‘Stress is the trash of modern life – we all generate it but if you don’t dispose of it properly, it will pile up and overtake your life’ ~ Danzae Pace
I Wrote A Book About Stress, Combat Stress The Healthy Lifestyle Way offering practical advice on various techniques for reducing the stress one has in their life, and providing them with tools to lessen the impact of stressful events when they happen.
To combat stress there are some very simple principles you need to follow. Over the next few months I will bring some of this information, from my book, to you here.
Pick Your Battles
For so many people every day feels like a battle. There are too many things and people placing demands on them. Not enough time to get everything done. Money is tight, bills arrive, children are fighting for attention, and friends are relying on them for advice. Their phone is ringing, their email in box is filling, friends are popping in for coffee, they have the weekly shopping to do, the kids need picking up from school, the house is in a mess and needs a tidy up, and they’ve got to prepare dinner too, and the car has been playing up and they need to get it into the garage. Does this sound like a typical day in your life?
We face so many demands in our lives, so much needs to be done. Yet isn’t it such a common occurrence, that at the end of each day we just feel as though we haven’t had enough time to do everything we wanted to? It is hard to keep it together with everyone and everything pulling you in different directions. Some days you just find yourself getting down. You find yourself in free fall. It gets too much for you. You don’t know where to start. Sound familiar?
You have to adopt a different approach and do things differently. The best thing you can do at this point is to pick your battles.
Pick your battles means that you would be well-advised to select a few specific issues of importance to focus on, rather than trying to deal with too many things at once. If you pick your battles well, you can defuse problems along the way as you address the most important issues first.
The point is to reduce your stress as much as possible. Devise a plan of action that is designed to eliminate your stress, by picking your battles. You can’t do everything, no one could. Some things you just have to leave until tomorrow. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re not superman or superwoman.
Your time is limited. You’ve only got 24 hours in a day. Eight of those you should be sleeping through. So it is so important for you, particularly when combating stress, that you are selective about which battles you choose to fight each day, leaving the others to another time. Don’t feel guilty that you couldn’t do something today. Be realistic about what you can achieve, and just be satisfied by what you do accomplish.
Don’t react immediately
When people are stressed they often end up saying something that they regretted later. It may have been a heated word or two to a loved one when a conversation wasn’t going as they wished, or it may have been saying yes to somebody asking them to do something, which in reality they would have been better off refusing. At times you agree to things that after consideration you regret. So it is important, if you do this, that you start thinking about a situation and try to see it from all points of view, before you make a decision, react, or respond. Don’t let your automatic programming operate your brain.
Whenever you feel stressed or under pressure due to some sudden problem or some comments made by somebody, you must avoid reacting immediately even though you may automatically feel that you are subject to some form of provocation. Allow some time to pass and refrain from doing or saying anything as long as the disturbance persists in your mind.
Temporarily avoid any response. Instead, inwardly count backwards, giving yourself time to not only cool down, or react automatically but to also subconsciously examine calmly all the pros and cons.
1010 … 1009 … 1008 … 1007 … 1006… 1005 … 1004 … 1003 … 1002 … 1001.
This is a very simple technique that buys you time to calm down and respond sensibly. Try it. It’s better than having to bite your lip, and certainly better than the instant reaction we’re trying to stop.
Say ‘no’ at times
So do you always take on to many tasks, never able to say ‘no’ when others ask you to help, or to do something? Learning to occasionally use the word ‘no’ is one of the most beneficial habits you can develop to reduce your demands.
As a life coach, I recently worked with somebody that was frequently stressed out at how busy she was on a daily basis. She realised that she had no time for herself at all, because she was constantly running around after other people. All her husband, children, mother, friends had to do, was ask her to do something for them, and she would go into automatic response and say ‘yes’. And they were all asking her constantly to do things for them. It left her no time for herself.
When you try to take on too much, taking responsibility upon yourself to deal with the demands coming at you from so many different directions, the end result is often that you get stressed, or worse ill.
I recently worked with a guy. His life over a 6 month period just got too much for him. He was putting in over 12 hours at work, coming home and doing paperwork, with just enough time to eat, and grab about 6 hours sleep. He had to forego his exercise routine, which previously had seen him in the gym 5 days a week. He was grabbing difficult. This guy was stressed. He only realised that he had to start a sandwich, and worse , often eating nothing during the day. If he had an energy dip, he would grab a chocolate bar. He kept going by consuming teas and coffees by the bucket load. Through this period, his eldest daughter was having health problems, and was going off track in her life. His relationship with his wife was becoming very strained , when his energy levels disappeared totally, and the doctor diagnosed him with a very high blood pressure.
The first thing he had to do, was learn to say no. Whether to his boss, his children, his wife, his clients, his friends, or anybody else that saw him as the man that would be able to assist them, or do something for them, sometimes he just had to say ‘no’. Up until this point he would always say ‘yes’ to them, no matter how busy he already was. He was taking on everybody’s problems. Now he had to accept that there were limits to what he could do, and at times he now had to say ‘no’.
‘No’, one little word, yet such an impact. His stress levels, and health dramatically improved. So learn to say ‘no’ at times.
Of course it’s easier to say yes. But it’s not always the right thing for you to do. Often from a stress relief point of view it’s important at times to say ‘no’. Sometimes you are already piled too high with work deadlines and other obligations, that there’s no time to squeeze anything else in. Too often you try to squeeze too many activities into too little time. This creates much stress upon you, and that little word ‘no’ can help you out significantly.
There are so many things just waiting to eat up your free time and increase your stress. It’s easy to create stressful situations in your life if you don’t turn down requests for your time. Saying no will free up time to complete tasks you are already committed to.
When you over commit yourself you put yourself under a lot of stress, and you’re susceptible to becoming ill, exhausted or simply frustrated, and you then take it out on others, which neither helps you nor those in your life.
Examine your current obligations and overall priorities before making any new commitments. Prioritise the things that are important to you. Saying no helps you. You’ll gain time that you can commit to the things that you really want to do, and leads to a less stressful life. Saying yes all the time only leads to additional stress in your life.
When you are tempted to say ‘Yes’ automatically to a request, instead say ‘I’ll think about it and get back to you’, or some other phrase that gives you time to assess the situation.
Or be even more direct:
NO, I am not able to help you with that
NO, sorry. I am afraid I have to decline because I have no spare time
NO, I can’t do this right now.
NO, thanks. Not this time. Thank you for asking.
Sorry, but NO
Learn to say NO.
Stress is an ignorant state. It believes that everything is an emergency. ~ Natalie Goldberg