We all know what it feels like to be stressed. Stress can happen for many different reasons. Deadlines at work, taking care of the children, paying the bills, etc. Nobody is exempt from stress. And, while some stress might be good, meaning it might help push you a bit. Too much of stress, is not good.

There will be times in your life that you feel very stressed. What’s important is that you learn to cope with stress. It’s easy to gravitate towards unhealthy coping mechanisms such as: food, alcohol and even drugs. These may help for a little while, but in the long run they will only make matters worse.

What’s stressful for one person, may not be stressful for another. It’s important that you know what creates stress for you in your life. This is not a time to compare yourself to others. There are many ways to control your stress and keep it at bay. Here are 10 tips to help keep the stress monsters away:

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute. We’ve all been there and we know how that story ends. Remember, when you were in college and you would wait until the night before a term paper was due to write it. You barely made it to class and probably didn’t get the grade you would of liked to have gotten. It only gets worse as you get older. Your boss may not be as nice as your college professor. Plan ahead, a little a day is the best way. That’s how ants work and they never burn out.
  2. Don’t be afraid to say no. It’s just one little word, and it will make you feel so much better. Not only about you, but about others. This is also known as boundaries. When you have good boundaries, you are less likely to have resentment towards others. If you haven’t already, start saying no today.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Others’s are usually willing to help out, you just need to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. This goes with setting boundaries. People that genuinely care about you will be glad to help.
  4. Remember to be grateful. Start each day with five things that you are grateful for. You can write it in a journal, if you’d like. It’s easy to focus on what you don’t like, rather that what you are grateful for. Think of all the homeless people in the world. Start with being grateful for having a roof over your head.
  5. Live within your budget. This starts with knowing what’s coming in and what’s going out. Keep track of your spending for a month. Make sure you have enough for the necessities and that you are saving a little every month. I know a getaway to Hawaii sounds great, but if you can’t afford it, you’ll only regret it when you get back an pay a ton of interest on your credit card.
  6. Add “deep breathing” to your day. All I ask is that you set aside five minutes for yourself a day. This is not a lot. Sit in a comfortable position where you are alone and breath for five minutes. Sounds easy and it is. This will help clear your mind. It’s actually better than caffeine.
  7. Add creativity to your day. Creativity is a great way to relax. Draw, paint, color, knit, or cook. There are many ways to be creative. This is also good for your brain. Instead of watching the news spend some time coloring. You don’t have to be an artist and try not to judge your work. Just have fun with it.
  8. Get Moving. Exercise is one of the best things out there to help with depression and anxiety. There are many studies that have proven this. Start with a ten-minute walk in one direction. You will have to walk back, making your walk 20 minutes. Go to the gym, take a class or hire a personal trainer. The more you can get your heart rate up the better.
  9. Connect with others. As human beings we need to be in relationships. This means all kinds of relationships. Hang out with friends. Call or text a friend if you haven’t heard from them in a while. Plan weekend getaways with your partner, family or friends. The inner ear, face, heart and stomach are wired together in the brain. Therefore, socially interacting with another person, making eye contact, listening in an attentive and interested way, and talking – can quickly calm you down and put the brakes on a defensive stress response like “fight-or-flight.”
  10. End your day on a positive note. When you come home, play with your kids and talk about your day with your partner. Let them know the good things that happened to you today. If you don’t have children or a partner, play with your cat or dog. They will love the attention. Watch a funny YouTube video or a comedy, before bed. Rather than a long drawn out drama, that will only keep you awake. And, remember to get plenty of rest.

Don’t let stress get the best of you. Remember, we go through seasons in life, and one season doesn’t last forever. Start with a couple of these today and stay in the present. Keep in mind – we do have control over the stress and choices we make in our lives. Once you put these into play, you will be happy with the outcome.

Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has helped many individuals reduce the amount of stress in their lives.  If you need help with stress in your life and you’re in the San Mateo area, please call (650) 892-0357.

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