End of summer is a busy time of year. Families are trying to squeeze in last minute vacations. Parents are trying to get the kids ready to go back to school. Add the regular daily responsibilities of home and work and you’ve got a recipe for stress overload. In fact, this time of year, I get more requests for help with stress management than almost any other time of year. So, I thought I’d use share with you some tips to help you get through this busy time.
Stress is nothing new. It’s something we all have. A little stress is actually a good thing. It’s what motivates us and keeps us moving forward. Like everything else, though, too much of even a good thing can be detrimental. When stress becomes overwhelming, it can make you feel like you’re working overtime and getting nowhere. Ideally, you want to find that balance where you are motivated but not overwhelmed. Developing good stress management skills can go a long way to striking that balance. So, here are a few tips that can take the edge off and keep daily stress in check.
Clear Your Workspace
Having too much clutter around us can be overwhelming and make it difficult to focus on the task at hand. Take 5 minutes each morning to clear and organize your workspace for the day. (It doesn’t matter whether this space is your desk at work, your laundry room or your kitchen counter.) This act sends a message to your brain that it is time to work. Clearing off your space at the end of the day can also reduce stress by sending the message that your work is done for the day. Creating this mental boundary helps to turn off the “work” mindset when it is time to do so.
Plan For The Day
Of course, things will come up but have a basic plan for what you need to do for the day. Our brains have a finite amount of short term memory space and can only hold so many things. Trying to keep your to-do list in memory almost assures that something will be forgotten only to be remembered at 2:00 AM! The act of writing down your plan is like off-loading stress. It’s calming. Writing also helps you to focus on and mentally prepare for what you’ll be doing. This future pacing helps you to transition from one task to another because you already have the mental imagery in place and know the next task is coming. An added perk of to-do lists is the motivation and sense of accomplishment that comes with each task you are able to check off.
Stuff happens. When it does, our to-do list sometimes goes out the window. That’s ok. Chances are you have accomplished A LOT in spite of whatever curve ball came your way. It’s also important to remember that not every task, accomplished or not, carries the same weight. Some things are “right now” urgent but a lot are not. They just feel that way. On those crazy days, ask yourself, “What DID I accomplish today?” (You already know what didn’t get done.) Chances are you took care of the urgent business that came up and everybody is happy, safe and sound. Yay! That’s the big stuff that demands our immediate attention. Bottom line is you do what you can and sometimes good enough is good enough. To borrow a phrase, don’t sweat the small stuff.
Throughout the day, take a few minutes away from what you are doing to clear your mind and get some fresh air. Take a quick walk outside, if possible, or find a quiet place away from your task. Breathe. Clear your mind. Stretch. Taking a break is like a mini mental vacation allowing your mind and body to relax. You can also mentally prepare for the task that is coming next. Don’t forget to drink some water and get a healthy snack if you need one. Your car can’t run on empty and neither can you.
Let Others Help You
Sometimes we get so focused on what we need to do that we don’t see the help that is available to us. Worse, we sometimes think we can’t ask for help or that we are somehow “less than” if we do. The flip side of that is others may want to help but not feel like they can. Are there things your spouse or kids could help with? Could you and a friend tag team a to-do list and knock out both your lists? It’s tough taking on everything alone. There is no shame in asking for help and you may be pleasantly surprised at who will step up and say YES!
Put Yourself On The To-Do List
You spend a lot of time doing for others. Who takes care of you? While you’re putting things on the list, be sure to put yourself on the to-do list on a regular basis. Do something that makes you happy or brings you peace. Get a massage. Pick up that novel that’s been sitting on your bookshelf for weeks. Play with your dog. Drink coffee on your back porch. Whatever it is, plan it into your week just as you would anything else. Taking time for yourself does not diminish your ability to do for others. Rather, it enhances the experience because you will be coming to them from a place of wellness and balance.
Listen To Your Body
Stress affects everyone differently. Pay attention to the physical and emotional ways you know you are getting stressed out. Those signals are your body’s way of asking for relief. Find those things that help you maintain balance and a sense of wellness.
Stress is always going to be around. Knowing how it affects you and how to manage it can make all the difference in your sense of well-being and your ability to be present for others. Making some small lifestyle changes can yield huge benefits. Everyone is different so experiment and see what works for you. And breathe.