It may have started when your boss watched you fly through the main doors 10 minutes late or last night during bedtime when your youngest announced he has a book report due today.
Perhaps it is the neighbor who expects full participation with every cause that hits Instagram or the mean girls that seem to follow your teenager’s every move with negative commentary.
Before you realize it, you are standing in front of the open freezer listening to your serving spoon scrape the bottom of an empty ice cream container. That’s right. You are stressed, and the fact that the only way you can cope with the pressures of life is to drown your concerns in heaps of whipped cream or melted cheese only adds to the problem.
Instead of snacking your way through a crisis, consider these six fat-free strategies to handle the most bitter of stressful situations.
How is your health?
When life’s minor annoyances evolve into full-on stress monsters, you may be suffering from a lack of sleep or lack of proper nutrition.
“Stress keeps more than 40 percent of adults lying awake at night,” reports the American Psychological Association. “To help ensure you get the recommended seven or eight hours of shut-eye, cut back on caffeine, remove distractions such as television or computers from your bedroom, and go to bed at the same time each night. Research shows that activities like yoga and relaxation exercises not only help reduce stress, but also boost immune functioning.”
Find the root of the problem
What is bothering you, really? Is the core of the stress triggered by an upcoming project, or can it be traced to a strained relationship with a sibling? Once you are able to identify the source of your stress, it’s time to decide if it is a circumstance that lies beyond your control or if it can be eliminated with action. Then identify ways to avoid it in the future.
Get control of your bad habits
As much as we try to deny it, much of our stress is brought on by bad habits. Do you wait until the last minute to complete tasks? Are you a poor listener that results in frequent mistakes? When a bad habit creates conflict or added pressure to correct your mistakes, it can be stressful. The good news is that you can concentrate on correcting those behaviors for a smoother running day.
Despite what the bloggers may say, most people can’t do it all at the same time and with a stack of coupons. To borrow a Franklin Covey phrase, “Everything cannot be an A1 priority.” When an over-scheduled day is creating stress, you need to evaluate what really matters to you. Sometimes the fear of disappointing people makes the choices difficult. But by focusing on the tasks that have a lasting effect on your career, your family, your spiritual growth or your future should be top on your list of priorities.
Establish clear boundaries
It is such a small word, but its impact is enormous. “No.” The ability to say it when you are losing control of your time is your best defense against making commitments for things that contribute to your stress.
“One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed,” observed associate editor Margarita Tartakovsky M.S. in the article, “10 Practical Ways to Handle Stress.” “If you’re a people-pleaser like me, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.”
Think about the last time you misplaced something. How much time did you spend trying to find it only to discover the moment you needed the item has passed?
“Clutter can play a significant role in how we feel about our homes, our workplaces, and ourselves,” wrote Sherrie Bourg Carter Psy.D,. in the article, “Why Mess Causes Stress; 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies.” “Messy homes and work spaces leave us feeling anxious, helpless and overwhelmed. Yet, rarely is clutter recognized as a significant source of stress in our lives.”
If clutter has taken over your home and peace of mind, Sherrie suggests involving the entire family in sorting and organizing various sections of your home. Tackle the project section by section. “This will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see your successes little by little.”
Before you lock yourself in the pantry raiding the boxes of Pop Tarts and eating readymade frosting straight out of the container, consider these six ways you can better cope with the stresses of life. Best of all, they are all calorie-free and encouragingly effective.
This article was previously published by the Daily Herald and republished here with permission.