September has always been a mystery to me as it feels like the beginning of a new year. I used to think that when I graduated from university my year would then naturally run from January to December but that was a myth I told myself because my year still starts in September. Life gets busy in September. Kids return to school which increases their activities and causes more responsibilities for you. Then there are the changes in work and family obligations which continually increase till the escalation in December with the Christmas festivities. Many people start to find themselves overwhelmed and feeling like they can not quite catch up on everything. Then comes the flu and colds as our immune systems are weak due to our stress levels.
Let’s change that this year. You and I, deciding together to do something different. It does not take much to decrease your stress level. Here are three simple steps to lower your stress:
Do you remember when we were taught as kids if we are on fire to “Stop, Drop and Roll”? Feeling overwhelmed is like being on fire as it consumes us and rages out of control. Our minds think if we just keep going, get one more thing done today, we will outrun the fire. Has that ever worked for you? It has not for me. That one thing often leads to two other things that need to get done. The busy cycle keeps itself going as the fire rages on consuming our time and thoughts.
So what’s the solution? Stop.
Stop everything – that includes turning off cell phones, tablets, or any other way people can reach you – and take a few moments to relax and rejuvenate yourself. That will look different for you than it will for anyone else so take some time to think about what works for you. It could be having a family dinner without electronics so you all can listen to each other and chat about your days. It might be taking a walk around your block, having a bubble bath when you get home or even just closing the office door for 20 minutes to enjoy the quiet. You know what works for you. Take the time to do it.
2. Value yourself
One reason why people do not stop and take moments to relax and rejuvenate is because they do not value themselves. They think, I have to do (and you can fill in your own blank) to prove myself worthy. If I do not do (blank) then I will hurt someone, or if I don’t do (blank) I am not contributing. I have to prove myself everyday to be acceptable. These thoughts are destructive.
You are worthy. You are valuable. You are smart. You are beautiful.
I can hear your negative self-talk all the way through this screen challenging me, saying no, she doesn’t know me. I might not know you but I do know that what you do does not make you worthy or valuable. You are valuable because you are you. I’m challenging you right back to take the steps to believing in yourself by looking for the truth. There are positive characteristics and qualities about you or people would not be relying on you which is adding to your stress. To start valuing yourself, point out three things you are proud of today.
3. Set realistic goals
As I’ve been writing this article, I keep thinking about new years’ resolutions because September is like a new year. We all know resolutions fail but do you know why? Hardly anyone sets a realistic goal. We look at the next year and think, next year is going to be my year to be healthier, I’ll exercise more or I’ll go to the gym everyday. Yet this year we did not get off the couch once to go for a walk. So why do we think its possible to do a radical change like that when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve?
What do you need to accomplish this year? This month? This week? Today? Make your to-do list and then ask yourself “what can I realistically accomplish today?” Then leave the rest for tomorrow when you’ll ask yourself that question again. If you are choosing five items and you are only getting three done, then tomorrow only choose three. When you set realistic goals for yourself you will physically feel your stress level decrease.
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