Stress plays a huge role in everyone’s life. No matter who you are or how organized and prepared you are, you cannot avoid it. From kids and careers to homes and family, the opportunity for stress pops up everywhere! That’s why it’s important to have some healthy go-to tools and tricks to help us deal with stress on a regular basis.
Because while we can’t eliminate stress, we can manage it. With the right responses, we can handle it in a way that leaves us less frazzled and more calm, and potentially prevent some of it from occurring at all.
Why it’s important to find effective ways to deal with stress in life
With so many potential stress inducing moments, it’s important to find effective ways to deal with stress. This can be in the form of identifying and blocking some of the stress before it happens. It can also mean effective ways for calming oneself and reducing the effects of stress such as sleeplessness, headaches, nervousness or anxiety, irritability or any other number of physiological impacts stress can have.
Developing good coping and planning can help you to stay positive, be present, protect relationships, protect yourself, and stop unhealthy coping strategies.
Here are some ways I’ve found helpful to manage and deal with stress.
Common stressors and how I deal with them
Lack of balance/time
Lack of time, or balance, is a huge stressor in many people’s lives. We’re all just juggling so much. As much as I wish there were a magic secret to finding more hours in the day, there just isn’t. But there are some things that can help.
The biggest and most effective way to find more time and balance is to plan ahead!
Planning ahead, including fun time, family time and me time, allows you to ensure there is always time for the most important things. I use a planner to plan out my weeks each and every week. Before using a planner, and sticking to it, I was constantly stressed out about the never-ending to do list that seemed to just keep growing.
Planning ahead lets me really think through what must be done that week and what can wait. I can also add in extra space around activities to allow for a little flexibility when I need to deal with stress that pops up without warning.
The other really important thing to reclaiming your time and reducing your stress is learning to say no. We can’t be everything to everybody all the time. It’s not possible. There is one of you and 24 hours in a day. That will never change.
Learn to say no to things that simply do not fit into your schedule, which if you start planning ahead, will be clear. If you do not have time to bake cookies this week for the school bake sale, then do not do it. Do not allow yourself to be sacrificed to someone else’s demands. You can find another way to help in a way that works better for you.
If I do find myself in a situation in which I’m overextended and stressed due to a lack of time or balance, there are two things I like to do to destress and relax a little.
The first is to eat something sweet. I don’t mean candy or ice cream (although, these were unhealthy go-to treats in the past). I mean sweet strawberries or watermelon. Some fruit I really love that won’t make me feel guilty after I eat it. I get the hit of sugar and enjoyment from something I love, without the guilt and unhealthy side effects of weight gain.
The second is to do some yoga. Any physical activity is great for stress relief, but a quick 15 minute yoga routine can do wonders for relaxation. Not only is it a great stress reliever, but it’s a great way to get in a little extra me-time and physical activity.
Personally, I love this yoga video on YouTube.
No time for myself
In addition to planning, I create more me-time through two main ways.
The first is to communicate with my husband my needs and create space for it, even if it’s small. This could be him getting breakfast ready while I go take an uninterrupted and unrushed shower. You’re a mom, you know how valuable just that extra 10-15 minutes can be!
It could also be him taking a turn at entertaining Zach at the park or playing a game while I read or write for a little while.
The second is to find small ways to fit in small bursts of me-time. If your children still nap, don’t immediately turn to chores and your to-do list during nap time. Schedule in one or two nap times during the week in which you do something for yourself. Take a bath, read a book, write in a journal, paint or craft…whatever it is that you want to do.
If your children do not nap, take 15-30 minutes before bed, or immediately after your children go to bed, for yourself sometimes. The children will already be asleep and 15-30 minutes away from your spouse isn’t so much that you’ll feel like you’re giving up too much time together if that’s also an area of struggle (like it is for us).
30 minutes doesn’t sound like much but it’s enough time to do a lot and it makes a huge difference. You can play a video game, read a couple chapters of a book, do a little baking or painting, paint your nails and listen to a little music, or watch a tv show and veg out if that’s what you need in that moment!
If you are find yourself in a spot where you are stressed out because you weren’t able to get in any me time this week, a good way to combat that stress is a few minutes of meditation. You do not need to be in any special position or doing anything special to benefit from the breathing and the focus on breathing of meditation.
Right before bed, even while you’re laying in bed, take 5-10 minutes for relaxed breathing. Concentrate on the breath and acknowledge and then let go of any thoughts. It’s very relaxing and can really bring down stress levels.
Money & Debt
Money used to be something we really struggled with. Want to know why?
Because we didn’t pay much attention to it.
We had a general idea of what we made and spent. But a general idea does not put you in a good position. You need a precise and accurate picture of what you bring in and what goes out. Not a general idea.
