Do You Need a Pause Button on Life? 10 Skills To Decrease Stress

We are officially in the mad dash to the end of the academic year activities. Which means concerts, recitals, sports games, field trips, final projects and parties and oh, throw in graduations. I find comfort knowing I am not alone. Parents everywhere are dealing with variations of what I am going through. It seems like many of us are juggling zillion things at once, making our way through the have to-do’s of the day, with little time to stop and take in the moments in front of us, because there is so much to do.

I was talking with one of my friends about how it can be so challenging to be in the moment when we’re orchestrating all of the details to get everyone where they need to go. It’s exhausting. And honestly, as I said to my friend, sometimes I just need a pause button on life. I just need to catch my breath and slow down, which sounds easy in concept, but not so easy when there’s so much to be responsible for. Which led me to this post: How do moms create a pause button when there is so much to do?

Easier said than done, I know. Much like telling a stressed person to calm down has the opposite effect. Telling a busy person with a lot of demands to slow down, can elicit a similar response: how am I supposed to be in the moment when there is so much to do, and I am responsible for so much?

Here are ten ways to slow down and be in the moment when there is so much to do.

Make a List. During times of high stress and obligations, making a list of the things you need to do and have to do is essential. Set aside a few minutes and write down all of the weeks upcoming activities and needed errand, carpools, shopping, etc. you need for the week. Making a list is a great way to unclutter your mind and focus on tasks.

Delegate if Possible. Looking at your list, go through and see if you can delegate and share responsibilities. Don’t feel like you have to do everything on your own. If you have supportive people in your life, give them tasks and responsibilities to help free up the mental stress of being overly responsible.

Let Others Help You. Don’t feel like you have to do it all. And don’t wait for someone to ask how they can help. Women take the mental load of responsibility for household tasks, children’s activities, and orchestrating holiday and traditions. Advocate for yourself and if you need help, let others know and give them specific tasks to complete.

Start and End Your Day with Intention. First thing in the morning, before we ever put our feet on the ground, many of us reach for our phones and check a variety of things: texts, email, social media account, etc. Before you reach for your phone or put your feet on the ground, take a minute and set your intention for the day. As simple as a phrase or mantra, something meaningful and encouraging you can say to yourself, focusing on a positive message.

Focus on Gratitude. The practice of acknowledging and expressing gratitude has many emotional, mental and physical benefits to reduce stress and increase happiness and well-being. Starting in the morning, and throughout the day, and ending when you’re in bed, be sure to highlight what you are grateful for.

Increase Mindfulness. Being in the moment unfolding in front of you, free from distractions and pre-occupying thoughts or concerns is being mindful. Mindfulness is a practice of focusing on the here and now, focusing on one’s senses and in the moment happening in front of you. Practicing mindfulness can be challenging when there is so much to do and a tremendous amount of responsibility on your shoulders.

Don’t Skimp on Sleep. Making sure to get enough sleep is critical, not only every day but especially in times of stress. Getting enough sleep helps to reduce stress, regulate hormones, and access healthy coping skills.

Meditate. Even five minutes of meditation. Meditation has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, increase mental focus, increases compassion, creativity and boosts the immune system. If you’d like to learn more about meditation, please read this post: 9 Reasons to Practice Meditation.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation. What I love about Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), is the benefit of feeling relaxed even after a few minutes. And, you can do this stress-reliever skill anywhere without drawing attention to yourself. PMR is a series of tense muscles and holding the tension in the muscle, followed by releasing the tension starting with tensing large muscle groups from the head and neck, all the way down to your toes. Start in a seated position, tensing your head, neck, and shoulders, counting to ten, followed by releasing for ten seconds. Then move onto the next muscle group: chest and torso, then arms, making your way through your body down to legs and toes. You can repeat the cycle of tensing and releasing for several minutes. Once completed, I’m sure you’ll feel more relaxed.

Intentional Deep Breathing. People who are stressed or anxious do not breath properly. When you find yourself stressed with a lot to do, make it a habit of checking in on your breathing throughout the day. Are you taking regular breathes in or taking shallow breaths or holding your breath? Intentional breathing is inhaling counting (to 3 or 5), holding your breath (counting to 3 or 5) and exhaling (counting to 3 or 5). Repeat for a few minutes.

I hope these suggestions help decrease your stress and increase enjoying the end of the academic year activities. If you have suggestions on how to manage stress this time of year, please share in the comments sections, I’d love to hear from you!

© Copyright Dr. Claire Nicogossian 2017

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