Irritability, tense muscles, headache, low energy, anxiousness – have you ever experienced these symptoms? If so, stress may be taking away the life you deserve. Stress is the number one contributor to these symptoms and when not managed, can steal the joy right out of even the happiest moments of our lives. And yet, how can we control something that we cannot see or touch? Maybe we don’t have to. Maybe in recognizing our lack of control, we have found the first step to prepare ourselves for managing the stress of our lives. While we cannot always control the sources of stress in our lives, we can control how stress enters into and impacts our lives.
The acronym L.I.F.E. can be a helpful tool in reminding us how to prepare ourselves for the stress we may experience in our lives:
Let go of the desire to control events and actions of others. For some people, it helps to make a list of things you can control and the things you cannot. For example, we may not be able to control someone’s actions, but we can control how we allow their actions to impact us.
Identify how stress appears in your life. Do you experience more behavioral stress, in the form of irritability, depression, lack of motivation? Do you experience more physical symptoms of stress, in the form of tight muscles, insomnia, headaches, or stomach aches? Maybe you have more emotional stress, in the form of loneliness, anxiety, or feelings of being overwhelmed. Identifying how stress manifests in our lives shows us how to care for ourselves. For example, many people find that talking to a friend, family member, or a counselor helps work through emotional stress. Exercise, meditation, and even diet can help address physical symptoms of stress as well.
Find time to connect with yourself. Our symptoms of stress are indicators that we need to take better care of ourselves. How you connect with yourself is unique to you. Light exercise, journaling, art, taking a nap, meditating, and even cleaning are some ways people make time for themselves. Giving yourself the gift of time, even 5 minutes a day, can foster a stronger connection with yourself.
Enjoy your senses! We often go about our day getting things done, not bothering to notice the world around us. An easy way to tune into your senses it to chew gum or savor a piece of hard candy. Close your eyes and notice the taste, smell, and feeling in your mouth. Listen to the sounds in your mouth. Allow yourself to be present in this moment, mindful of your senses. This activity can reduce overall tension and bring us a clearer awareness of ourselves.
Letting go of our desire to control, Identifying how stress appears in our life, Finding time to connect with ourselves, and Enjoying our senses can help us manage the stressors in our lives. Becoming aware of how stress affects us individually and prioritizing the time we give ourselves can be our best defense against the pressures of our lives! Give yourself the gift of L.I.F.E and watch what happens.
By Stacey D. Hind, MA, LPCC, NCC