Reduce Stress in Your Life and Marriage
By: Mandi Gaye
I try to keep my stress level under control, and you probably do too. I’m always looking for ways to reduce stress and to limit the number of things that add stress to my life. But keeping stress tamped down is hard, and sometimes it’s just about impossible. Things we can’t control seem to swoop in and mess up our plans at the most inconvenient times, leaving us with more to do than we can possibly manage. Add to that the stress of events we really can’t control (like national elections and international incidents!) and our stress levels can soar quickly.
But we aren’t helpless. Although we can’t control some stressful events and situations, we can control many others. We actually have more ways to reduce stress than most of us realize. In fact, I think we actually possess a lot of power in this area – we can take charge of and exert control over many of the things that add stress to our lives, if we decide to do it.
Because a lot of these things are under our control. They’re things that seem small and maybe even insignificant, but they’re sneaky. And over time they add a lot of stress and strain to our days, and take a toll on our lives, health and marriages.
So if you’re looking for more joy and calm – and a lot less craziness – here are simple ways to reduce stress in your life and marriage:
- Control technology – Technology is a tool, but it quickly becomes a tyrant. Many of us are connected to a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop almost every hour of the day. We don’t think it causes stress, but very often it does. It can make us feel anxious, by exposing us to more information than we need and making us feel as if we’re missing something when we’re not connected. If nothing else, it can interfere with real human interaction – with our husbands, children and friends. Try this – Determine if technology is causing stress in your life by setting time limits on it for a week. Schedule time when you’re going to be connected and time when you’re not. Use the unconnected time to interact with the people you love, exercise, get some fresh air, or tackle a project you’ve been wanting to do. (Need to get outside or find something fun to do?
- Limit social media – Closely related to our love affair with technology is our infatuation with social media. Maybe you spend hours on Pinterest or Instagram. I spend too much time checking Facebook; I want to keep up with friends, but I often end up following links down rabbit holes of wasted time and energy. And then I want to kick myself for wasting time, which in turn increases my stress level. And then there’s the comparison factor – comparing our real lives with the “perfect” lives people share on social media. Try this – If social media is causing you to waste time you’d really rather spend on something else, or to want stuff you know you don’t really need, cut way back on it for a week. Set a time limit – maybe 10 or 15 minutes in the morning and the same in the evening – and set a timer. When the timer goes off, get off Instagram or Facebook and go do something you really want to do.
- Reduce drama – You know those overly emotional, overly dramatic reactions some people (not us!) have to everyday life? And those woe-is-me and isn’t-life-terrible reactions to typical problems and situations? And that tendency to create trouble where trouble doesn’t need to exist? All of that is part of “drama.” And it’s exhausting and stressful and something you want to avoid whenever possible. Try this – Look for unnecessary drama in your life. If you find yourself overreacting to people or situations, take some time to figure out why. If other people are creating drama that invades your life, figure out how to reduce it. Can you avoid these people or limit your time with them? Can you let their drama flow over you or around you, without it affecting you? And if those involved are people you can’t avoid (like close family members), figure out what you can do to help them better manage situations and their reactions to them. Also, watch out for “drama from a distance.” Although the level of drama in my family and friends is low (thank goodness!), I sometimes get involved in drama as an outside observer (angry arguments on Twitter, a marriage imploding all over Facebook). And it’s exhausting and stressful. So I’ve really had to train myself to avoid those kinds of interactions or move away from them as quickly as possible.
- Manage your family’s schedule – For many women, the family schedule is their #1 source of stress. It has them running from one activity to another all day, every day. It controls most aspects of their lives, and it wears them down. By the time they make it to the end of each day, they have little or nothing left for themselves, their husbands or their marriages. Talk with your husband and decide on one change you can make to your family’s schedule that would reduce stress and increase peace and sanity in your life. Make that change; after you’ve put it in place, make another. Keep going until the stress in your life related to your schedule decreases significantly.