There never seems to be enough hours in a day, but in those few hours, we are loaded with deadlines, responsibilities, errands and expectations. With stress weighing us down, our daily tasks get harder and harder to handle — like a heavy backpack weighing us down, getting heavier as the day goes on. Fortunately, there are four steps to help reduce stress and cope with the inevitable stressors of everyday life.
1. Avoid: Believe it or not, it is possible to escape some of the minor stressors that tend to trouble us:
- Take control of the stress that fills your day.
- If the drive home is stressful, try buying a new CD to make the commute more enjoyable.
- If a co-worker continually irritates you, create physical distance between the two of you.
- Say no when necessary.
2. Alter: Communication and letting people know where you stand can make a world of difference:
- Respectfully asking someone to alter how they are treating you is completely reasonable.
- Remember to use “I” statements when addressing someone about how you feel.
- State your limitations in advance.
- Example: “I only have five minutes to chat.”
3. Accept: Accepting the situation can ease much of the stress when avoiding and altering doesn’t work:
- Speaking with someone about how you’re feeling is normal.
- Call your best friend, get coffee with Mom or even schedule an appointment with a therapist.
- Forgiveness is important in accepting stressful situations.
- Learning to move on is much easier than sitting around stressing about uncontrollable situations.
4. Adapt: Changing your standards and expectations on stressful situations can help you cope with stress:
- Stop striving for perfection, and make reasonable substitutes throughout your daily life.
- Choose dinners that are easier to prepare and still make your family happy.
- Stop replaying those stressful situations over and over in your head.
- Choose to focus on the positive aspects in your life.
- Asking yourself if this will matter five years down the line can change how you view things.
Stress is a part of everyday life. Practicing these four steps can help to provide balance for a healthier and happier lifestyle.
Alan Conway, M.D., is a family physician at Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare in Tomah.