In the world we live in, I wonder who ISN’T stressed at times. With busy schedules, all the craziness that’s been going on in 2020, social media, and high expectations that we set for ourselves, stress happens! People are getting crazy on Facebook these days. With back-and-forth banter, you could very well get caught up in it and succumb to stress. Also, we see big Influencers on Instagram with perfect-looking lives and may try to be like them. We find that it’s impossible to do all the things they do and buy all the things they buy. And that can cause stress. Read on for more common stressors, why it’s so important to manage your stress, and some ways to manage your stress appropriately. This is the third baby step in my 10 Baby Steps Towards Living a Healthier Life.
Most Common Stressors
Different people have different triggers that cause stress to them physically and emotionally. Try to recognize what things you feel most stressed by so you can take care of them and do what you can to reduce your stress.
Here are some common stressors people experience:
- Too many responsibilities – When you have a lot on your plate and you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get it all done, you can definitely feel overwhelmed and stressed.
- Unrealistic expectations – Like I mentioned earlier, with social media these days, we see PARTS of other people’s lives’ – what they have, what they do, and how they look – and we might try to be like them. Realistically, we can’t be like everyone we see, and we can’t do it all!
- Money – Whether it’s worrying about having enough income to cover expenses, a big project, or paying off debt, money is a big stressor to many Americans.
- Running late – Running late to work, school, church, or meetings and having to rush around can cause stress to the whole family. I recently quit my full-time teaching job, but I remember many days where we were rushing around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to get out the door on time. I had to take one kid to school, one kid to daycare, and then drive myself to a different school. And when I was stressed, worrying about if I would get to work on time, it made my kids stressed too. That’s not a great way to start the day!
- Conflict with others – Whether it’s a friend, family member, spouse, an acquaintance on Facebook, or a random person you bump into in a coffee shop, conflict can cause stress. It can be especially bad when you bottle it up and don’t work through the conflict in a healthy way with the other person.
- Overstimulation – We have phones with tons of apps that “ding”, send a visible notification, and red numbers until we check them. Our email is sent to our phones, and we carry it around with us all day. Many people have TVs on in their homes for much of the day. There might be kids running out screaming at your house. There’s just a lot going in in many Americans’ homes and lives. And too much noise and stimulation can cause stress.
- Chronic illness or injury – The illness or injury is a physical stressor to the body. But then it can also bring emotional stress as well. If you’re having to go from doctor to doctor to figure out what’s wrong, if nothing is working to make you feel better, and you feel hopeless, that just makes the stress on your body even greater!
Do any of these resonate with you? Which ones do you struggle with? My biggest stressor is too many responsibilities. I tend to put too much on my own plate. Like I said I quit my full time job last year. I’m proud to say I am my own boss now. But the down side to that, as a perfectionist, is that I can be too hard on myself and try to schedule more in my day than I can realistically get done. This is one area I’ve had to work on throughout the past year.
Why Manage Your Stress
Too much stress can be damaging to your mental and physical health. God created our bodies wonderfully, and they’re able to handle stress. But when we are continuously dealing with stressful situations and not appropriately dealing our stress, it can become too much for our bodies to handle. According to Healthline and Mayo Clinic, stress can cause problems, like:
- Aches and pains
- Trouble sleeping
- High blood pressure
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Digestive issues
- Muscle tension
- Alcohol or Drug Abuse
- Shortness of Breath
- High blood sugar
- Low sex drive
- Hormonal imbalance
- And many more!
I had some health problems that developed when I was still teaching almost two years ago. My main symptom was debilitating fatigue. Fatigue that was so bad at times, I just laid down in bed all day and hardly had enough energy to get up and eat. I went from doctor to doctor for a good year to see what was going on. Finally, I found out that I had hormonal imbalance and adrenal fatigue. My cortisol, the stress hormone, was high, my sex hormones were all low, and my thyroid hormones were out of balance. This can all, very well, be caused from stress.
All my symptoms started in February 2019, when I first started my blog, I was still teaching full time, I was trying to decide if I wanted to teach again the next year or stay home with my kids, I had the flu, it was both my boys’ birthdays and Valentine’s day, and a lot going on at school.
The funny thing is, the first time I went to the doctor, she asked me how my stress level was and if I experienced anxiety. I lied to myself and to her and said, “No, I don’t have anxiety. I just have normal stress levels. Nothing crazy.” It may have been “normal” compared to most Americans. But “normal” is not the same as “low stress” or “good stress management capabilities.”
How to Manage Your Stress
I wrote a blog post earlier with 7 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress. You can go check those out, but here I’m going to share a few more ways to deal with stress. It’s always good to try out different techniques and see what works best for you. Have a few stress-relieving techniques in you arsenal; so you’re ready to deal with it as it comes your way.
1. Recognize that You Have Stress
Don’t lie to yourself like I did. It’s okay to say you’re stressed or that you have anxiety. it’s nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about. EVERYBODY deals with stress at times! You’re not alone!
