“It’s Not Stress That Kills Us, It Is Our reaction To It.” – Hans Selye
I recently found myself stuck at home with no car. The older car I was driving finally died and had to be buried. I work at home, so suddenly I found myself stuck at home. We live too far out in the backwoods to get an Uber when my husband was working. Since he drives for a living I couldn’t take him to work. Stuck, No Wheels!!!
I became very restless and irritable. With my head buried in work, I didn’t really think about the cause. Sometimes, I felt that if I’d had a car I would have started driving with no particular destination, just get out of the house.
Later, I was having trouble sleeping. I’d wake up just about every hour, so when I did finally get up I was tired, which made the situation even worse. I started having problems with chest pains and upset stomach.
Eventually, I started journaling to figure out what was wrong and what I needed to do about it. Previously, I had been without a car for about a year, so it didn’t seem like no car was the problem.
After journaling and taking a look at the symptoms of stress and the list of stressors, which is listed below, I began to see that I needed a change. My office was in the kitchen, so I was always at work. There was no break. Any time my husband and I wanted to talk we’d sit at my desk. I finally realized it was driving me crazy. I had worked at home before, but I had a door on my office. I could turn off my computer, turn off the light and shut the door. This time I couldn’t. I was always at work.
The first thing I did was put a rocking chair by the front picture window. Across the street is a beautiful green forest with squirrels running up and down the trees gathering acorns for the winter stash. It was too hot and humid to sit outside, but sitting where I could watch the squirrels were very relaxing. I did have to fight my husband’s cat for that chair, but I usually won.
Sitting by the window helped to calm me. As I sat looking out the window, absorbing the green and the sunshine, I looked into the kitchen area and realized that I couldn’t shut the office door and walk away.
I moved my office further back. It’s still open because there isn’t a door on that room, but It’s not in the center of the house and I can turn off my computer and turn off the light – Office Closed.
Stress is something we all deal with from time to time. Some people suffer from stress more frequently and more severely than others. Stress can also affect them more severely than others. Stress comes from a wide variety of sources, which are call stressors:
- Work Issues
- Life Changes, such as marriage, divorce, retirement, etc.
- Daily activities and tasks
- Holidays and parties
- Juggling many different roles and tasks at the same time
Some people are aware of their triggers which increases their ability to handle the stress more effectively. For those who get stressed easily or more frequently need to begin by identifying their stressors.
Symptoms of Stress
Many people don’t realize they are under stress until symptoms appear. The symptoms reduce the quality of life in relationships, work performance, and overall happiness.
- Irritability or moodiness
- Interrupted sleep
- Back or neck pain
- Upset Stomach
- Increased blood pressure
- Changes in appetite always eating or can’t eat
- Rash or skin breakouts
- Chest pains
- Existing physical problems become worse
- More susceptible to cold/flu Slower recovery
- Identify your stressors — Are there things within your control that you can manage better or eliminate? Stop looking at trying to get stress to go away, it’s not going to. Instead, learn to work with it, use it as an indicator of an area where you are vulnerable. When your vulnerability is exposed, it tells you where you need to improve or make some changes. For Example, you may have a job where you work on a deadline. Okay, then what aspects of the job can you control or change to minimize the stress? Can you make sure you have at least one good break per day, preferably, two or three short breaks? Look at your situation, what would make things move more smoothly.
- Regular exercise is extremely important in relieving stress. Physical exercise helps to calm you and improve your mood.
- Eat and Sleep well – Good nutrition, exercise and adequate sleep all help you cope with the stress you will face on a daily basis. In the stressful moments, you can use breathing exercises, meditation or visual imagery to help you relax.
- Deep Breathing — I find that breathing exercises are especially helpful during a stressful time. I do deep breathing exercises and meditate on God’s Word and have soft music playing to help set the mood.
- Take Regular Days Off if possible. I find that it helps to do something different than what you regularly do. I work at home, so I need to go someplace, to get out of my office/home. Spend time with family and friends – do something fun. We all know it’s important to take time off, but it’s not always possible. If it’s difficult to take time off, take deliberate steps to have regular days off or evenings to spend with family and friends. Take time to do something different.
- Be Creative — Stress accompanies unpredictability, which also makes you aware of a challenge at hand. The opportunity will inspire you to rise to the occasion, change directions, increase our knowledge, try something new or move beyond a failure to create a win. When you can’t predict everything that could possibly happen you stress. So, instead, count on things being unpredictable. Learn more about your job or your situation. Be on the cutting edge in your industry. Be prepared for something to come up that you aren’t familiar with and don’t know how to handle. Adopt the idea, “I don’t know how to deal with this but I’ll find out.”
- Prioritize — You cannot be successful without prioritizing and doing what is first on the list. If you are always jumping from thing to thing and not finishing anything you will be stressed. Attacking the things first on your priority list, the most urgent lessens the stress. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment.
- Problem-Solving Techniques – If you have problems getting regular exercise, eating balanced meals, sleeping, or taking time off, use problem-solving techniques to help you clarify the problem and brainstorm for possible solutions. After listing your pros and cons then decide on the best possible solution. Wait!! Wait, don’t leave yet!!! TAKE ACTION!!! Implement your solution. Nothing will change if you don’t take action.
- Learn Calming Techniques – As I said above, I frequently use breathing exercises to calm my body and mind. I do a form of Yoga exercises that relax the muscles. It’s surprising how much better you feel after doing stretching or progressive muscle exercises. If you haven’t done any try it. You can find a variety of stretching or Yoga exercises on YouTube. You will be surprised at how much better you feel.
- Change Your Negative Thinking – Many times negative thinking contributes substantially to stress. It can make you worry more than necessary. Worry often prevents you from taking positive actions. You can replace your negative thoughts, which will greatly improve your life (see some of my other posts).
- Learn to Rely on God — Psalms 28:7 NKJV The Lord is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song, I will praise Him. God’s strength is more than enough to help you through any problem or stressful situation. God’s strength is your shield against any fiery darts of worry, fear, doubt, insecurity, stress, or anything else that would try to bring you down.
What is it that you want – What would be your ideal outcome?
Take a few moments. Clear your mind (or on paper). What would being stress-free look like?
Identify Your Options – Now that you know what you want, answer these questions:
- What specifically have you done so far? What worked and what didn’t work?
- What skills do you have right now that could move your forward to your ideal outcome?
- What steps do you need to take to get there? Do you need to do research to find the steps?
- What do you need to do first?
- Create a plan of action
Take Action – Look at the list of options:
- What would be the smallest or easiest first step for you to take?
- Which options or actions grab you?
- How could you make the tasks/actions more enjoyable or fun?
- Who else could help you in completing your action/s?
Commitment – Do Something! Choose Your Actions!
- When will you put your plan into action? Include the day and time.
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to complete your plan?
- How do you normally sabotage yourself – and what will you do differently this time?
- Who will you tell about your plan? Will you be accountable to this person to complete your Plan?
- How will you feel once you have completed your plan?
- Tell someone about your plan and when you have completed it. Let someone hold you accountable.