Have you identified the stressful areas of your life so far with this week's blog topic? Stress is something that is almost inevitable in our society today. With so many areas of life to balance, stress is bound to creep up on us once in awhile! Today, we will continue with some additional areas that stress may be causing difficulty, and discuss some tips that can help you with each.
It's 10:30 at night, and you just got the kitchen cleaned up after doing 4 loads of laundry, writing a thank you card to a friend for a birthday gift, and getting the kids to bed. You still have a list of 10 different things that NEED to get done before the weekend, but your kids have back to back soccer games at different locations for the next 2 nights, of which you and your husband will split time, so one of you can be present at each of their games to support them (even though you and your husband haven't seen each other alone since last weekend!). Since you work full time and spend lunch hours running errands, this leaves tonight to get the house cleaned before company comes, among the other 9 things on your list. Sound familiar? How in the world do we manage time with the schedules we try to keep?! When working on time management:
- Prioritize your list of things to do. As you complete them, cross them off the list. Try not to keep adding things, which will only result in feeling more overwhelmed... and more stressed!
- Say "no" whenever you reasonably can. This can be much more difficult than it seems sometimes, but try not to take on more than you can handle. Assess your limitations (physically, emotionally, and mentally), and if saying "yes" exceeds your limitations, decide to "opt out". Ask yourself if the quality of your commitment will be worth the quantity of your time-- especially if you have very little left in your emotional bank account to give.
- Plan your tasks during the time of day where you have the most energy. If you are a night owl, try to plan accordingly. It will only increase your stress if you set yourself up to fail by planning to get up 2 hours early when you are a night owl!
- Recognize the various ways you might be likely to "lose" time during the day-- e.g., Facebook, Twitter, television, etc. Everyone needs "down" time to relax, but if they are adding up to a great deal of time that you end up trying to play "catch up" to, try and cut back on the amount of time you spend with each.
- Work on "good enough" vs. attempting "perfect".
Diet and Nutrition
- Try to establish a healthy diet that is balanced with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and beans. It's amazing how diet can impact our sense of well-being.
- Limit caffeine and sugar intake.
- Use vitamin and mineral supplements that are best for your age, gender, and ones that take your specific needs into consideration.
Good Night's Sleep
- Work on good "sleep hygiene": Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Sleeping in can confuse your body, and some sleep research suggests that we can't "make up" for lost sleep. Furthermore, some research on the brain suggests that different stages of sleep are where we "take off our emotional day"-- almost like how we take off the dirt of the day with a shower/bath, only for our emotions! If we aren't getting adequate sleep (and if we are already stressed), our brain doesn't have the chance it needs to "take off the emotional day", which will only result in more stress on top of the stress already present!
- Avoid eating, drinking alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco- particularly close to bedtime. Anything that stimulates our nervous system can impact our sleep patterns.
- Best practice is to get eight solid hours of sleep per night, but if this isn't do-able, try to take a 15 minute nap during the day.
- Have a ritual before bed that helps you relax and prepare yourself for sleep-- a relaxation routine. Use meditation, read a book for a set amount of time (or until you get sleepy), take a hot bath or shower, or listen to relaxing music.
- Take a vacation-- even if it's a min-vacation or a "stay-cation". Getting away can help to let go of stressful situations and stressors that are present in our everyday environment. Sure, they will more than likely still be there when you return, but the "time off" might do wonders for your stress level!
- Spend time with healthy friends doing something fun and relaxing-- or renew your spirit by going solo to a retreat that focuses on some sort of self- improvement and relaxation.
- Do some sort of self-care routine: Go to a spa for a facial, massage, pedicure/manicure, or body buff.
- Have sex. Believe it or not, an orgasm from sex can release endorphins that relax the body and help to create a sense of well-being!
- Look into professional counseling. We aren't just saying this because we are therapists! Counseling is like the "gym" for your spirit and emotional well-being. Self-awareness and growth help to take care of ourselves, which means we have less stress, and that means we can be more productive and effective in other areas of our lives.
Have you noticed any of these areas that might help you with your stress levels? As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day... and stress doesn't disappear overnight. As you slowly start to incorporate more stress-reducing tips in your life, it will hopefully become part of your everyday routine. As always, thank you for joining us this week!
Joleen Watson, MS, LMFT, NCC, is a therapist at Imagine Hope Counseling Group. She enjoys doing marriage counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling, and individual counseling. Imagine Hope also specializes in family, child and adolescent counseling and serves Indianapolis area including the surrounding areas of Carmel, Noblesville, Zionsville, Westfield, and Fishers.