Did you know that April is the National Stress Awareness Month? It’s common to hear someone say that they are “stressed out” but what is stress and how are we aware of it? According to Psychology Today, we are aware of stress when we feel a disconnect between the situation in which we find ourselves and our resources to deal with it. Sometimes the stressful situation is very real, like when we are attacked by a dog. At other times the situation is imagined like thinking about heavy traffic each morning. Real or imagined, our bodies act the same way.
Everyone is aware of stress at some time or another
Can stress be a good thing?
In actuality, stress can be a good thing in moderation. Stress can motivate us to push on and do things we would prefer not to do. Think about deadlines on a project and how that stress awareness keeps you working toward a finish. Stress will make you more resilient. Stress can protect you from harm. The body’s fight or flight response is meant to be protective.
But when stress becomes chronic, and you feel overwhelmed and out of control of your life, it can negatively impact your health and wellbeing.
What steps can we take to reduce the stress in our lives?
First identify what is causing the stress. Naming it can help you deal with it.
- Is it not getting enough sleep?
- Is it a looming deadline?
- Is it worrying about the world situation?
- Is it a health condition?
- Is it clutter in your home or workplace?
Next work on taking control of your situation to diminish the stress.
- Go to bed earlier and leave electronics out of the bedroom.
- Make a flow chart for your upcoming projects with “due” dates and “do” dates.
- Minimize your TV, radio, and social media time.
- See a doctor and follow the doctor’s directives.
- Work on making your home your refuge. Tackle one area at a time to make your home restful. Remove clutter. While spring cleaning and decluttering, you are also doing stress cleaning and decluttering.
Small changes = big impact
Making even small changes in your life can have a big impact on your stress levels. Work on living in the present moment instead of worrying about things in the future that you cannot control.
Keeping a gratitude journal helps you to focus on the good around you. Make a plan to do one thing every day that will give you joy and add it to your journal.
Spending time with positive friends will lift your spirits and reduce your stress. Have coffee or tea together. Laugh. Tell funny stories. Enjoy each other and the moment.
Do something nice for someone else. You will reduce your stress and probably theirs as well. It can be as simple as giving a smile or letting someone get in front of you at checkout. Or it can be visiting a shut-in, taking them a meal, or some flowers.
Stress Awareness Challenge
My challenge to you is to identify one thing that is bringing you down and causing you stress. Then put together a plan of action to change that one thing.
If you are struggling with putting together a plan of action or just want some help or accountability in following through with a plan, join Diane Quintana and me in our Clear Space for You virtual support group.
Jonda S. Beattie, Professional Organizer owner of Time Space Organization, and co-owner of Release, Repurpose, Reorganize. She is based in the Metro-Atlanta area. As presenter, author of four books as well as a retired special education teacher she uses her listening skills, problem solving skills, knowledge of different learning techniques, ADHD specialty, and paper management skills to help clients.
While April was Stress Awareness Month (I was ‘unaware’ of that,) your post is timely ALL year round. Stress is real and very much part of our daily experience. It comes in degrees from momentary to chronic. But if you’re a human, it’s something you will or have experienced.
For me, and as you encouraged, identifying the stressor is the first step. From there, I have a variety of strategies that work well for me. But I also believe in doing some regular things as stress prevention measures. While they don’t remove all stress, they do help me manage better when I am stressed. I meditate daily, do yoga several times a week, and take daily walks in nature.
When I’m in the midst of major stress, these regular habits help with connecting with my loved ones and friends. Hugs help too. Hugging my husband or holding his hand calms me down immediately.
I agree that connecting with others is very important and self-care gives us more resilience. Thanks for responding.
Okay, I’m sitting here thinking about my one thing. Most of my stress comes from worry about family members. While I can’t change their circumstances (or actions), I can change the way I deal with my worry. Mostly, I need to release these worries to God.
In practical terms, there can be some stress points that are of my own making, which always remind me that I need to avoid putting too much on my schedule. I need to have downtime, and as you say, time to relax and enjoy life!
I also have that one thing that can trigger stress. I do what I can and then try to release it. Every day is new and every evening I like to say, “Well, this was a good day.”
I’m not a fan of stress because it comes with anxiety. To combat this, I plan small tasks to relieve stress and reduce anxiety. These are great suggestions for dealing with stress. Thank you.
Sabrina, thank you for responding.
April may be over, but the stress is always with us. I’ve learned that my biggest stressor is having too many things on my mind at once. I know that I have to have a limit on the number of key things I have to do in a day and in a week, and the necessity of downtime, in order to operate without stress. When the extra events are necessary, have to implement ALL of the ideas you’ve written (except for the gratitude journal — I’m terrible at that).
And, of course, I worry about things I can’t control, like aspects of health and finances, and national/global issues. That tends to jump from stress to straight-on anxiety, though.
Although I am usually aware of something stressful in my life I try not to dwell on it. I do a lot of self talk to be able to let it go. I do enjoy stressing myself when it comes to exercise and enjoy the feeling of being tired. The feeling of physical tiredness helps to relax me and again lets me reduce the effect of other stressful things in my life that are making me feel tense.