The significant events in your life shape your thinking, beliefs, and overall attitude. Moving houses, changing jobs, getting married and losing a loved one have a substantial impact on you. Over time these different events combine to create a complex psychological experience. Understandably these life events can be stressful and will impact your overall well-being.
Our day-to-day activities are not plain sailing either. There are always deadlines, work-related responsibilities, and family obligations. In fact, research has shown that the average person has 33 things on their to-do list each day!
Life has a way of throwing curveballs that get us unexpectedly off-balance. These events can cause us to feel overwhelmed, out of control, and even exhausted. Emotional stress can also lead to physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches. They can also be linked to conditions like chronic pain, anxiety disorder, and depression. Stress is a normal and natural part of life, but it becomes a problem when it starts to disrupt the balance in our lives.
Psychologists have long known that stress can lead to a host of physical and emotional problems. When we react to stress in healthy ways, such as getting enough sleep, eating the right food, and staying physically fit, it can bolster our health. On the other hand, when we respond with unhealthy behaviours like smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol or withdrawing from our relationships, stress can take a terrible toll on our bodies and minds.
I know I’m feeling incredibly overwhelmed now, and the fact that we’re only in February 2022 isn’t making me feel any better. So, what can we do to better manage or cope with the stress we are facing? It boils down to the way we think about stress, in particular our reactions and underlying beliefs.
1. Looking at one event doesn’t tell the whole story
We need to be more mindful of the pressure and stress we are under. I know I’m not alone when I keep adding more items to my never-ending list of things to do. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. It’s okay not to do everything at once! To instead see one project through to completion, before taking on another – and even then, to pace ourselves and set realistic timelines. It’s silly to plan to move house whilst changing jobs or leading a large project.
2. You are responsible for your own pace
A lot of us are guilty of putting criteria in place before we allow ourselves the space to breathe, rest or even experience happiness. For example, when I lose this weight, or the children have finished school, or I get this promotion – then I’ll take a vacation, or take some time out for self-care, or catch-up on sleep.
Our level of life satisfaction is dependent on deliberate, goal-directed behaviours, but also on the present moment. To better cope with stress, you need to take responsibility for setting your own pace, sometimes less really is more.
3. Whilst stress is inevitable and natural, it’s also not forever
A gentle reminder that nothing is forever, and whilst the significant life events and day-to-day stressors you are currently facing are daunting, you will adapt, you will feel better, it will pass.