Overload, Anxiety & Stress Reduction ~ the First Steps

Mom upset

Reducing stress is hardly simple, but it’s certainly worth it.  No one needs to be reminded that stress affects our physical and emotional health, relationships, parenting, and the list goes on.

Worse, reading about the damages of stress is often all it takes to– well, stress us out!

Now for some positive news. Just as we have learned to hone in on stress, we can learn to hone in on de-stressing, until we no longer use “fight or flight” as our initial reaction to adversity. Can you imagine approaching an overwhelming moment with mindfulness and clarity? Even during these unprecedented moments of lockdown and shelter in place?

Changing stress levels requires effort. No easy fix here, especially if your reactions have been building for years.  But you can stair-step your way to a healthier reaction. While everyone’s situations and solutions are unique, we can all start here:

Make a list of your most pressing stressors (be specific if possible):

  • My boss doesn’t give me the direction I need at work to complete my tasks
  • The afternoon is very stressful because I’m at still work and my kids always seem to need me
  • Dinner time overwhelms me. I’m just getting home and everyone is starving. I never have time to prep in advance.
  • I fight with my mother all the time about my parenting

Determine if your issues require professional assistance:
Don’t hesitate to consult a physician, counselor or other professional for assistance. If depression, anxiety, trauma, hormone imbalances or other significant or health-related issues are an underlying factor in your life, a professional may be the first step. Without the proper assistance or support, your personal efforts at combating stress could be thwarted.

Determine if your stressors can be reduced by seeking non-medical professional assistance:
Facing debt or legal concerns? Are you taking care of an elderly parent?  Are you lacking pertinent job skills? Check your local community for free or affordable services including debt assistance and legal questions, community or online courses, and so much more.  Before you follow any advice, be sure to do your homework on the business, individual or non-profit organization. As for paying for outside assistance: do the same due diligence, then consider the cost vs. the value (your return on investment). If a professional can help reduce or eliminate your stressor, it’s probably worth it.

At this point, you should have some idea of the biggest stressors in your life. But what if you simply feel even more overwhelmed? Particularly if:
-your list is quite large or feels insurmountable
-the stressor is completely out of your control
-you’re struggling to pinpoint the true stressors in your life
-something’s missing from the list and you can’t put your finger on it
-you recognize your need for professional assistance, but struggle to move forward
-you simply don’t know where to start

It may be time for goal setting assistance to nudge in the right direction. Sometimes all it takes is sitting down with someone trained to help you verbally express your concerns and then break them down into bite-size pieces. Often the hardest part of goal setting, is recognizing the true root of the problem and finding the best “outside of the box” solution.

For those of you ready to move on, it’s time to get personal with your stress:

Determine your triggers:
You have a list of big stressors but what actually sets you off? For example: Running late to significant events are a huge trigger for me. If I’m due at work and I have to drop my kids off at school first and they’re not ready, my stress level increases immediately. This is true any time I’m running behind to an event that requires prompt arrival.  Recognizing this as a trigger enables me to prepare my response in advance, or more importantly to set specific actions in place that reduce this stressor. One helpful tool I use, is to set a 3-minute warning alarm that lets my children know departure is just around the corner. Other common “triggers” may include: not getting enough sleep, arguing with kids, etc.

Next determine your visceral responses to these triggers (your gut/instinctual physical and emotional reactions). Does your heart rate increase? Your muscles tense? Where?  Does your mind shut down?  If you need more assistance in recognizing these reactions, feel free to contact Susan for upcoming workshops on managing stress.  Learning to recognize these reactions is your first step to reducing your unique overwhelming “fight or flight” response  (yelling, barking orders, crying, shutting down, escaping, etc.).

Replace your current reactions with healthier ones. It will take time, energy and patience, but for those of you willing to put in the effort, you can learn to replace your stressful reaction with calming techniques.

Last, but not least, you’ll need to tackle your current stressors head-on.  Whether your personal stressors are money, time, disorganization, your job, relationships, health, work/life balance, parenting issues or more, the ultimate solution to stress reduction is stress elimination. Consider this quote:

“You can’t always control a life event,

but you can control your reaction to it.”

We really do have so much more control over our lives than we think.  For more information on ways to reduce your personal stress and put yourself back in control contact Susan for upcoming classes on stress management. A great way to get started on your own is through stress resiliency techniques. You can change your life!

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