If it’s not going to matter in 5 years, don’t spend more than 5 minutes being upset by it.
Coaching Parenting

Want less stress in your life? Try this:

If you have a job or children or aging parents or health challenges or a relationship or bills to pay, I’m guessing you’ve got some stress in your life. I have two children under the age of five, a husband who travels frequently, and I work as a consultant juggling multiple clients and deadlines so I am blessed with plenty of opportunities to practice stress management.

While stress can be an obstacle to the good life, it’s neither realistic nor desirable to have a stress-free life. Instead, we need to find ways to manage the demands on us so we can still enjoy and engage in all that life sends our way.

I’ve been doing a lot of research about stress management in writing my next e-book, 9 Strategies for Dealing with Stress, coming out on April 30th.  My deepest gratitude to all of you for passing the word along and helping my first e-book, 9 Strategies for Dealing With The Difficult Stuff, become a #2 Bestseller in Amazon’s ‘Memoir under 45 minutes’ category.

In my research for the new e-book, many of the stress management strategies I’ve encountered are lifestyle strategies – such as exercising and meditation, or getting more sleep and drinking less coffee.  We all know we should be practicing these strategies but we rarely do.

My approach is different: I want us to change our relationship to stress. Here’s a sneak peak of one of the strategies I’m am including in the new e-book.  If you want to significantly reduce the amount of stress in your life, try this:

Recognise that you choose your response to stressful events: Stress isn’t a result of what happens to us, it’s a result of how we respond to it. This is great news because our response is one of the few things in this world we can control. We don’t always have control over many elements of life but we do have control over how we respond to difficult experiences and events. Yes, stressful things happen. All the time. Every day. I’m with you. I have a stressful life and I know you do too. But we don’t make it any easier for ourselves by getting really anxious and upset in response to the tough stuff.

Take a step back, a deep breath. Find the calm within you. Identify what you can control, and what is manageable about this situation. Deliberately ask yourself how you want to respond. Managing our stress requires a good dose of self-awareness and practice.

You can still choose to get upset and distressed; this has its place. Or you can choose to look for perspective and focus on what you can do about the situation. Understanding stress as manageable allows us to develop skills and habits that help us stay grounded in the storms that life sends our way.

Some of the things I do when faced with challenging circumstances are to put the situation in context – is it more or less stressful than other times in my life – does it warrant a full-blown stress response or is it just a mere annoyance? Sometimes I realize the situation is actually amusing and my first response is to laugh. My husband and I have a silly little song we sing to one another in moments when we are feeling exceptionally challenged or frustrated by our children. It makes us laugh, changes our perspective, boosts our immune systems, and allows us to face the challenge with a different attitude.

In difficult times, I ask myself what I can do about the situation and then I focus on the elements that I can control. When the situation is beyond my control, I let go and choose not to put my energy in to something I can’t have any impact over. I take the time to reflect on how I may have contributed to the situation and what I can learn from it. Sometimes I do get really stressed out and upset but I catch myself doing this and remind myself that I’m contributing to my own stress. I look at the big picture, take a few deep breaths and think about how I can respond in a way that feels more productive.

I encourage you to focus on your stress response over the next few weeks and notice what your natural response is to the challenges that arise in life. You can make different choices and significantly lower your stress. I know you might have been hoping for a quick fix but like much of what we face in life, the solution often lies with making a subtle change to our thinking. And if all else fails, a recent study found that “eating an ounce and a half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks dark chocolate reduced levels of stress hormones in the bodies of people feeling highly stressed.” (source: www.acs.org). That’s the kind of quick fix I can get behind!

How about you? What helps you manage your stress? I’m going to include a section dedicated to the stress management strategies from my friends and readers in the e-book, 9 Strategies for Dealing with Stress, coming out on April 30th. I’d love to include your ideas so please share in the comments any strategies that you’ve found helpful.

12 Comment

  1. You’ve written simple and proven reminders of how to cope with stress. I personally always try and see the world from a “glass full of champagne” perspective (vs half full or half empty). I always practice gratitude, and during periods of high stress I take time to breathe deeply, go for a run or walk, and be truly grateful for all I have in my life and how fortunate I am to be alive and healthy. And if you adopt this perspective, it makes the stressful stuff seem less important.

    1. Hi Lorna, I love the ‘glass full of champagne’ approach! Gratitude is so key isn’t it – thanks so much for sharing this, I’ll be sure to include it in the e-book!

  2. I’ve found that Mindfulness strategies help a lot. Simply being present in the moment enjoying the sights, sounds, and immediate experience provides a rich experience. The use of cognitive strategies where I challenge any negative beliefs, also helps tremendously. Nothing is forever. No point in focusing on the past or projecting into the future.

    1. So much wisdom Helen, we have only this moment. I’ll definitely include mindfulness strategies in the book. I have a few apps that I’ve been using – headspace and calm, are there are any other resources that you’d suggest for people to access mindfulness strategies as I”d love to include them as well!

  3. Sneaking away (from kids) to have a super hot shower or lie on a bed with my legs up the wall helps…by the time they figure out where I am I am usually ok with them joining the (luke warm) shower or climbing my legs like vines or a high chair!

  4. As a primary caregiver, and no sibling help, I have a lot of stress. How I handle it now is I just don’t think about the lack of help. I focus on finding the necessary help. I finally decided that the lack of help from the siblings was not worth my time mentally, spiritually, or any other way. The stress was overwhelming and nobody cared! So, lesson learned. I am the only one in control of my current situation. I do not rely on others to do what I must do. I rely on others with the knowledge that I need to get where I need to go. However, I have learned that I still need to follow up and follow through with these people to make sure things are getting done. I have a whole lot less stress in my otherwise very stressful life!

    1. Hi Donna, that sounds like such a challenging situation – I can relate as I was the primary caregiver for my mom and my siblings lived in another city. It’s so much pressure. It sounds like you are very wise in focusing on what you can control and getting the necessary help rather than focusing on the frustration of not getting help from the siblings. Thanks for commenting and sharing your situation, I’ll be sure to include this concept of focusing on what you can control and getting the help you need.

  5. Letting go of feeling that my home has to be clean and tidy when a friend is visiting. Enjoy the friend and let go of the housework!

  6. I drop the thing I least care about from my list of To Do’ s….I actually cross it off the list and that line across the words gives me a lighter feeling right away!

    Another one is to open my email or Facebook less often….less stimulation= less stress.

    1. I love this idea – I’m going to find something on my To-Do list and cross it off – how liberating! I’m also working on spending less time on my phone and having less stimulation! Thanks so much for sharing!

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