From Biosis 11, July 2006

Dealing with Summer(and Other)time Stress

Summertime
And the livin’ is easy…

Well, maybe it was in the 1930s when the Gershwins wrote that song, and maybe in our hopes and dreams. Who of us doesn’t, at least for a moment, look forward to the summer as a time to kick back, relax and unwind?

But anymore, many of us wind up more stressed than ever during the “easy season.” Workplace demands keep coming on strong – maybe even more than usual as we’re asked to pick up the slack for vacationing colleagues while we bide time till our own vacations. Those of us who have kids may feel extra pressure from their being off from school, needing supervision or transport to all kinds of extra activities such as summer sports leagues, arts programs and day camps. Then there are all the social activities, from Fourth of July picnics to family and class reunions and other gatherings. Even the demands we make on ourselves to relax can start to max us out! We feel guilty for not taking downtime yet feel like we lack the luxury to do so.

Here are a few tips for managing such stress:

Breathe

When stress hits, our breathing tends to become shallow. Some of us even hold our breath. Either way, the lack of oxygen only pushes up the stress level. Taking even a few slow, deep breaths can have a physically calming effect. And the moments in which you mentally step away from the problems can help…

Restore Perspective

Most of the time, the stress we feel is not the result of life or death situations but a general feeling of being overwhelmed. Take a moment to consider the big picture. Think about all the things that are right with the situation to balance out whatever is wrong. Reflect on previous times of stress and how you got through it all right. Let this remind you that you will come through again. Then, if you can…

Take a Five Minute Walk

If at work and you can, take a short break to walk around your workplace or outside for some fresh air. If at home, walk around the block or even just in your yard. The physical activity will help you get more oxygen, as well as release endorphins that can elevate your mood. It can also give you time to…

Reflect and Strategize

Identify the causes of your stress. Then identify what you can do to change the situation to make it less stressful. Sometimes, all we can do is adopt a different perspective or more positive attitude. But other times, we can take active steps to reduce or eliminate stressors. We can reschedule activities to allow ourselves some breathing room. If we have conflicts with others, we can work them out. If we need help to muddle through, we can ask loved ones and friends to help us out.


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