The world moves fast; sometimes it moves at such a pace that we find ourselves burning the candle at both ends and wearing ourselves down physically and emotionally. This overstimulation of deadlines, worry, and changes in our lives can often create a constant barrage of stimulation that increases our stress response and in turn makes us less able to deal with the very situations that have caused the stress in the first place.
So how can one de-stress and work toward healthy outcomes during times of trial and difficulty? In this article you'll find a few stress relieving tips that have helped me find ways to de-stress and I hope they will also help you gain control over stressful times in your life as well.
IDENTIFY THE SPECIFIC PROBLEM:
Often when we are emotionally invested in an outcome or situation, we can lose clarity on what is the exact problem we want to address. This can often be described as 'Not being able to see the forest for the trees' because we are emotionally so close to the problem that identifying exactly how to solve it seems overwhelming and sometimes impossible.
That's why during stressful times in our life we need to begin intentionally looking at our situation and clearly identifying the aspects that brought us to this stressful situation. However, by making intentional steps toward clearly identifying the problem, one can begin to organize solutions that will have direct positive impacts on the issue at hand.
Ask yourself, 'what exactly worries me about this situation?' once you have determined that you can move toward taking steps to avoid undesirable outcomes.
RECOGNIZE AND ACCEPT WHAT YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER (And what you don't):
When you are dealing with things that are causing stress, it's common to begin to develop a superman complex. We want so badly to find a way out of our problem that we think we have control over every aspect of the situation. By doing this we set ourselves up for disappointment because although we may control some of the moving parts of the situation, we are not in control of other people and how they may decide to act in any given moment.
Often, in trying to control everything we wear ourselves down and create an emotional exhaustion that will then affect our ability to make the types of decisions that we need to make to bring about those desired outcomes.
Exhaustion really does diminish our ability to think clearly and critically so getting proper rest can help with physical exhaustion, but reminding ourselves that we can't control everything can go a long way toward accepting outcomes we can't control. Give it your honest best, and then recognize that you might not always be able to control the outcome despite your best effort.
I often tell myself this mantra when I feel like things aren't going the way I want them to, "My arms may only reach so far." It's a helpful reminder that after I've given it my all, I need to allow some grace for myself.
SEEK WISE COUNSEL:
As a Christian, I am reminded of the verse in Proverbs 11:14 that alludes to seeking wise counsel from many trusted sources. This is a powerful part of finding solutions because when we ask for guidance, we open our mind to solutions we may not have considered on our own. Of course, you don't have to be a Christian to benefit from this advice, so be sure that you're asking for guidance from those in your life that you trust and who have proven themselves to have your best interest at heart, because this is where you will be able to get honest commentary on your situation.
In addition to that, seeking counsel forces us to pause and allow time to process what actions we need to take. Sometimes sleeping on the problem creates more clarity in the morning, so seek that needed counsel from trusted sources and allow time to consider all possible solutions.
AKE ACTION ON THE ISSUE:
Once you've properly identified the problem, and you've gained a realistic understanding of how much you can actually control you can begin to take the steps toward fixing the stressful situation. This means thoughtfully creating a plan of action that will bring you closer to the desired outcome.
This is often the step that creates fear in us because it means that we will begin to test our ability to solve the stressor and because we fear we might not make the right choice, we often will develop what Dave Ramsey calls, "The paralysis of analysis". We pour over every possible action step over and over again, until we have spent so much time thinking about our problem that we take no action toward solving it. While it is helpful to talk it out, there comes a point where we prolong and increase our stress by avoiding taking action.
CREATE HEALTHY HABITS / FIND HEALTHY HOBBIES:
Often times the overstimulation of life can be easily dissipated by finding positive ways to distract our mind. Unplugging from the stress of life can be as simple as turning of your phone, shutting down your computer, and putting down the news cycle. Stop reading every social media post and headline and go for a walk. Healthy habits and positive hobbies are a great way to give your mind the much-needed break from the overwhelming situation causing your stress. Exercise, martial arts, painting, reading, and even petting your dog can all be positive distractions from the stressors of life.
KEEP YOUR NORMAL ROUTINE:
If you're involved in a community group, sport, or hobby it's important to keep to your normal routine. Sometimes we seek relief by cutting out the unnecessary 'luxuries' of our weekly routine without realizing how important they are to our psychological well-being. The day-to-day activities we do create structure in our lives and allow us to remember that although we may be dealing with overwhelming situations, there is still a normal positive part of our life that needs to be maintained. Try to avoid taking long term breaks from your normal activities and hobbies and allow time for these activities to create natural breaks from your stressor.
DON'T SEEK SHORT TERM RELIEF:
There are many things in this world that may offer short term relief from the stress of your situation, but they do not further your ability to solve the problem, and can in fact, make the problem worse.
Numbing your stress with alcohol, drugs, or self-destructive actions have created a downward spiral for many because while the distraction of these destructive
actions might provide relief in the short term by causing you to feel 'numb' or indifferent to the problem, they are often addictive and create problems in other areas. If you suspect you may be relying on negative behaviors as a way to deal with stress, reach out for help. Your family, your doctor, or a trusted friend is just a conversation away; do not struggle alone.