But before you can deal with your stress, you have to actually recognize that you have stress.
2. Positive Mindset
Then recognize that, just because you’re stressed now, that doesn’t mean you have to stay stressed. It’s all about your attitude. Yes, when tasks pile up at work, it can be stressful. The thought might enter your mind that you can’t possibly do it all. If you believe that thought – stress will happen. However, try, instead, to think, positively about it. Be thankful that you have a job at all and that you’re capable of doing those tasks. Think to yourself, “I got this. I’ll just take one thing at a time, until I get it all done.”,
When “stressful” situations come your way, if you have a positive outlook, you’re probably not going to feel stressed out. It has so much to do with your attitude and your thoughts.
3. Focus on What’s Most Important
If having too many responsibilities is your trigger, focus on what’s most important. I use my Erin Condren life planner, and schedule out my days to the hour. I look at my to-do list and add in the things that are most pressing or need to be done in a timely manner to my schedule. There are many days that I can’t fit all of my tasks in. And that’s okay. I’ve come to realize, it’s okay to put some things off until tomorrow.
Start by picking the three most important things that need to get done that day. Anything extra you get done is a bonus! For me, homeschooling my kids is a non-negotiable (unless we decide to take a day or a few days off to travel), beyond that, I might choose to film a YouTube video and clean my bathrooms one day. Or I might write a blog post and do the laundry one day.
Going along with that, focus on one thing at a time. Don’t worry about all the other things on your to-do list. Pick one thing to start with, and focus on that thing alone! Then, tackle another task.
4. Cut Down on Social Media
I recently turned off notifications on all my social media accounts, and it has helped with my stress levels so much! Even though those little “ding”s don’t seem like much, they stimulate the brain, and too much stimulation is not good! Just watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix for more about that.
Scrolling through social media and seeing “perfect-looking” lives is not good for self-esteem or your stress levels. I’d recommend unfollowing or unfriending anyone that stirs up negative emotions whenever you see them and read what they’re saying. Even if what they’re posting is positive, if it causes you to become jealous or envious, they’re not having a positive affect on you, and it’s time to say “goodbye.”
Also, recognize that what we see on Instagram is not the whole story. It’s only a small part of a person’s life that they want to show us. The rest of their house, besides what you see. in a little square, could be a disaster.
Try not to look at anyone else to imitate, except God. Paul says in Ephesians 5:1, “Be imitators of God…and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us…” The only one we should try to be just like is God. Love others the way God loves you.
5. Budget Wisely
If money is stressing you out, work on creating a budget and sticking to it. Take a good look at your expenses. Keep track of everything you spend money on in a month. What areas can you cut down in? How about weekly (or even daily) trips to the coffee shop? Or clothing? Why not cook at home for 20 of the meals during the week, and only go out to eat once a week. When you do that, going out to eat becomes more of a special event, instead of just an ordinary thing.
The only way to get out of debt is to spend less money than what you’re bringing in and consistently put money towards paying off your debt (more money than the minimum payment to factor in interest).
6. Wake Up Earlier
Set your timer for earlier in the morning, and get up WHEN IT GOES OFF, if running late is your thing. Don’t hit the snooze button.
This one is a hard one to just do right away. It has to become a habit. It takes AT LEAST 21 days to form a habit. Try to go three weeks with waking up when your alarm goes off and see if it becomes easier for you over time.
Instead of setting your alarm for when you absolutely have to wake up to have enough time to get ready and get out the door, allow extra time to account for situations that inevitably come up. I remember when my youngest was real little, he would always have a blowout in his diaper when I was running late!
Allow time to get ready in a relaxed way, instead of rushing around. And allow time to actually make a healthy breakfast; so you’re not reaching for the Peanut Butter Cap’n Crunch (that used to be my favorite!),
This is such a good one. If you follow Wellness Mama (Katie Wells), you know that she talks a lot about community. It’s so important to have a support system to lean on when you’re feeling stressed or anxious. Loneliness on top of stress can lead to depression. And depression can lead to alcoholism, drug abuse, or suicide.
Spend time with your family, friends, work colleagues, and/or neighbors. Try to find a group to join, like a Sunday school class in your church. Find a friend you can be accountable with and who will check in with you and your anxiety from time to time.
8. Cut Down on Caffeine
I’ll share more about this in Baby Step #4, Drink More Water. But for now, just know that stress raises your cortisol levels, which is your stress hormone. A little caffeine is okay, but avoid drinking more than 400 milligrams, or 4 cups, of coffee a day.
Each person is different and can handle different amounts of caffeine. I definitely cannot handle that much anymore. I stick to about two cups of decaf coffee (containing about 30 milligrams of caffeine total) a day currently.
Some other great ways to manage your stress are eating right and exercising. We will focus on these steps coming up in Healthy Living Baby Steps #5-9.
I hope you found some of these ways to manage stress helpful. Which ones are you going to try to work on today? Do you have any other ways you deal with your stress?