Dealing with worry and stress is essential for maintaining mental and physical well-being. While it’s natural to experience these emotions from time to time, chronic worry and stress can have a ton of adverse effects on your health. You likely won’t like hearing this but the truth is, most of the stress in our lives is self-inflected. We over commit, we allow others easy access to our time, and we struggle mightily to say the one little word that is a proven stress killer…no.
But sometimes no just isn’t appropriate, like when the boss “encourages” you to say yes. So here are some other ideas that can help you manage and reduce worry and stress.
• Start by pinpointing the specific causes of your worry and stress. Knowing what’s triggering these feelings can help you address the root of the problem. Looking in the mirror is a great place to start. Before anything else, make certain it’s not you who holds the unrealistic expectations of what you can and cannot do.
• Get away from the source. Even a short break from the source of the stress can make a ton of difference. That’s why it’s so important to NOT eat lunch at your desk. It may seem to be productive but it’s often the most counterproductive thing you can do. You need to recharge, even if it’s only for 15-30 minutes. You’ll finish the day with more energy and less stress.
• So, I don’t have a lot of credibility here but people who know about this stuff swear that physical activity can release endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. They say regular exercise also helps reduce stress hormones in your body. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
• I’m getting better at this and can vouch for the fact that a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can positively impact your mood and stress levels. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugar, which can exacerbate anxiety.
• Prioritize getting enough sleep each night (typically 7-9 hours for adults). Lack of sleep can make stress worse, so establish a regular sleep schedule and create a relaxing bedtime routine.
• Organize your tasks and prioritize them. No one has more time than you. But if you’re constantly stressed out it’s likely because you don’t have well defined priorities. Create a to-do list and break down large tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. Do them in order of importance…this is why you NEED priorities. This can prevent feeling overwhelmed.
• Some goals need to stretch you to your limits. If they don’t you’ll never know what your limits truly are. But don’t set yourself up for failure by making every goal overly ambitious. Be realistic about what you can accomplish in a given timeframe.
• I once went to Urgent Care with a sore arm. The doctor asked me when the arm hurt. I said whenever I move it like this. He said, “okay, don’t move it like that.” I wanted my copay back. But I got his point, if something is causing pain then stop doing it. The source of the pain might fix itself in short order. It works that way for stress too. If possible, avoid or limit exposure to situations, or environments that consistently cause stress. This might involve setting boundaries or making lifestyle changes. If you’ve identified certain people around you as a source of your stress limit your time around those people as much as possible.
• I have a personal “rule” that there must be some fun in everyday. It’s a top top priority for me. It should be for you too. So invest some time doing activities you enjoy and that help you relax, whether it’s reading, painting, gardening, or listening to music. These can serve as healthy distractions.
• Regularly remind yourself of the things you’re grateful for. Keeping a gratitude journal can help shift your focus from negative thoughts to positive ones. The new iPhone operating system makes it incredibly easy to keep track of what you’re grateful for. This is unscientific but I’m pretty darn sure stress can’t find its way into a grateful heart.
• Sorry friends but booze might hide stress for a little while but it doesn’t do a thing to eliminate it. In fact, excessive use of stimulants like caffeine and alcohol can exacerbate stress and anxiety. Moderation is key, and reducing or eliminating these substances may be best.
Remember that managing worry and stress is an ongoing process. It requires a fair amount of intentionality. What works for one person may not work for another, so experiment with different strategies to find what suits you best. Consistency and patience are key to long-term stress management.
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