Work your way through stress

We all have it, we deal with it on a daily basis and it can wear us down if we don’t handle it well. It’s stress.

Life is filled with stress, and we have the opportunity to respond to stress in healthy or unhealthy ways. As Lou Holtz once said, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”

Here are some helpful ways to work through stress:

Pause, then act. Don’t react. When a stressful situation comes up in our lives, a helpful way to deal with the situation is to pause and take a breath. Take some time to let your mind clear and lower your tension. Some people like to count to 10 — or maybe 100, take deep breaths or sit by themselves until they are able to think more clearly. Once you have calmed down a bit, choose a helpful action and stick with it. Allowing yourself the time to pause and then act, instead of simply reacting, can avoid bad choices and hurtful words.

Put on your own oxygen mask first. If you have flown on an airplane, you have been instructed in case of emergency to put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. The same is true for stress — we aren’t much help to others if we are overwhelmed and in a panic. When you make time to lower your stress level, everyone around you benefits. To be a more effective co-worker, parent, spouse or friend, be sure to take care of yourself.

 Remind yourself of your strengths. When life gets tough and you are feeling the pressure from many sides, be your biggest fan. We all have a tendency to become our biggest critics when things are stressful in life. Instead of being hard on yourself, focus on your strengths. The more you tell yourself that you are strong, able to bounce back from challenges and determined, the more you will believe it. When we focus on our strengths, we begin to act out those positive traits. The next time you are feeling the stressful pressures of life, remind yourself that you are strong. The more you think it, the more you become it!

Protect your leisure time. If we want to carry the load of stress in a healthy way, we need to make time for fun and relaxation. Even if you have a packed schedule, find a few minutes to set aside for some deep breathing, a walk in the sunshine or an encouraging talk with a friend. Our time will be gobbled up by lots of pressures in life if we do not protect it. Protect some time for fun and everyone around you will be grateful. Exercise, time outdoors, being with supportive family or friends, or trying a new hobby are fun and healthy ways to lower your stress level.

Angela Wessels is the youth educator at Mental Health America in Sheboygan County and is a member of the HSC2020 Mental Health Committee