Are you wound tighter than a drum? One more twist and you will snap? If so, you are not alone. Many people function under constant pressure, which can be self-induced by unrealistic expectations, or caused by external forces, i.e. job, spouse and family. Regardless of the cause, prolonged stress creates mental and physical damage.
The body is equipped with a flight or fight response. When threatened, the adrenal glands release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. Heart rate quickens, blood pressure rises, energy supplies increase and substances that repair tissues are more available. Non-essential or detrimental functions to the fight or flight situation are curbed.
Chronic stress keeps the flight or fight reaction turned on, which puts you at an increased risk for many health problems.
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
First step in mitigating stress is to identify what causes your blood to boil. Keep and open mind and kick the “my way or the highway” attitude to the curb. There are many ways to accomplish a task. When receptive, you may learn an approach you like better and adopt as your own.
Loading the dishwasher is a mindless chore, yet stressful to some. Locked into a belief that the dishes must be placed the same way every time, a host can be sent into a tailspin when a guest offers to help. I welcome new ideas. House guests showed me how to accommodate more dishes per load. Take off the blinders and experiment with new ideas. What have you got to lose? The worst scenario is that you prefer your way and revert to it, perhaps teaching the other person something new in the exchange.
A lot of stress in the house can be mitigated with common sense. White couches and rugs in the family room occupied by kids, dogs and cats are a recipe for disaster. Keep common areas cleared of clutter. Limit children’s toys to playrooms, bedrooms and family rooms. Adult hoarding can be kept out of sight in the office, garage and basement. Uncluttered living room, dining room and kitchen are ready for the drop-in guest. No one notices a little dust and you will not die of embarrassment. When you plan to entertain, those rooms are easy to vacuum and dust.
When possible do not place yourself under time pressures. If you have a presentation due, do not procrastinate. Leaving things to the last minute is a recipe for disaster. Allow time for the unforeseen to go wrong and always have a Plan B.
To summarize, relax your expectations, declutter your space and do not procrastinate. Planning and organization go a long way towards sanity. Above all, remember that no one is perfect, including you. Expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. Choose to bend, instead of snapping.
Five Ways to Relieve Stress and Worry
- Identify your fear- Many times stress is fear of the unknown.
- Consider the worst scenario and prepare. Stock the car with supplies when traveling (blanket, first aid kit, non-perishable food like energy bars, water, cell phone) Have emergency kits at home in the event of power outage, snowstorm, tornado or hurricane (battery radio, flashlights, generator with fuel, canned goods, propane, camp stove, bottled water, non-perishable food) Preparation can make the difference between inconvenience and desperation. The same applies to making presentations, taking exams, house maintenance. Be prepared.
- Reflect on the best outcome- Once prepared, focus on the positive. The chance of your worst nightmare coming to fruition is small. If planning a trip, immerse yourself in the adventure. The butterflies in your stomach are excitement. Do not confuse the feeling with fear.
- Be flexible. Go with the flow. Swimming against a rip current is exhausting.
- Trust. The universe has your back. When you encounter obstacles, trust that you are being guided to something better.