Blame it on the long weekends.
Imagine three long weekends in a row, with one work week having only three working days! No wonder, everyone’s schedule is suddenly filled with piled-up tasks, unfinished work, deadlines.
Oh, and did we mention that it’s already the “’ber” months?
The word “stress” is enough to wipe the smile off anyone’s face, and “when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy!”
When parents are stressed, it somehow trickles down to everyone in the family. Left unmanaged, stress causes our patience to wear thin—tempers flare, children often bearing the brunt of their parents’ foul moods.
Stress can also be a major distraction, and can lead to forgetfulness and inability to focus and unable to finish tasks. This can keep the cycle of stress going.
Stress also manifests itself in physical conditions. It affects sleeping and eating patterns and can even make a person look and feel unwell. In more extreme cases, it can lead to serious illnesses such as high blood pressure, and worse, heart attack and stroke.
But lest this article add to your own stress, let’s move on to understanding the condition and how to lessen its effects on our lives, for our own sake and that of our loved ones.
Stress is not actually a bad thing in itself. It is the body’s natural reaction to danger. In the old days, danger was a matter of coming face to face with predators who saw humans as tasty meals. This gave rise to the “fight or flight” defense mechanism of the body.
The mind would scream, “Danger!” and release certain chemicals, the heart rate would increase, and the body would tense up ready to either flee or fight.
Today, stress comes in other forms—a looming deadline, a never-ending list of things to do, growing debts, an unreasonable employer.
Sometimes it may not even be a negative issue that causes stress. It can be a positive development, such as a new baby, a job promotion or upcoming trip. But the extra effort, fear of the unknown and changes may add pressure.
Since stress in itself is not bad, it’s not something we should eliminate completely. Stress pushes us to rise above desperate situations and keeps us focused to achieve goals.
But there comes a point when stress is no longer a positive reaction and begins to negatively impact our lives, relationships and health. Therefore, experts suggest finding ways to manage effectively and positively channel stress in our lives.
The first step is to recognize the triggers, signs and symptoms of stress.
Sometimes, what we shrug off as nothing, such as not being able to sleep, might actually be a symptom of stress.
Not recognizing symptoms may lead one to assume that it is just a normal part of his/her life and lead to serious implications in the long run. Once we recognize the sign, we can step back and look for the source of stress and deal with the symptom.
I feel better when I understand what I am going through, whether I have a solution to the problem. It is only when you understand what is happening that you can find a solution to it.
Take deep breaths
The most immediate and quick response to managing stress is simply closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. I used to think this piece of advice sounded like something only for yoga practitioners, but I’ve started doing this while counting up to 10, and to my surprise, it works wonders.
Since stress also keeps your body and muscles tight and constantly on standby, exercising and eating a healthy diet can help release the tension in your muscles while keeping you healthy.
Did you know that it is not a good idea to multitask? Studies have shown that multitasking actually slows you down and interrupts your momentum as your brain must constantly switch on and off from one task to another, with the extra effort unconsciously adding to your stress.
Instead of multitasking, you can take advantage of dead time to get other things done. For instance, while you’re in a long queue in the bank, you can check your e-mail.
If you find yourself stuck in traffic and you’re not behind the wheel, get work done or catch up on sleep.
Experts also suggest that you give yourself a break and start with a small, easy-to-finish task. I feel that getting the small things done and out of the way helps to “de-clutter” the list of things to do.
Just say ‘no’
One way to make time for yourself is to say “no” more often. Sometimes, we want to do so much for our loved ones that we take on more than we can do.
A friend said to me once, “I am doing more (for my children) by doing less for them.”
The time away, doing something you enjoy such as a hobby, reading or getting a massage, will melt the stress away and revive you.
I’ve also come to appreciate the power of a weekday Mass. As a child and teenager, I used to stare at my watch during Sunday Masses and try to weasel my way out of them with my mom because I felt I could be doing so much more.
Now, as an adult, I have realized that prioritizing what you have to do and making sure you finish them to have that window for Mass makes me more productive. It is calming to just sit back and lift up to God all your worries and concerns, knowing they will be heard, and that help is on its way while you pray.
Talk it out
Another great stress buster involves a woman’s favorite pastime—talking! Conversing with someone you trust is a great way to articulate feelings and fears you may not even realize you are experiencing.
Just make sure that the person you are reaching out to is someone who can help uplift you, whether by simply being there, listening or expressing support. Stay away from negative-energy vampires who may end up stressing you more.
We must recognize our triggers and eliminate or reduce them. Some external triggers can be easily avoided—stay away from distractions, temptation and people who bring you down.
Social media is fast becoming a stress trigger nowadays for people who suffer from
“social media envy.” If you find yourself getting stressed after a scroll through your preferred social media platform, do yourself a favor and disconnect until you are secure enough not to get affected.
When all else fails, you can also try changing your perception and attitude toward life. As a line from one of my favorite shows says, “Always look on the bright side of life!”