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Stress Relief

stress reliefNow is the time of year when it’s easier to imagine relaxing.

Spring is in the air. Beaches beckon. Daylight abounds.

Things get busy too, though. Weekends fill with activities. Schedules get filled.

Even relaxing times of the year can become stressful. We put more on our to-do lists. We start to cram things in. We wish we could do more – yard work, activities, visits with friends, pet projects, etc.

You might find that this extra busy-ness detracts from your fun. Maybe you find that it adds stress precisely when you thought you would get some relief…

You may realize that, just like any other time of the year, it’s important to have a good stress-management strategy.

Here’s the key thing that I’ve found: stress is largely self-inflicted.

Deciding to Be Stressed (or Not)

Self-talk is a part of daily life. We murmur and comment to ourselves constantly. Sometimes we have full-on conversations with ourselves. Many times we are debating and deliberating all sorts of thoughts. And those thoughts generate all sorts of emotions, including stress.

When we worry about all the things that are keeping us busy, we add to the stress that we feel. When we review the to-do list with angst, we add to the stress that we feel. When we consider everything that could go wrong with all the things that haven’t happened yet, we add to the stress that we feel.

Worry can be productive. But it can also be destructive.

Which is why it’s worth considering what is actually worth worrying about. And that might not be very much at all.

An Ounce of Prevention

A good way to manage stress, then, is to prevent it where possible. That starts with worrying. Or not.

Worrying about things that are out of your control is usually a waste of energy. You can’t change the weather by worrying about it.

You can’t control the weather. Worrying about it will not change the outcome.

What you can do, however, is to prepare. You can consider the weather and the possible outcomes and then prepare accordingly. Then let it happen. There is no need to stress. You’ve done all you can do.

Sure, unwelcome rain may ruin your plans for a great beach day. But if you’re prepared with a new activity in the event of a rainy day, you will be fine. Worry about those plans and alternatives, not the weather itself.

Worrying about the weather, or anything else you can’t control, is pretty pointless. The only thing you are able to do is hope for what you want. And hope is not a strategy.

Preparing for various outcomes, however, puts you in control. Because how you react to outcomes that you can’t control is totally within your control.

Let go of worry about the things that you can’t control and you will prevent a lot of stress.

A View of the Future

The other big thing that can impact the stress that we feel is our view of the future.

If you worry about how you will react to certain situations, you are increasing stress in two ways.

First, you are feeling the stress well in advance of the event. Worrying about tomorrow’s dentist appointment all day today ruins two days.

Second, you create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Telling yourself over and over again how stressful a particular experience will be pretty much ensures that you are going to have a stressful experience when the time comes. You are putting a lot of energy into envisioning a bad experience when you should probably be doing the exact opposite.

Tell yourself there will be stress and there will be stress. Tell yourself that everything will be ok and you will likely have a much better experience.

Stressing the Point

You have a lot of control over your experience of stress. Take the opportunity to help yourself out. Give yourself some stress relief by making some different decisions.

Decide that you will worry about how you will respond to things that you can’t control, not the things themselves.

Decide that you will experience less stress through less worrying about future experiences.

The bonus is that this is the sort of thinking that can help you to be more present. We spend a lot of time ruminating on the past and concerned with the future. Try to spend more time being exactly where you are now and let go of the rest.

That’s a good way to have a great day at the beach. Or anywhere else.