Everyone, no matter what, has dealt with some sort of stress. Whether it be studying for a big test, meeting an upcoming deadline, or a job interview the next morning, we have all had that nagging sensation of stress. Some people are able to deal with it better than others. Some have productive, healthy coping mechanisms to help them. And some don’t know how to deal with their stress at all. Regardless of the camp you are in, stress is a natural part of everyday life pressures, but stress can become unhealthy when it starts to disrupt day to day life. According to American Psychology Association’s 2021 Stress in America Survey, “61% of adults report experiencing undesired weight changes since the start of the pandemic, with more than 2 in 5 saying they gained more weight than they intended. And “nearly half of parents say the level of stress in their life has increased compared with before the pandemic, particularly those with children who are still home for remote learning”.
As we continue our journey post-COVID, here are a few tips to help you manage your stress.
Tip #1: Exercise
A common response to putting exercise into our routine is, “trying to schedule in exercise only makes me more stressed because I don’t have the time for it.” Even if it is only a 15 minute walk or an hour-long weightlifting session, do your very best to get exercise in every day. Before you know it, it will be a part of your routine and will give you something to look forward to. Once you start feeling excited about working out, it can be a huge stress reliever in your daily life and improve your immune system.
Tip #2: Organize your day and make lists
One of the main reasons people find themselves so stressed in their day-to-day life is because they are disorganized. Practicing good time management skills may include making lists of tasks, which can be a stress booster. Rather than trying to remember everything you need accomplish, try making a list of the tasks you need to complete. Once done with a task, cross it off your list. Checking something off the list can be an incredibly satisfying feeling and keep you organized. As items are completed, it brings about a feeling of accomplishment, which spurs happiness and lessens stress.
Tip #3: Getting enough sleep
A simple yet big way to limit stress is getting a good night’s sleep. It may sound cliche because good sleep habits seem to be a tip for everything. However, allowing your body to fully wind down and relax will go a long way toward waking up well rested. A good night’s sleep leads to a clearer head, better decision-making abilities, more patience, a healthier lifestyle, and overall better days.
Tip #5: Reframe your thoughts
Everybody has good and bad days when it comes to stress. Some days you just can’t escape that feeling and your head spirals out of control. When you notice that happening, take a step back. Take a deep breath and reset your mind. Think of something to take your mind off of what you are feeling. Whether it be an upcoming event such as a vacation, or even just being able to go home. Regroup, refocus, reset your mind and imagine something to drive you through the stress you are feeling. Psychologists call this sense of “reframing” CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy, which makes one aware how their thoughts can trigger emotions and therefore behaviors. Meaning that you can literally ‘change your thoughts and change your world’ by reframing alone.
Tip #4: Unplug from work at home
Leaving the office can be incredibly hard when deadlines are looming, but the Homefront can be stressful as well with children, cooking, cleaning, and other household needs. Psychologists cite “unplugging” from work, email, and social media as a key stress reliever. Take the time at home to spend with your family and let your body and mind relax. Having the constant urge to check your email or even do work at home can cause your home to be another stressful environment. It is okay to unplug, your work will still be there in the morning.
The combination of exercise, sleep, and unplugging is often referred to as “sharpening your saw”, a term coined by author Dr. Steven R. Covey. He says that “we must never become too busy sawing to take time to sharpen the saw.” In this quote, you yourself are the saw. Dr. Covey is saying that after all of your time working (sawing away) you must still take time to sharpen yourself. This can be through physical exercise or increased sleep, emotionally by spending time with friends and family, mentally by relaxing, reading writing, and spiritually by spending time outdoors or listening to music. Always take the time at the end of the day to focus on yourself and unwind properly and sharpen your saw.
Stress can sometimes be good for us, and it cannot be avoided in life. Healthy stress can create optimal alertness and performance. These tips will help keep your stress in the acute and healthy category, so it doesn't take hold and turn into chronic stress. Try new things, write them down in a journal and reflect on what were successful strategies for you. Soon, you will be surprised that very little things will help manage your stress in a productive way.