Too often my life feels out of control. My 4 children are involved in several activities, and we are on the move a lot of the time. When I feel stress, I am frazzled and impatient with people around me. Stress makes life feel overwhelming. Since my life isn't going to slow down for at least the next decade, I have to learn how to reduce stress and remove stressors from my life. I'm trying to adhere to these 5 simple stress-reducing principles.
Prepare for success
I can keep stress at bay when I am organized and prepared. One way I do this is by using evenings as a way to prepare for the next day. Kids make school lunches, we (almost) always do the dishes, and I try to pick up the house so I don't feel behind first thing in the morning. Examine your life. When do you feel rushed? Is it getting out the door in the morning, or right before dinner? Think of ways you can prepare to be successful during stressful times, and then prepare for success.
Learn to say no
Currently I have 4 kids at 4 schools, preschool through high school. I can't volunteer for every book fair or attend every meeting. I've had to learn to say no, or the more polite, "Sorry, I'm unavailable," when I can't do something. At first, I felt guilty saying no, but now I realize it's just fine. Other people are in similar situations. I try to focus my time on the things that are most important to me and my family and will do the most good. You can do the same by being thoughtful about the activities and events you choose to be involved in. Choose to do things that will bring you happiness, not more stress.
Sometimes I feel pressure to make every holiday perfect, style my daughters' hair in a new Pinterest-inspired way every day, and keep my house spotless while maintaining both comfort and style. I've realized living up to magazine standards is both impractical and stressful. I’ve chosen holidays I want to make magical and those I can celebrate simply.
Simplify by teaching your children to do things for themselves and make housecleaning and laundry efficient. Making the spaces you live and work in organized and efficient will help you feel more relaxed as you go about your day. Other ways to simplify include running errands less frequently by planning ahead and making lists, carpooling with other families to school and activities, and making simple meals in advance to eat throughout the week.
Learn quick ways to reduce stress
Stress is going to strike, no matter how hard you try to reduce it in your life. When it does, you need to be ready with a quick antidote. Find something that works for you and return to it often, training your brain and body to relax immediately. Deep breathing works for many people. I like to use peppermint essential oil, yoga and a bit of dark chocolate.
Let it go
If life gets stressful and you make mistakes, forgetting a kid at ballet class or missing a meeting, don’t beat yourself up. Let it go. Life is going to be full of mistakes and moments for learning. Be gracious with yourself and with others. Letting go of stressful situations will help you feel better. When I look around my house and see chaos, my kids often tell me to “Let it go.” When I can, even just for a few minutes as we play and interact together, I feel my stress levels calming down.
Stress seems to be a part of modern day life. Since it can’t be avoided, learn to reduce it and combat it quickly by applying these 5 principles to your life. Take a deep breath and find happiness in your less stressful life.
Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.