How to identify stress and how to kick it to the curb
Stress is an evil villain. No one is immune to its effects and everyone will suffer different symptoms as a result of being stressed out. One absolute fact: Stress will affect your mood, your job performance, your relationships, and your health if you don’t create a proactive plan for dealing with this villain.
2020 has become the year when stress got it’s renaissance, a rebirth to an extent no one saw coming. But it’s not too late to take back the reins in our lives.
So many people consider a stress-filled life normal and they don’t know how to live any differently. However, constant stress is a sure way to develop unhealthy habits and possibly life-threatening illnesses, simply because you didn’t know how to live any differently – or didn’t take the time to learn how to live differently.
Let’s explore some of the most common stress symptoms and how to avoid the triggers that welcome stress into your life.
1. You can’t relax or calm down. After a long day of work, what does your evening look like? Are you still in work-mode or can you sit down and relax while watching your favorite guilty pleasure on television? Constantly working doesn’t give your brain a chance to shut down and renew itself; likewise, if your muscles tense up during stress, they don’t get a chance to relax and renew, either, which perpetuates that tense feeling coupled with dread or fear.
Solutions to this problem include: Delegate your evening workload to someone else; set stricter business hours so your evenings are free; or hit the gym after work to release all your pent-up stress and work energy.
2. Changes in your appetite. Some people overeat when stressed while others forget to eat because they don’t feel hungry during stressful events. Look at your own eating habits. Have you noticed a weight increase or loss? Are your clothes fitting differently? Do you notice any other physical symptoms that are affecting your productivity?
Solutions to this problem include: Keep small, healthy snacks readily available so you’re not grabbing for unhealthy alternatives. If you forget to eat, set a reminder alarm on your phone so you can at least grab some water or a piece of fruit. Also set an alarm to remind you to get up and move, especially if you’re sitting at a desk for hours every day.
3. Feelings of overwhelm. If you have too much scheduled on your calendar or your to-do list, you may experience an overwhelming feeling which leads to paralysis because you don’t know where to start. For instance, if you’re trying to declutter your home, you may feel clueless about where to start because the clutter appears to overtake every corner. Overwhelming feelings of helplessness will lead to stress, especially if you don’t have a strong support system of friends or family who can help you.
Solutions to this problem: Recite positive affirmations to yourself. Breathe deeply through your nose and out slowly through your mouth, releasing all the stress and overwhelm. Turn any negative self-talk into a positive pep talk and create a plan of action to get started. Overwhelm often turns into procrastination and denial, which never helps resolve the root problem. Even if you start decluttering one small countertop or tackling a small task, that is progress.
4. Feelings of low self-esteem. Stress often plays mind tricks on us, making us feel low, worthless, and incapable of great things. We may have the best idea ever but if one step goes wrong, the resulting stress makes us think we’re not cut out for this work, project, business, etc.
Solutions to this problem: Talking to a family member, friend, or business/life coach can help remedy this low self-esteem and put you back on track. Simply hearing another person’s perspective can alleviate any self-doubt, especially when they care about your success as much as you do. Try tackling a smaller task or project and take pride when you finish it.
5. Inability to focus. When your mind is stressed about other issues, focusing on the task at hand becomes difficult if not impossible. If you find your productivity is waning – either at work or at home – stress is weighing on your mind and you need to shift it elsewhere.
Solutions to this problem: Meditation and deep breathing allows the brain to slow down and the body to relax, even if just for a few minutes. Taking a walk outdoors or in nature also has a calming effect. Journaling allows you to put all your stressors on paper to clear your brain and some experts even recommend burning that page as a symbol of “letting go” of the stress and releasing it into the universe.
Try These Action Steps to Combat Stress
You don’t have to suffer silently! You are in charge of your health and happiness so it’s up to YOU to take action to alleviate stress when – or even before – it appears.
1. Avoid or reduce caffeine and nicotine. Caffeine is a stimulant and when too much is ingested, can lead to heart palpitations and anxiety. Nicotine offers a quick fix to relax but that relaxing feeling soon evaporates, and you’re left with the anxiety and stress you were trying to eliminate in the first place. Instead of using either of these stimulants to relax, try to discover the root cause of your stress instead of just trying to put a band aid on the symptom.
2. Move your body every day. Even if you’re not trying to lose weight, daily movement helps keep your muscles toned, your ligaments flexible, and your joints pain-free. Go for a walk, take an exercise class at the gym, or use some YouTube fitness videos to inspire you to move. Your brain will also be distracted by the scenery, increased breathing, or your choice of music so you won’t have time to worry about the day’s stresses.
3. Keep a stress diary. Similar to a daily journal, a stress diary can help you identify what triggers your stress. Whether it’s a work situation, toxic person in your daily life, or a situation at home, you’ll soon see a pattern if you jot down periodically throughout the day how you’re feeling emotionally and physically.
4. Take control of problems that trigger your stress. Once you notice a trend of what stresses you out, do your best to take control of preempting that trigger. For instance, if a messy house drives you nuts, hire a housecleaner to come in once or twice a month for a deep clean. If the administrative tasks of your business take away time from clients, hire a part time Virtual Assistant to handle those tasks. If a family member is making your life difficult, temporarily avoid them or family functions until you can (hopefully) resolve the hard feelings.
5. Learn to say no. You really don’t need to accept every single volunteer opportunity or child’s request. Set work boundaries so you can reschedule some tasks to a later date. Set business hours and teach your clients how to respect those so they’re not dialing your number at all hours of the night. Likewise, you don’t need to work with every single client. If your gut is telling you a client is not a good fit after the onboarding process, simply direct them to another coach or to one of your self-study products.
Stress is present in everyone’s life but that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to it. Take care of yourself by recognizing what triggers the stress in your life and by taking proactive measure to avoid stressful situations at all costs. Start living your best life stress-free!