Whether we like it or not, stress has become a focus anytime we chat about work-life balance. In fact, the statistics about stress reported last year by the American Psychology Association are alarming:
- The ‘Stress in America’ survey results show that adults continue to report high levels of stress and many report that their stress has increased over the past year.*
- 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased in the past year.*
- Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens between 9th and 12th grade; psychologists say that if they don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress now, it could have serious long-term health implications.*
While we know some stress is good stress—those short bursts of adrenaline encouraging you to take immediate action—a study found dealing with harmful stress over time can actually change your genes, leading to an increase in inflammation and a whole host of health issues.** Harmful stress also causes lack of energy, fatigue, mental slowness, constant worry, over excitability, and feeling overworked. Basically, even more to stress about.
But where is our stress coming from? The American Psychological Association also reports that money and work are the two top sources of significant stress. However, this year the survey revealed that family was the third most common stressor (more and more of us are taking care of elderly parents), followed by personal health concerns, health problems within the family, and the economy. Our work-life balance, is commonly, leaning one way or the other, leaving no time for balance.
How Do You Deal with Stress?
If you are turning to one of your vices—eating, drinking, smoking—or hibernating to try to ignore the problem, your actions prove to be counterproductive. Unhealthy activities such as drinking and smoking, even indulging on one to many cups of coffee, can lead to more stress once the initial’release wears off. Trying to “sleep off” your stress doesn’t work either; research shows the more you sleep, the more tired you actually feel. And we all know we aren’t getting much done feeling lethargic. All of these practices may lead to quick relief, but they won’t help your long-term goal of managing your time and stress levels.
Manage Your Stress
While there are many practices you can put into place to help manage your stress, I recommend the following five habits to counteract those feelings of negativity and overwhelm:
- Be Discerning with Your Energy: Organize
Organizing your time throughout the day, week, and month can help you manage stressors, but also allows you to carve out self care time so you can take a break from those stressors. Give yourself permission to walk away, clear your mind, and enjoy yourself. Trust me, when you revisit your stressor, you’ll tackle it with renewed vigor. Sign up to receive my Feel the Love Daily Planner, which helps you organize the tasks you need to tackle today, but also allows you to balance your time with things you enjoy.
- Make Life Your Sport: Exercise
We all know exercise is as good for your mind as it is for your body. Taking 20 minutes out of your day to do your favorite activity—yoga, hiking, biking, walking, swimming—can leave a lasting impact for several hours, allowing you to manage your day more effectively.
- Realize the Spirit of the Moment: Laugh
Think about a time you were stressed, and you can feel the muscles in your face go tense. Sure, we can wear our emotions on our sleeves for a while, but why don’t you use that to counteract the negative. Watch a few Youtube, home, or funny videos and give yourself permission to SMILE. Laughing helps reduce the tension.
- TEAM – Together We Achieve More: Get Social
When you feel stressed, pick up the phone and give a call to a trusted family member or friend. Sometimes, talking it out can really help, and it also can lead to solutions you haven’t thought of! Plus, research shows having a close, confiding relationship protects you from many stresses.
- Release What No Longer Serves You: Meditate
Turn off! Meditation is a mindful way to relax and focus, and often, we find new perspective in the practice. Meditation, even for a brief amount of time, can have lasting benefits on focus and stress levels throughout the day.
Feel the love!
*Reported by the American Pyschological Association
**Ohio State University study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences