It's not always possible to make life less hectic (hey, those weeknight dinners aren't going to cook themselves), but not to worry: experts say the real trick to achieving greater calm is to change how you respond to stress. Read on for four simple strategies, and get ready to breathe a sigh of relief.
If you listed “money, work, and family responsibilities” as top stressors, dig deeper. Ask yourself, “What aspects of my daily life feel overwhelming?” For instance, maybe you're anxious about money—even though you earn a good salary. The real problem could be a haphazard bill-paying system that leaves your monthly budget in disarray. Once you zero in on specific stressors, problems tend to appear smaller, allowing solutions to rise to the surface. For example, maybe it's time to download a budgeting application or make an appointment with a financial planner.
That said, your body sometimes knows better than your mind which circumstances are setting you off. So if you're still stumped, be on the lookout for headaches, fatigue, impatience, and GI distress. Such symptoms can flare in stressful situations—like when you realize the utility bill is overdue.
Even when you take steps to intercept stressful situations, a curveball can catch you unawares—for instance, blowing a tire on your way to an event you're overseeing. It's hard not to feel overwhelmed in a situation like that, but you can control your body’s stress response by consciously eliminating negative or self-defeating thoughts from your mind. Instead of asking, “Why does this always happen to me?” try focusing on how to become a take-charge survivor with the upper hand. (And just think—you’ll have a great story to tell once you’re back on the road!)
It's not even noon, and already your water heater is on the fritz and the dog mauled your favorite shoes. On days when nothing goes right, battling stress can seem futile. The more-efficient option? Put damage control on hold for a few minutes and give yourself a break. Watch a funny video online, phone an upbeat friend or do a crossword puzzle. Afterward, your mind will be calmer and you'll be better equipped to cope.
For longer-lasting stress protection, consider meditation, deep breathing, yoga or other exercise.
Sometimes, you can eliminate the source of your stress, simple as that. Consider ridding your life of these everyday anxiety provokers:
Studies show that background noise—say, road traffic noise or a TV droning in another room—can stimulate the release of the stress hormone cortisol. If you can't quiet the clamor, try to distance yourself.
Stress can set in when objects are hard to find or your surroundings appear disorderly. Two quick moves that can help: clear tabletops and pick up loose objects from the floor.
Try turning off your e-mail alerts, and check your inbox only when the timing is right for you. Chances are, it can probably wait.