Between work commitments and home life, we are bound to find ourselves stretched thinly from time to time. During especially busy or stressful times, like deployments, moves, back to school or financial strain, we can easily become overwhelmed and lose sight of the bigger picture, since even the smallest tasks can weigh heavily on your shoulders.
While there is no way to completely eliminate stress from our lives your life, we can control how we prepare for and react to stressful situations or events.
Preparing for stress
It may seem strange to talk about preparing for stress, but you can reduce the effects of stressful situations by simply being organized and understanding how you and members of your family respond to difficult situations.
Organization can do more than help you prepare for stress; it may help you avoid some sources of stress completely. For example, by creating a monthly budget, you may be able to eliminate some level of financial stress because you will know exactly how much of your income is going toward bills, debt and what you have left to spend. Understanding your budget can help you avoid overspending and help you pay down any debt you may have quickly and responsibly.
You can organize other areas of your life to reduce or avoid stress:
- Create a family chore chart to delegate responsibilities.
- Plan ahead - as much as possible - for upcoming moves; find helpful tips on PlanMyMove.
- Speak to your family about any upcoming deployments and ensure that you make all preparations prior to the deployment date. PlanMyDeployment can help you get organized.
- Separate your work and home life as much as possible so that you can fully focus on either one at the proper time.
- Create a meal plan to avoid the dinnertime scramble each night.
- Use a schedule to keep track of your commitments. Note work deadlines, appointments and other commitments in one location to avoid overlapping activities and overextending yourself.
Responding to stress
Everyone copes with stress in their own unique way. Some people thrive under stress. Others may become overwhelmed, irritable or look for a distraction. No matter how you react to stress that arises in your life - whether large or small - it's important that you recognize the difference between a healthy amount of motivating stress and stress that is so intense that it can alter your mood, habits and even your overall health.
A healthy level of stress is what motivates you to make positive changes in your life, like getting in shape, working toward a promotion or making sacrifices in order to pay off debt. Feeling a little stress may be the spark the need to make a change. Unhealthy stress can become all you think about and can distract you from other important areas of your life, like your loved ones. When you find yourself in stressful situations take a step back and:
- Identify the source of your stress.
- Decide what you can do to alleviate the stress. For example, you may be able to lower monthly payments with a few phone calls to ease financial stress or delegate chores around the house to create more quality time with your family.
- Prioritize your responsibilities. On days when you're especially overwhelmed, identify what absolutely must be done that day, and decide what can wait.
- Seek help when you need it. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Knowing you are overwhelmed, your loved ones, friends and coworkers will likely help you any way they can. If you need more support, Military OneSource offers non-medical counseling options that can help you manage your stress.
Making time for rest and relaxation
When you are busy, it may seem impossible to find even five minutes of time for yourself, but it is important to remember that you are just as important as everything else that demands your time. Without fueling your body with the right nutrition, plenty of sleep, downtime and exercise, you may find it difficult to focus or give 100 percent to any one of your commitments. Busy as you may be, give yourself the chance to relax. Taking a timeout - however brief - to do something you enjoy, like exercising, reading, having a night out or focusing on a hobby, can boost your mood and energy and give you the patience you need to cope with stress that may come your way.
Stress may be a part of life, but it doesn't have to take over your life. Be prepared, manage stress as best you can, give yourself a chance to recover and you'll find that you are well equipped to face any challenge.