When I think of the summertime, I think of freedom, fun and fabulous relaxation. However, that is not always the case. The feeling is all too familiar. The overwhelming sense of too much to do and everything is working against you. The disconcerting sensation of being pulled from every direction. It seems as though everything and everyone are demanding 100% of your time and attention. Stress, the silent grim reaper, stealing your joy, freedom and even your life. Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances. This summer you will not have any stress! Why? Because I am going to give you the formula to defeat the stress monster, or at least tame him. Stress is not always bad; it is actually good for survival. Sometimes stress prompts you to action and keeps you going. However, too much stress can be debilitating. When stressed you need to find healthy ways to cope and release your stress.
Evaluate yourself to find out what is causing the stress
We often deflect our stress to the wrong things. You might be blaming your stress on work while your real stress stems from your lack of time management or your inability (or unwillingness) to delegate tasks. If you can find the exact cause of your stress you would be steps closer to relieving it. Reflect on the times you feel the most stressed, to identify the source. Meditate to release anxiety. Our bodies were created with a response mechanism to help us when we face life-threatening situations. However, this mechanism occasionally springs into action when we are not facing any immediate danger. When we focus on how we react to situations such as being stuck in traffic, pending deadlines or family issues, we can recognize when we are being tense and help ourselves to relax and take control. Oftentimes our minds take us to dark places that cause us to stress unnecessarily. We become too strict on ourselves and become anxious when we cannot accomplish things we told ourselves are mandatory. We also blow things out of proportion and make ourselves expect and worry about the worst case scenario even if the scenario is highly unlikely. When we get rid of the negative internal chatter we will find ourselves free to live a more fulfilling life.
Sometimes simply venting to someone you trust can help relieve stress. Maintain healthy relationships because having a support system can help you through trying times. However, some problems may require professional help. Talk to a therapist to find solutions to deep-seated problems that are way beyond your control. A therapist may be able to help you unearth the real cause of your stress. Also, delegating tasks, whether it be at home or work or other areas of your life can often relieve stress and lift that burdening feeling. Also, try to view your problems from a more positive point of view. Your problems may present an opportunity to grow and be greater. Look at the bigger picture, if a particular problem would not matter ten years or five years or even one year from now, stop mulling over it and stay focused. Many people practice spirituality to find a relief from stress and anxiety. Being able to depend on a higher being can allow you to be free to live a life with less stress. Turning towards your faith can have its peaceful benefits.
Avoid Unnecessary Stress
Learn to say no! If you know that you are already doing too much and you absolutely cannot add anything to your proverbial “plate”, just say no! You don’t have to participate in every function and the school fundraiser will still be successful if you were not leading out. Get your priorities in order and know your limits. You are not Zeus! The world does not rest on your shoulders. If your stressor is a person, try to work it out and if you can’t come to a conclusion, limit the time you spend with that person or end the relationship. DO NOT BOTTLE UP YOUR FEELINGS! If someone is bothering you, let them know in an assertive yet respectful manner. If you don’t voice your opinion, resentment might develop and increase your stress. Be willing to compromise, you might find that you can cope with a happy medium. You completely deserve to be happy. Grab your life by the horns and take control. If something in your environment is stressing you out take control. For example, if the news is constantly infuriating you, turn the channel or turn off the television. If traffic frustrates you, leave earlier or take a less traffic filled route.
Manage your time
Evaluate your use of time and plan accordingly. Make lists and schedules to keep you organized and prioritize tasks. Avoiding procrastination can help you navigate from the high pressure of last minute situations. Create a balanced schedule. All work and no play is a recipe for burnout.
Replace Unhealthy Methods of Coping
Try eating healthy and exercising instead of overindulging in bad foods, alcohol, and smoking. Try journaling instead of lashing out on others. Writing out your feelings and thoughts can be an excellent and therapeutic way to alleviate stress. By replacing your unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy ones you avoid further stress and unhappiness. You would feel better about yourself and your body as well as the people around you would appreciate you for it. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is good for you anyway!
Make time for fun and relaxation. Go for a massage or a spa day or relax on the beach while drinking fresh coconut water. Listen to uplifting music, dance or read a good book. Whatever you do, take your mind far away from the stress of this world and be completely in the moment. Your mind will thank you for it. You can start playing a sport or go for a walk and appreciate nature. Gardening also relieves stress and the fruits, vegetables, and flowers are a plus. Sleeping helps the body to function at its optimum. Practice being grateful. Reflect on all the things you are grateful for in your life and write them down. Every time you feel overwhelmed or pressured, refer back to your list to remind yourself that you still have a lot to be thankful for. Relaxation will rejuvenate you and help you cope with stress. Even taking a warm shower can release dopamine to our brains and cause us to be at ease. When your mind is relaxed, ideas flow freely, enabling you to come up with solutions to some of the life’s greatest problems. Relaxing gives or brains a much-needed break so that our subconscious mind can work freely.
Everyone has the capability and means to diminish the effect of stress and take control when it becomes overwhelming. Whatever you do, evaluate yourself to make sure you are making the best choices when it comes to relieving your stress. Make stress relief a habit. If something does not work, then try another tactic but have a plan for when circumstances get overwhelming. Always be reminded that there is a way to reduce stress. Remember to think positively about your situation and seek help if things get too tough. Never let anyone make you feel less of yourself for having stress or not being able to control your circumstances or even seeking professional help. Your life is worth living and you have to make the best of it, not for anyone else but you. Taking control of the demanding circumstances will empower you to live a happier life and enable you to have a relaxing summer, drinking coconut water on the beach with your toes in the sand. So as the island people say “Chill nuh man” and enjoy life!
By Abigail J. Harewood