Spring is here! It seems like the daffodils weren’t here one day, then popped up into full bloom the next. The warmer days are finally outnumbering the cold days in frequency, and when the snow shows itself, we can shrug it off — it will surely be melting soon enough. We can safely move the snow throw to the back of the garage now.
Winter chores may be over, but with the onset of spring comes new tasks and obligations. It’s almost as though you can’t say “spring” without adding “cleaning.” Spring cleaning includes all kinds of activities — ranging from raking up the dead grass to re-roofing your house. Identifying one thing that needs to be done often results in another showing itself, and then another.
You only have so much time and so many resources to accomplish everything, the knowledge of which can be overwhelming and stressful. Since you don’t want stress to be an automatic reaction to spring, read up on some facts about stress and how you can manage it as spring blossoms with new duties and responsibilities.
The Effects of Stress
Stress affects all of us in different ways. Some stressors are universal, while other times, something that stresses out one individual may not even phase the person next to them, and vice versa. You might hate navigating through large crowds or heavy traffic, while others may find it challenging and exciting. Giving a speech to a group of people may put you in a panic, while for some, it’s the best part of their day.
It’s important to know what stresses you out and how that stress affects you. Here are some common signs of stress:
- Mood swings, losing your cool, being easily agitated
- Feeling out of control or overwhelmed by your situation
- The inability to focus or “shut off” your mind
- Poor self-esteem, the desire to be alone, pessimistic attitude
- Changes in your appetite, sleep patterns or alcohol use
The good news about these conditions is we are usually aware of them. How many times have you told a friend or coworker that you are “stressed out?” When you’re aware of your stressors, you can more aptly identify the cause(s) to make a positive change. However, sometimes stress can also manifest itself in ways you might not be aware of.
Some people engage in odd physical mannerisms when they’re stressed, such as hair twirling, hand wringing and fingernail biting. Stress can also find you in your sleep, the effects of which are not solely limited to having a nightmare or two.
Nighttime teeth grinding, known as “bruxism,” is a common disorder that affects many people. Bruxism can cause constant pain in the form of headaches, jaw soreness and tightness, and tooth cracks and fractures. Your partner may hear you grinding at night, but you may be otherwise unaware of the habit. Your dentist can identify this problem by analyzing the wear patterns in your teeth and looking for the cracks that bruxism can cause.
Long-term stress can cause other physical ailments too, such as upset stomach, nausea and diarrhea. Insomnia is common when you feel like you have too many thoughts on your mind. Before things get out of control, take control of your situation and change it as best you can. You can’t avoid all stress, but you can take steps to manage it better.
When stress is going to be a part of your life, exercise is going to be the best remedy for it. Nothing feels better than getting it all out. We’ve all heard how important exercise is for your physical health, and this extends to your mental health as well. Exercise lowers stress hormones like cortisol and helps release endorphins, which are the “feel good” hormones.
Choose any exercise you like that you are physically able to do. Running is one of the best forms of exercise for stress relief. You may have heard people mention experiencing a “runner’s high” after they go on a run. The “runner’s high” is an example of the feeling one can get as endorphins rush into the body. Walking produces almost as many benefits as running, and it may be safer for people with joint problems or other physical limitations.
Weight lifting, yoga and other group fitness classes are also great ways to maintain a regular exercise routine. Keeping fit will give you an edge on handling stress. You’ll feel stronger, confident and ready to face your stressors head-on.
We almost all have junk food that we like. You may feel that you have absolutely no willpower when it comes to chocolate, or maybe potato chips are your vice.
It’s fine to treat yourself sometimes, but make an effort to eat more fruits and vegetables. Try picking fun-colored foods that might make the preparation and presentation of your meals more interesting — red peppers, blueberries, papayas. It may still be too early for garden treats, but grocery stores have many offerings to choose from. Cut down on sweets, alcohol and caffeine. These are our go-to stress foods, but they’ve been proven to make stress worse.
Find Ways to Relax
Meditation is an effective way to relax your body and mind. If this seems uncomfortable for you, try taking deep breaths and focusing on individual muscles in your body, relaxing them as you breathe out. It’s essentially the same thing, but some people are averse to traditional “meditation.”
Read a newspaper or a book. Keep a journal or practice drawing. If it’s not too early in your part of the country, start planting your garden. Find an activity that is enjoyable and peaceful for you.
Get Good Sleep
Try to get your 8 hours. Sometimes after a tough day, it is tempting to stay up late and watch silly shows to take our minds off of our worries. Do this in moderation and focus on getting enough sleep. Establish a nightly routine. Try chamomile tea before bed, as it may help you sleep. Apply aromatherapy lotion, such as lavender. Unless you don’t care for the scent, it can also act as a helpful sleep aid.
Find a friend to talk to. Be careful not to overwhelm that person with every gripe. You don’t want to be the source of someone else’s stress, but do find a way to vent to others in a mode that is constructive. Choose someone you can trust. Limit the complaining and focus on conversation, perhaps attaching it to another social activity such as taking a walk or exercising.
If you feel that your stress is completely unmanageable and is getting out of control, please don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Some challenges that seem insurmountable can be quite manageable with the right treatment. Plus, your stress may be part of another health problem, and you will want to rule that possibility out first.
Stress is a part of all of our lives — it’s just a matter of how you deal with it. Learn what stresses you most, and always be prepared to deal with it as effectively as you can. You want to enjoy your spring and look forward to your projects. Don’t let your spring cleaning become spring screaming!