April is national Stress Awareness Month.
In honor of Stress Awareness Month I want to share with you a list of 7 practices that help me reduce the amount of stress in my life.
Of course, this set of stress relief tips works for me. My hope is that they will help you manage your day-to-day stress levels as well.
But, I also want to hear from you! What do you do to reduce and manage your stress levels?
This famous quote, from the movie Legally Blonde, does a great job of explaining why exercise is such an effective stress relief method.
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t”.
Making exercise a part of your everyday life is a great way to reduce your stress levels!
- As stated above, exercise produces a set of “happy chemicals” in the brain that can help you handle stressful situations better.
- Exercise will help you spend your negative, pent up energy and work off stress.
- Making time to exercise, alone, is a productive and guilt-free way (only if you feel guilty for taking time for yourself) to schedule some “you time” in your day.
- Making time to go to the gym, or go for a walk, with your family is a bonding experience as well as a great way for the kids to spend their extra energy, which can make your home life less stressful.
- Regular exercise will help keep you healthy, which in turn, can help you meet the demands of day to day life better.
Plan and Prioritize
Planning your day, on paper, is a great way to reduce your stress levels.
What I like to do is to take a few minutes on the weekend to plan out my week. Using Google calender, I make a daily to-do list for myself which includes all of my major tasks.
I don’t like to get into details because I am not psychic and can’t predict what unexpected events may come up during the week. So, I map out my major tasks for the week and leave myself plenty of free-time in the day for the unexpected.
In order to prioritize your daily tasks you must first come to terms with the fact that you can’t do it all, especially not in one day. To help myself prioritize my to-do list, I’ve created a color system: important tasks = red, tasks that can wait = yellow, fun tasks = green.
This system works for me. But, it may not work for you. So, don’t be afraid to experiment and come up with your own unique system through which you can prioritize your daily tasks. Once you do this you will see your daily stress levels go down significantly.
Declutter Your Thoughts
Is something bothering you?
Often, when there are negative thoughts or personal issues on my mind, they tend to swim around in my head to the point that they leave me both mentally and physically exhausted and irritated. This mental exhaustion adds a great deal of stress to my life by making day-to-day tasks and interactions more difficult and irritating.
What helps me declutter my thoughts is keeping a journal in which I write down all of the negative thoughts and personal issues that cause me stress. Writing these feelings down on paper makes them visual, tangible and easy to organize. Once I’ve written these feelings down on paper, I go through them and cross out the ones that are not important enough for me to waste time or energy on. This leaves me with a list of what is truly important.
Be Selfish! Set Ground Rules
If the thought of being selfish with your time, in order to help reduce your stress levels, irks you than it is time to consider it.
The concept of being selfish with your time, in order to reduce your stress levels, is part of the practice of planning and prioritizing, which I mentioned earlier.
Think about it this way: you schedule when you wake up, your carpool time, commute time, lunch time, your kids’ after school activities, the time it takes to drive them back and forth from each event, homework time, dinner time, laundry time, house cleaning time, grocery shopping time, dentist appointments, vet appointments, etc. So, what about some “you time”? For the sake of your sanity? For the sake of your health? For the sake of your happiness?
One way to set ground rules, when it comes to your time, is to let your family know when it is “mommy time”.
Set rules for your “you time” and resist the urge to break them. For example, no checking email, phone, text messages, diapers, or household related work or thoughts during “you time”.
Consider your “you time” as a well deserved break from the challenges and aggravations you face during the week. Use this time to go out and have a cup of coffee with a friend, get a massage, have your hair done, get a manicure-pedicure, watch a movie that is not G rated alone, or whatever else that can help you unwind.
Learn To Say “No!”
It is ok to say NO! once in a while.
As women, we are often conditioned to take care of everyone around us, without factoring ourselves into the equation.
This is the main source of stress in many women’s lives.
In many cases,we, women, are the primary caregivers in our households and feel compelled to jump to the aid of everyone. For example, neighbor needs you to carpool again…no problem; kids need 1000 cookies by tomorrow…no problem; Teacher wants you to chaperone a field trip tomorrow…no problem; Husband calls to say that he’s bringing over 40 of his friends to watch the game in 20 minutes…no problem.
You may have a big heart and want to do all of these things for the people in your life but you do not have an unlimited amount of time. If you say “Yes” to everything you will overwhelm yourself with the stress of trying to do it all.
Therefore, you must first learn to show compassion towards yourself by teaching yourself to say NO! more often. Think of it this way: when on an airplane, during take off flight attendants say, “put the oxygen mask on yourself, first, before you attempt to help your kids or others”.
This is because if you pass out due to lack of oxygen, you can’t help your kids or anyone else who may need your help. The same rule applies to life. You must first learn to take care of yourself in order to be able to take care of others.
Laugh More At Yourself & The World
Relax! Enjoy your life and remember the old sayings:
“None of us are getting out of this (life) alive”
“Laughter is the best medicine”
When it comes to managing stress, laughter is the best medicine. So, train yourself to see the humor in stressful situations because laughing at yourself or your problems can help improve your mood.
Focus On The Positive
When our stress levels are out of control it is hard to see all the positive things in life.
That is why I like to make a list of all the things I am grateful for in life, when I am overwhelmed with stress and find myself seeing nothing but darkness around me. This helps shift my focus from the negative things in life to the positive thoughts and feelings that make me happy.
The most effective way to teach your mind to stay focused on the positive aspects of life is to learn to write and use the power of positive affirmations. Positive affirmations are simply statements that we declare to be true. They are a learned method of communicating with our subconscious selves.
For example, the statement, “Why can’t I lose weight?” is a negative affirmation which can clutter your thoughts and increase your stress levels. But, when you train your mind to practice positive affirmations you will instead say to yourself, “Today I will make better food choices”.
The following two articles can help you learn how to include positive affirmations in your life:
photo courtesy of: bottled_void