Do you ever have one of those days that seems like there is more to do than there are hours in the day to get it done? That is stress! Stress is feeling like more is demanded from you than what is possible to get done. Stress can even come from good things like holidays, big celebrations, a family visit or even a vacation. What is happening is good, but there is much work to make it happen. Other stress might come from your job, concerns about your health, concerns about a loved one, worries about money, a hard class with lots of homework, or even just trying to get the kids to school in the morning.
Cells in your brain work as messengers to communicate between the brain and the rest of your body so that everything works as it should. When you are stressed, this chemical communication fails. What does this mean? It means not sleeping enough or too much, trouble eating enough or too much, aches and pains in your body, difficulty concentrating or focusing to solve problems, tearfulness, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, cranky attitude and less motivation.
What can you do?
Go back to the basics of self-care.
Start with eating foods that are good for your body. When we are stressed, it is easy to grab whatever snacks are around us or just skip eating all together. But it's important to eat well, so make the conscious effort to surround yourself with healthy foods that are easy to grab on the go.
Take the time to sleep well. With deadlines looming and housework piling up and community projects waiting, it can easily seem like there is not enough time in the day. Insisting on a consistent early bedtime for yourself will not only give you more energy, but actually make your awake time more focused and productive.
Even if you just go for a walk through the neighborhood or do some stretching in your living room. Movement helps cleanse the body of stress chemicals and toxins that build up, helping to clarify your thought process and improve your mood. Taking a time out to exercise in some way, or developing the good habit of regular moderate exercise, will do as much for your concentration, mood, attention, and level of productivity as eating well and sleeping enough.
Take slow, deep breaths. When we are stressed, we tend to breathe in small, shallow breaths instead of slow, deep breaths. This deprives us of the full amount of oxygen we need, and adds to the sensation of being anxious. You will be able to think more clearly, accomplish more, and present yourself more confidently if your body has enough oxygen.
It is also good to take a break from your problems and spend time with friends. We know that rest and sleep are an important part of balancing work through physical rest, but playtime is an important part of balancing life through mental rest. Whether spending time outside in the fresh air, delighting in a hobby or laughing with friends, it is important to participate in positive activities that help you enjoy the life you have worked so hard to create.
Practice problem solving techniques
After your body gets the immediate repair it needs to handle stress, you can start problem solving. Instead of being overwhelmed by a big problem or assignment, it's better to tackle it one piece at a time. Break it down into small steps and take small breaks in between. Ask for help when you need it and celebrate your accomplishments. This will help you focus on how much you have finished, rather than what is still left to do.