Updated: Jul 25
In a recent Canadian poll, according to Canadian Mental Health Association, "about one-quarter of Canadians said that they feel quite a bit stressed or extremely stressed most days". Stress can affect some people differently than others and you may be feeling overstressed. (CMHA, 2014, https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/stress/)
Stress reactions can include:
Changes in your body, such as tense muscles, quicker breathing and heart rate, headaches and stomach aches, changes in sleep or appetite, or feelings of fatigue.
Changes in your actions, such as using substances (alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs), withdrawing from others, drinking more coffee, losing patience with people, avoiding stressful situations, or fidgeting.
Changes in your emotions, including: emotions different that usual, feelings of worry or confusion, anger and irritability, feeling like you can't cope.
Changes in your thinking: trouble concentrating or remembering and making decisions, racing thoughts, loss of self-confidence, negative attitude toward self or life.
Stress-busting tip #1: Discover your biggest stressor
Do a brain dump of everything that's been on your mind. Just write until you have nothing left to write. Then read through your list and identify and observe how each item makes you feel. You cannot bust stress until you identify what is stressing you.
Stress-busting tip #2: Problem solve
Dealing with stress effectively involves identifying the problem and then working to solve it.
Identify the problem: what is causing you stress? Why? What is within your control? What is not?
Set some goals: now that you know the problem and what is within your control, set goals to solve the problem.
Make a list of possible solutions or alternatives: if it's not within your control, are there aspects that you can control? Can you find a potential solution or alternative that is within your control?
Choose a solution from your list.
Make a plan and put your solution into action. If it seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller steps and goals.
Track your progress. Find a way to celebrate the little victories along the way. And in the pursuit of solving your problem and making progress, remember to take a break from looking how much you have left to do and look back on how far you've come! Sometimes we are so focused on the future, that we forget to take inventory of where we are and how far we've come.
Stress-busting tip #3: Don't procrastinate
Putting off decisions and action can cause unnecessary stress and worry. Don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today. Identify the causes of your procrastination. Why do you hold back from taking action? Is it due to fear or feelings of inadequacy? Are you afraid of what might happen? Working on your confidence by taking action can cure fear. Feel the fear and do the thing anyways. You'll find that the more you take action, the less fearful you'll become and the more confident you'll feel. Keep a daily planner or to-do list (there are many great apps available) to keep you organized and accountable. Prioritize your list and try to accomplish at least three high priority items per day.
Stress-busting tip #4: Talk about it
Talking may not seem to solve your problems, but the cathartic effects of talking and releasing worry has been proven to improve mood and stress. You may also find that talking it through out loud with someone helps you to gain clarity. Sometimes our minds become so overwhelmed with thought that we spiral. Getting your thoughts out on paper and expressed to someone else helps to clear things up. Find a friend you can trust or a coach who can help you talk things out and formulate a plan.
Stress-busting tip #5: Get moving!
Exercise has scientifically been proven to increase mood and energy levels, reduce stress, improve immunity, and relieve anxiety. Getting moving for at least 30 minutes a day can have immense improvements on your general health and mental wellness. Go for a walk, go to the gym, or do some yoga - anything that increases your heart rate and cardiovascular rate. My favourite activity is yoga - I may be biased, but it has so many incredible benefits! Not only are you moving your body, increasing your heart and cardiovascular rates, and strengthening and stretching your muscles, but yoga literally means to yoke or unite the body, mind, and spirit. By focusing on the present moment, the breath, and your movement, you are bringing yourself into the present moment and bringing self-awareness. Yoga can also be modified in so many ways to make it accessible and/or challenging for every body!
Stress-busting tip #6: Delegate
You cannot do everything on your own. I have been guilty of this one myself. I was a single mom, business owner, and tried to be everything to everyone. I was proud and felt like asking for help was a weakness. It wasn't until my ex-husband passed away and my friends showed up and forced me to let them help that I realized how much I needed it. It takes real strength to ask for help and actually allow people to help you. Get out of your own way and delegate responsibilities. Not only will you feel better, but the people around you will as well. People love to help other people! By not allowing people to help me I was actually being pretty selfish. Hmmm... hadn't thought of it that way before, did you? Neither did I!
Stress-busting tip #7: Self-care
Self-care has developed quite the hype over the last few years. You may think it's bubble baths and spa days. But actually it's just knowing when to ease off and take a break and when to show yourself self-compassion. Self-care can be taking a nap when you need it despite feeling unproductive, making time to exercise because you know it makes you feel better, reading a good book that you enjoy, listening to music and dancing around your living room, meditation, getting a good night's sleep, eating well, spending time with family or friends. These can be some of the first things we stop doing when we feel stressed, but can be the most stress-reducing.
Stress-busting tip #8: Practice setting boundaries
Setting boundaries and being assertive doesn't mean being a b!tch - it means "standing up for yourself in a respectful way" (CMHA, 2014). Stop being a people pleaser and doing things that jeopardize your happiness in order to prevent others from feeling angry or upset. If you want to learn more about how to be assertive and set boundaries, contact me to join me course.
There are many incredible resources available to you. Stress can be debilitating and cause severe health problems. Finding ways to reduce stress not only improves your present well-being but also provides longevity and increases your lifespan. If you're feeling overwhelmed or overly stressed and find that these tips don't seem to work for you, don't give up and keep trying! Reach out to someone you can trust. There are many great resources available through CMHA (cmha.ca) and you can find a local chapter in your province. If you don't want to speak to someone in person, you can also call or text with someone who is trained to help. These services are mostly cathartic and the support workers are there to listen and provide encouraging feedback and resources. Text HOME to 686868 in Canada to chat with a Crisis Responder. Call 811 or Healthlink to get more information. And as always, I am here for you! Connect with me, for free! You can schedule an appointment on my website or send me an email. I respond quickly during the day and will get back to you as soon as possible if it is after 9pm MST. We will work together to find the solution that works best for you.