By Stephanie Sullivan
You have probably heard someone say that you cannot control the environment around you, you can only control your reaction to it. This is partially true and partially untrue. Yes, some things in our environment are outside of our control; however, we can definitely take proactive steps to make our environments less stressful. Below are my top ten (10) tips for proactively preventing stress, and my #1 tip for controlling your stress response.
Reduce demands and triggers
1. Reduce commitments – Identify at least one of your current commitments (home/work) which is bringing stress, high effort or less value, joy, or fulfillment than you would like. Now decide whether you will a) eliminate or pause that activity, or b) delegate it to someone else.
When new meetings, kids’ activities, or social engagements arise, do not feel obliged to accept.
Thank the person for the invitation or opportunity, and then take some time to think about your current commitments, available time, and priorities. Declining or delegating some activities will avoid over-committing yourself, making you more available and present for the things that really matter to you.
2. Time-shift – When you cannot eliminate activities, time-shift them to a less stressful time. Identify the most stressful times of your month, week, or days. Many parents find evenings the most stressful and rushed time of day, preparing dinner with little ones hungry, getting tired and wanting attention. Dinner still needs to be prepared (most nights), but you can shift the preparation to a less stressful time. Using the slow cooker is a great method for time shifting your dinner prep. You can do a lot of the preparation earlier in the day or even the night before (after the kids have gone to sleep). Then just throw it all in the slow cooker for a comforting and nutritious dinner with very little effort required during a typically stressful time of the day. Prepare extra to eliminate another dinner prep. Spend a few minutes thinking of activities which you could time-shift (to another time of day or a later date).
3. Remove triggers – Wherever possible, minimise things that trigger stress, negativity, frustration. Unfollow people whose social media posts are typically negative or trigger frustration or anger. Unplug from the predominantly negative, and often sensationalised, nightly TV network news program, and instead read or listen to something you enjoy. Steps like these will help preserve your energy and resilience so you can be present and capable of handling stressors that arise in the more important areas of your life (like family and work).
If your work is extremely stressful, maybe it’s time to change jobs.
Self-care maintenance steps to prepare yourself for handling stress
4. Sleep – Sleep deprivation results in being more easily agitated, and less equipped to handle the unexpected events that come your way. It is generally recommended that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and most teens need more.
5. Hydrate – Hydration is key to combating the physiologic effects of stress on your body. What’s interesting is that stress can cause dehydration, and also dehydration can cause stress, so this can easily become a vicious circle. When your body and organs are deprived of water, it produces more cortisol (“the stress hormone”). Water also supports the adrenal glands, which are vitally important in the body’s ability to respond to stress.