Change in routines and households, being alone, loss of income, conflict with loved ones… the list of things that can cause stress in families is significant.
Stress has an impact on your physical and mental health. It is important to stay grounded and to manage the stress you are feeling so it doesn’t lead to more problems. It is not always possible to get rid of the stress, but there are things you can do to manage it in a healthy way and focus your energy on the things that matter most.
- Identify and acknowledge what is causing you stress. If you can identify what is causing the stress, it is easier to deal with the situation. Some things are out of your control and you cannot change them. Accept the things you cannot change and focus on the things that are within your control.
- Re-focus your thoughts on the positive. When you find yourself worrying about things, take a moment to stop and think of three positive things. Focus on gratitude for what you have, including family, friends, work, health and community. Consider starting a gratitude journal. It is a place to write about things you are thankful for.
- Concentrate on one thing at a time. Scattered focus creates more stress. While you may think it is more efficient to work on several projects at the same time, the reality is that nothing is being done completely. Slow down and work on one thing.
- Change your schedule. The feeling of being locked into an activity can in itself be stressful. If you can be flexible, changing activities can allow you to release the stress of the situation and then return to it more relaxed. The break may help you to gain a new perspective of the situation and feel less stressed about it.
- Pay attention to others and do random acts of kindness. Being kind or helpful to others will bring happiness to your life. By focusing on others, we remind ourselves of the goodness all around. Doing a random act of kindness will bring joy to you and the other person. This can be as simple as helping a neighbour or having coffee with a lonely relative. Engaging with other people will add meaning to your life and provide perspective about the things you cannot change.
- Accept offers of help and lower your expectations. Often our stress comes from our expectations of what should be done and how it should be done. Set realistic goals and expectations. Let others help you, but first make the commitment to give yourself and others a break. It may mean accepting that things will be done a bit differently.
- Take care of yourself. Pay attention to the physical, mental and emotional signs of stress. If you feel tired, disconnected or have chronic aches and pains, they may be signs you need to change your pace. Get adequate rest, nutrition and exercise. Stretching and yoga are both excellent exercises to connect with your body. Sometimes the thing you need most is time alone or a good night’s sleep. Take care of yourself and it will give you more energy to continue taking care of others.
- Meditate. Try to clear your mind and let go of any worries. Find a quiet place where you can be comfortable and focus on your breathing and relaxing. Meditation can help lower your heart rate and bring your mind some peace. Many people find meditation difficult at first, but keep trying as the benefits will come as you are able to still yourself.
- Enjoy nature. Get outside as much as possible. Breathe the fresh air and enjoy the world around you. If you can not get outside, then consider ways to bring nature inside with plants that are easy to care for and help purify the air.
- Embrace your emotions to change your mood. Laughter releases chemicals that naturally make us feel better. Crying also has a physiological effect that releases stress and tension. Music can change our mood in seconds and bring out the happiness we are missing. Choosing music that energizes or reminds us of easier times can be uplifting.
- Connect with friends and family. Having people you can talk with can help you manage stress. Showing interest in what others are doing broadens your horizons and gives new things to think about. You may choose to share personal challenges with close friends. When possible, see others in person because you will benefit from receiving hugs or a reassuring pat on the back.
- Clean your space and eliminate clutter. Being surrounded by clutter can cause you to feel overwhelmed. Organizing your space and putting things away will help you feel more in control.
The World Health Organization has produced an illustrated booklet Doing What Matters in Times of Stress. It is available to read in many languages and as well as audio file. This guide is useful in dealing with stress and adversity no matter where you live.
If you need help managing your anxiety and stress, there are resources available through the Canadian Mental Health Association (branches listed throughout the province). There are also free counselling and health services available to Manitobans of all ages. You do not have to manage stress and anxiety by yourself.
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