April is Stress Awareness Month — a time to shine a spotlight on stress in its many forms. As humans, we encounter emotional, mental, and physical stress throughout our entire lives. What we consider “stressful” is our own perceived lack of control over life’s events — an upcoming presentation at work that causes anxiety, a relationship that is emotionally draining, or financial trouble that feels like a hole you’ll never dig out of. Constant or extreme stress triggers adaptive responses within the body, which can lead to headaches, chest pain, stomach issues, fatigue, and trouble sleeping, among other symptoms. Here are some manageable tactics to use to shift your mindset and take control.
Write It Down
You have to bring your children to their activities and pick up your dog at the groomer, all while meeting a deadline at work, fitting in a workout class, meal prepping, and buying that gift from your friend’s wedding registry. You have a mile-long list in your head of the things you need to accomplish. Time is ticking, but you’re only one person! To help keep track of it all, try writing everything down on a piece of paper and crossing off items as you accomplish them. Of note, as your medical appointments pile up, try to keep a log of what needs to be scheduled so you don’t put your health on the back burner.
Practice Saying "No"
We all have a tendency to try to be everything to everyone, but it is important to find a balance. Look at your priorities and evaluate which tasks or commitments you might be able to eliminate. If someone asks you to do something on your only day off, and you want to curl up with a good book instead, practice saying no. Allot enough time for the areas in your life that are most important, such as yoga, visiting with loved ones, sleeping, and eating healthfully. Check in with yourself and ask the following questions:
- Am I taking on more responsibilities than I can handle?
- Am I surrounding myself with people that lift me up instead of tear me down?
- Am I allocating enough time for the things I love?
- Do I feel overwhelmed or anxious throughout each week?
- Do I talk about my feelings or keep them bottled up inside?
As you begin to slim down your priorities and make time for life’s most important tasks, you may still find that your day is full from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep. Instead of thinking of the next task on your to-do list, try to stay in the moment. Conquer one task at a time.
Life has a tendency to fly by, so enjoy your stroll through Marshalls or your run around the neighborhood without thinking of your next destination.
Believe it or not, laughing not only improves one’s mood, but it relieves stress. It relaxes your muscles to alleviate tension, and can improve your immune system over time. When you experience a stress trigger, take some deep breaths to release stress hormones and regulate your heart rate. Be sure to participate in something that brings you joy. In addition, thinking positively can typically change your perception about a certain topic—mind over matter!
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