(Updated and republished Feb 17,2021)
The beginning of the year is the best time to commit to lowering your stress – an important step to becoming a healthy fabulous YOU. Let go of the past and start fresh. Rather than think of it as setting a new year’s resolution, think of it as creating a whole new lifestyle.
A few simple daily actions can create a much less stressful life. Identify your stressors and find a way to manage them, eat a healthier diet, exercise more; plus, a few money and time management changes can make all the difference in your mental health. It is easier than you think.
Your life can change from ho-hum to fabulous with just a few important changes. You will feel so much better – that 2021 can be your best year yet.
So . . .. Let’s get started.
Reduce Your Stress Levels
Many factors cause stress in your life. Some are internal and some external.
There is no way to eliminate stress from your life – stress is a part of living. Life in 2020 was especially challenging for everyone. Thank goodness it is behind us and hopefully 2021 will continue to bring positive changes.
Even in the face of uncertainty and regardless of what life throws at us, there will always be two types of stress – good and bad. Plus, there are some stressors you can control and some you can’t control.
The key thing to remember is there are ways to limit exposure to stress and decrease the effects stress has on you – a necessary step to become a healthy fabulous YOU.
Make a List of Your Stressors
Your first step to lowering your stress level is to identify the stressors in your life. Get out a pen and paper or open a document on your computer and list everything in your life that stresses you. Don’t worry at this point if they are fixable or not; controllable or not; internal or external. Just write them down using no filter at all. If something stresses you in any way – put it on the list.
Examples to get you started:
- Living with the pandemic.
- Worrying about losing a loved one.
- Homeschooling the kids.
- Your kids are driving you crazy.
- Living a restricted life.
- Working from home.
- There is never enough money.
- You never get a break.
- You hate your job.
- You are always late.
- You hate driving in traffic.
- You are too tired to cook dinner at night.
- You lose things all the time.
- You have difficult relationships.
- You have no friends.
- Your teenagers are impossible.
- The baby cries all the time.
- Your home is a mess.
- You forget appointments.
- Your boss asks too much for what you are paid.
- You are overworked.
- Your health is not as good as you want it to be.
This is a critical activity to lower your stress and move closer to become a healthy fabulous YOU.
Write down anything that comes to mind. Take as much time as you need. For example: take a week to make your list. Every single day of the week list anything that happens that makes you feel stressed.
Organize the List (Internal or External)
Once you have a solid, honest list, categorize each stressor as internal or external.
Study the internal list first. These are stressors that are in your control and should have a solution. The external stressors are more complicated. You may not be able to do anything about them – except control your reactions to them. In a way, that is quite a bit of control if you choose to take it. It gives you the ability to lower your stress level significantly.
|Homeschooling the kids||X|
|Always running behind||X|
|House is a mess||X|
|Worried about my job||X|
Now you can look at each stressor and find an appropriate solution. For example: You are stressed about the house being a mess – an internal stressor over which you have control. You have two choices 1) do what is necessary to clean it up, or 2) don’t let it bother you. The Covid-19 Pandemic is an external stressor over which you have no control. It will be what it will be. The only thing you can control is your reaction to it and how you choose to live with it.
You are continually making choices on how you deal with each stressor in your life – internal or external. Some stressors cannot be removed or controlled, but you are in complete control of your attitude and behavior toward them. It may not seem like it sometimes, but you are.
It can be difficult when you have multiple difficult stressors hit you at once and continue to be part of your life for extended periods, but the choice in how you deal with them is still yours.
You Can Change Your Behavior
For example: If you are always running behind – never meeting deadlines or are always late for appointments, recognize that it is a behavior pattern that you can change. When you are late or don’t get things done on time, the message you are sending is that your needs are more important than anyone or anything else; probably not a message you want to be sending.
Whatever the root of the problem, you can change your behavior through a few simple actions:
- Make meeting deadlines a priority in your life.
- Get up 30 minutes earlier.
- If you need more rest, go to bed earlier.
- Build in extra time to allow for unexpected delays. Always add extra 15 – 30 minutes to the time you think a project will take to complete. It is easy to underestimate the time a project will take.
If such behavior patterns are deeply ingrained, it may take time to break them. But, since behaviors are internally driven, you can change them if you choose.
Have a family meeting and discuss how you can all work together to make things run more smoothly. An agreed-upon plan that is effectively implemented can make life for everyone more pleasant and less stressed.
Establish routines that help family members go to bed early and get up at a reasonable hour each morning. Buy and set individual alarms. Virtual jobs and homeschooling are more effective and productive if there are routines in place. Those who are employed still go to work at a specified time, take breaks, and end the workday as usual. Classes, whether with a parent or online should begin at the same time every day and have deadlines for assignments to be completed and turned in.
Having the entire family working and being schooled at home has a unique set of challenges. Discuss the challenges – get the issues out in the open, figure out what must be done for everyone to thrive, and develop a plan that enlists the cooperation of all family members.
Let Go of Control
Don’t hesitate to ask for help from your spouse; it should be a partnership. Work out what each of you will do in the mornings and both of you do your part. Don’t micromanage your partner. The important things are that everyone is dressed, fed, and ready for the day at a manageable and agreed-upon hour.
You do not have to control everything. Let the members of your family be responsible for themselves. As a parent, teaching them this basic principle of life is a wonderful gift for them – and you. Be willing to give the gift and enjoy the stress relief it brings.
Dealing with External Stressors Is One of the Secrets to a Healthy Fabulous YOU
As mentioned above you cannot control external stressors, but you can control your reactions to them and how you choose to deal with them.
Let’s look at the current stressor we are all facing THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.
This is one for the history books – no one expected it, and it seems that no one knows how to deal with it. All we can do is follow the rules and do the best we can with what we know.
The basic guidelines are in place: wear masks when you go out, practice social distancing, and get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you. You may not like the guidelines, but for now, they are all we have.
Being confined for the most part in your home, something that no one could have foreseen as a way of life in the U.S. is difficult, so the best choice is to make the most of it.
If you have children, you will set the standard for how to behave under the circumstances. Focus on valuing and appreciating the time you have to spend with your loved ones. Find ways to make it as productive and enjoyable as possible. It is an opportunity to bond with each other that was never available before.
When the day’s work and school are complete. . .
- Listen to good music that makes you happy.
- Dance and sing together.
- Listen to books that you want to read, but never seem to have time.
- Spend downtime quietly reading as a family and discussing what you have read.
- Teach your children to cook all your family’s favorite dishes.
- Take up woodworking.
- Plant and care for a garden – vegetable/flower/or both.
- Learn a new language together.
- Plan a family vacation that you will take as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
- Take a walk together every evening after dinner.
- Spend time at a local park playing outdoor games, even if it something as simple as playing catch.
The list is endless – so many choices. (Be sure to ask your kids what they would like to do.)
You cannot control the pandemic – or other external stressors in your life, but you can control how you deal with them.
There are many secrets to a healthy fabulous YOU! Lowering stress is just one – but an important one. The less stress you have, the happier and more productive you will be.