It is Annual Mental Health Week in Canada and Mental Health Month in the United States. Everyone suffers from stress, but what many do not realize is how much that stress impacts your entire body; blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, blood flow to your muscles and more can all be seriously impacted, as illustrated in this image borrowed from Mental Health America:
While it is not realistic to live a stress-free life, there are some attainable measures that you can take to cope with stress. While I admit to taking the easy way out at times, by dousing my stress-sorrows with red wine, vodka and valium, I promise that the following five strategies are substance, alcohol and other abuse-methods-free.
First and foremost, be realistic. If you are overwhelmed, you must learn to say no. You may be taking on more than you can or should handle. If you meet with resistance, provide reasons why you need to make changes, but be willing to listen to other’s suggestions and be ready to compromise.
Take off that ‘Superman or Superwoman’ cape. Everyone makes mistakes. No one is perfect. Don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.
Meditate. Don’t roll your eyes. You don’t have to sit on the floor, cross-legged, eyes closed, palms turned up with your thumb and fingers pressed together (though, that would be ideal). Even just ten to twenty minutes of quiet time and reflection may bring you relief from stress, as well as increase your tolerance to it. Listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or, even better, nothing at all. I usually take this time to repeat, over and over, motivational phrases, such as, “I am too old to be influenced by the will of dumb people.” and other such positive quotes.
Exercise. This does not include bicep curling your remote control while watching television. Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to thirty minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind. Walking is one of the easiest ways. It’s free, you don’t need any special equipment and you can pretty much do it anywhere.
Go easy with criticism. We have established that we often expect too much of ourselves. You may also be expecting too much of those around you. Try not to feel frustrated or disappointed when another person doesn’t measure up to your expectations. This could be in reference to a coworker, your spouse, another family member or a friend. The only person whose behaviour you have control over is your own. Avoid criticisms about character, try instead to gently communicate how the person’s behaviour makes you feel and provide positive, constructive suggestions about what you can both do differently to alleviate problems. More often than not, you will find out it is a two-way street. You are likely doing something that is contributing to the situation.