both mood and energy later on in the day. I know the thought of less coffee can make your eye twitch, but your body very well may be sensitive to caffeine. Pay attention to your habits, thoughts, and excuses throughout the day. What makes you feel so stressed? Your sources aren’t always easy to identify, but once you understand what triggers you to feel upset or anxious or overwhelmed each day, you can learn how to manage it.
2. Learn How to Say No
I feel the most stressed/anxious when I’m asked to do/help/participate in something. I don’t like to turn down an opportunity to get involved in something, but I’ve realized that I can’t always be everywhere and do everything all the time. To cope, I’ve identified this as a source and now I’m learning how to manage my stress by saying NO: saying no to taking on too many projects; saying no to beating myself up if I don’t get everything done; saying no to people who demand too much. Once you can accept that you are allowed to say no to things, you will accept that you can better control what you want to do in a day, not what others want you to do.
3. Reach out to Others
It’s okay to ask for help every now and then. This is an obstacle I had to personally overcome, too. Just as I said I didn’t like to say no to things, I also didn’t like to reach out to others for help. I tended to put my pride over my own happiness because I viewed reaching out as a sign of weakness. Well, I’ve done a lot of growing up (especially in the past 6 months after graduating from college) and I now value and understand how important it is to ask for help. Whether you reach out to a friend, to a professor, to a teacher, to a parent or family member, feeling the love of someone else caring about you will help reduce your stress level. I know because I’ve been there. When I changed career paths I felt like I hit rock bottom and my stress level was through the roof! I couldn’t even walk outside my door without having a panic attack. The moment I realized I needed to swallow my pride and contact others for their love, support, and advice, everything changed. Granted, the stress doesn’t go away over night, but it’s the most life changing way to deal with stress.
4. Learn How to Compromise
Compromise with yourself as well as with others – this is a great way to alter a situation. If you are causing you stress, begin with setting realistic expectations and sticking with them. I used to try and squeeze in as many activities, meetings, and events in one day as I possibly could – it was almost like I was addicted to being stressed all the time because I always felt productive and it was a great sense of self-worth and satisfaction. That’s a really sick and twisted way to live life, though. It’s impossible to live every day of the rest of your life like that and I am just recently learning this. Relax, and compromise; relax, and compromise. If others are causing you stress, begin with finding a middle ground. You should never feel like someone else is forcing you to do something against your will – who wouldn’t feel stressed trying to please others all the time? Only do what FEELS right. Compromising means understanding what gives you a sense of peace.
5. Incorporate the Attitude of Gratitude
Attitude has a profound effect on how we deal with situations. Do you notice that if you wake up thinking negative thoughts such as "I have so much to do today" or "There’s no way I’m going to get a dent in my to-do list," you somehow feel sluggish, lazy, and unmotivated? Maybe I’m just a very sensitive and emotional person but I realize that the more I dwell on being stressed and busy and not having enough time, the more I sink in the quicksand. I challenge you to exchange a negative thought for a positive thought. If, even for a second, you tell yourself "I can’t handle this anymore," turn around and say "I am thankful for my successes, I am thankful for my friends, I am thankful that I will come out of this problem stronger than ever!" Going on walks, spending time in nature, playing with your pet, listening to music, watching comedies, making hot tea, taking a long bath, lighting candles, or reading can help you focus on gratitude and grace you with inner peace.
6. Take One Step at a Time
Rome wasn’t built in one day. How many times have I heard THAT line before? That’s my family’s go-to comeback when I complain about feeling overwhelmed. They’re right though, as much as I don’t like to admit it. If you’re a control freak like me, plan out the week on Sunday night with the trust that you have the rest of your week secure. This has been my philosophy since high school and it definitely helps manage stress. If you are more loosey goosey, plan out a day the night before or morning of.
7. Take on Yoga or Start a Stress Journal
Here’s the most exciting news! There are lazy ways of dealing with stress and active ways (hopefully reading the word lazy just now made you take a deep breath of relief, or at least crack a smile). Although I know that our bodies need exercise or at least some form of physical activity for a period of time during the day, most times the mere thought of getting to the gym can feel like a stress – it’s just one more thing I need to add to my list, how exhausting, right?! Well, for those of you lucky ducks who have actually reached enlightenment and enjoy going to the gym or working out, definitely incorporate yoga into your daily routine. It’s a great stress reliever. Remember how I talked earlier about compromise? Well, I have promised myself to try to go to the gym on the weekends and then 1-3 times a week do some yoga. The lazier way of dealing with stress is to start a stress journal. I really enjoy writing and my «talkative Italian mouth» runs a lot so I channel all that into a journal and keep track of everything. It’s amazing how a pen and paper or a Word document can quickly become your best friend and most powerful medicine.
Whether you are feeling extremely stressed right now or not, these ways to deal with stress should become your mantra: reflect on how to become a more relaxed and happy you! What are ways that you deal with stress?