Now we make a budget and we stick to it! Are we perfect? No, absolutely not. But gone are the days of overdrafts, wondering where $300 disappeared to, and blaming each other for spending too much that month.
A budget does not have to be scary. It is basically the same thing as using a planner for your days. Except instead of hours, you’re allocating money. Instead of activities and obligations, you’re allocating money to necessities such as childcare, a mortgage, and food.
You do not need any special software or systems to determine or track your budget. We started with a list of our expenses and the dates they were do. We stuck them onto a spreadsheet and then whatever was left over was sent to various areas like savings, spending, etc. Early into our budgeting journey, we even jump started our budgeting by doing a 3 month spending freeze. This really helped us change our spending habits and put us in a new mindset to follow through with a budget.
The hard part is determining how you want to keep track. We use a spreadsheet. Others use cash in envelopes so they know exactly what they have left at any given time and can’t go over. If you need help digging a little deeper to really budget in a way that helps you save money more effectively, there are literally tons of free resources online and books in the library. One I would recommend is checking out RoseMarie Groner over at busybudgeter.com
Another thing we do is we are always sure to set money aside for fun to avoid overspending. This way we avoid the guilt and feeling of depriving ourselves of enjoyment from our earnings. Be sure you pay yourself! Even if it’s a small amount, be sure to set some money aside to just have fun as a family. Then you know you have money you can spend however you want!
Finally, try to figure out if you really need everything you spend on or if you can eliminate something. Even one thing can be a relief to the funds. We’ve eliminated our cable in lieu of Netflix and Hulu. And honestly, we’ve been considering giving up one of those.
If you’re already in a financial crisis while getting a budget started, there are things you can do to alleviate that stress and feel a little more “normal” in the transition. There are so many ways to stretch a dollar or have fun on $0. We shop secondhand whenever possible, plan ahead for large expenses like Christmas shopping, borrow things we know we’ll rarely ever need, and use the library a ton.
We also find ways to have cheap fun at home during the winter or summer activities that cost virtually nothing. One of our new favorites is participating in painting Kindness Rocks. There are really endless options that can be great fun until you have a little more of a “fun budget” to work with!
These days, negativity is pretty much everywhere. I have a hard time going through a single day without seeing or hearing it. Fortunately, there are some ways to reduce it, and it’s effects, in your life.
Try to actively find ways to avoid it or move away from it. If the new upsets you, stop reading/watching it. Stay off social media (or unfollow) if it’s constantly triggering negative emotions in you. Remove apps from your phone that bring negativity to you, such as news or social media apps. At the very least, turn off notifications and adjust your settings to see less of those things.
Additionally, try to seek out relationships more with positive people. If you find yourself feeling or being negative often, take a quick look at the people you spend the most time with. This might be friends, family, coworkers, or neighbors. It can be difficult to cut ties or reduce time spent with these people, but if they are really bringing you down, it’s worth it for your well being.
As a final way to combat negativity both before and after it stresses you out, create and post some affirmations of positivity as reminders. For example, if your work environment is negative, post a few in your work space that you can see each day. It will help pull you out of the suction negativity creates.
Stay ahead of a health crisis by creating time for focusing on your health more. Try to incorporate healthy activities into family time and relaxing time. This could mean something as simple as daily or weekly family walks.
Another great way to build health into your week is to meal plan. Find several healthy meals you like and begin rotating them. Slowly add in new meals to create more variety. As an added bonus, meal planning will also help with budgeting!
Along with meal planning, always be prepared! What I mean is, never be snackless. Kids are always hungry and so are we. And unfortunately, we’re also rarely at home. So having healthy snacks you can grab is a must. No one wants to be, or be around, a hangry kid or mama. And having snacks on hand will keep you from running through the drive-thru or stopping at a gas station. Some of our favorite snacks are Larabars, applesauce pouches, and nuts.
If you’re already stressed about your health, start small. Small changes add up to big differences if you stick with them. Start with healthy snacks. Then healthier meals. Then walks with the family. Little by little, build healthy culture into your family and it will become easier. The easier it becomes, and better results you see, the less stress you’ll have. And until then, try out the meditating or yoga to keep your spirits up and stress level low.
Life is stressful-but you can manage the stress!
Life is stressful. There is no doubt about that. It’s become so fast paced and there is always so much to do and so many things that need our attention. The ability to deal with stress in life is critical.
It can be really overwhelming if we let it.
But we have the option of being intentional about how we think about, respond to, and approach all things in our life. That includes the stressful parts. Almost nothing is set in stone and non-negotiable.
If you start to tackle each area, one at a time, you’ll likely find that those things that once stressed you out the most are a lot easier to deal with and manage. Then you can go on living happier, healthier, and of course, a whole lot less stressed out and overwhelmed!