Most people know the feeling…Stress.  The supervisor had an unrealistic deadline and the coworker teaming with you on the project is out sick… again.  The file was deleted accidentally on the computer during the recent update.  The shipment came in late and didn’t have the most important item you ordered.  To top it off your commute took twice as long due to the weather.  It has already been a long week… and it’s only Monday!

Stress.  We all have it.  Some of us love it enough we keep it around.  We bring it home from work and soon it affects our families, friends and neighbors.  If left unchecked it becomes a permanent way of life.  But it wasn’t meant to be this way.

There are ways to minimize stress.  The one we typically try to do is to decrease the things that are causing stress in our lives.  Excellent idea – and then another thing pops up to generate more stress.  So, while limiting external factors is important, we can work internally to manage the stress from the stressors we will probably always have.

So the next step is to develop the ability to manage even with the chaos surrounding us.  When people are struggling I often look at four areas: the physical, mental, social and spiritual.

Physically – Most of us realize that missing a meal contributes being crabby that day.  Taking care of our bodies as a lifestyle can help in dealing with our overall stress.  If we are lacking quality sleep, missing nutrition or in need of exercise and physical activity, we are limiting our bodies natural capacity to handle normal stress loads.

Mentally – You probably remember your mom telling you to be careful what you put in your brain.  Sorry, but she was right.  If we read or watch things that create worry, we tend to think worrying thoughts and it leads to more stress.  We get stuck thinking about the same thing continually, or ruminating, about something.  Watching the 10pm news and finding out all the horrible things that have happened in the world right before sleep may not be helpful.  Focusing on stressful situations from the day or thinking about upcoming dilemmas that we can’t do anything about also increases anxiety.  It’s important to learn to set things aside.  Leave work at work.  Fill your mind with things that are relaxing as a balance to the stressful items.

Socially – All of us have people that seem to drag us down.  It can be a coworker, college, neighbor or family member.  The person you feel worse after having met with them, or relieved to be leaving.  While we really can’t eliminate individuals who raise our stress, we can make shifts to be around more of the people who increase our joy.  Making sure we have time with the uplifting friends and balancing that with time alone can make a dent in dealing with stress.

Spiritually – It is amazing how many times you hear of someone who survives a difficult situation and when interviewed will credit their faith as one of the reasons for surviving the crisis.  My goal is not to preach, but to suggest that such a significant resource shouldn’t be left out of the equation.  If this is an area of need, it would make sense to find a way to bring it back and get the answers needed.

So the bad news is that you really can’t live a life without stress.  The good news is that it can be managed and life can be fulfilling anyway.  What is the one small thing you could do to decrease your stress today?