Everyone I have talked to recently is telling me they are stressed out. I know the holidays are coming very soon, and they bring a host of stressors we don’t normally have. Folks I know are also talking about the end of the year and not feeling like they’ve accomplished much, which makes them feel stressed. Then there are the things beyond our control that throw us off, such as snow at rush hour, getting sick, and finals. And we don’t get to give up our everyday stress that comes along with paying bills, planning meals, and keeping ourselves generally alive and healthy. So it’s no wonder that you might feel stressed out! (And you’re in good company.)

Some signs of stress that might not be so obvious are feeling irritable, feeling more disorganized than usual, and being forgetful or having trouble remembering things – even important things. I think most of us are aware of headaches, tightness in our shoulders or chest, feeling rushed for time, having trouble relaxing, and the sense that one more expectation would crush us.

Short of taking a very extended vacation, though, what can you do to drop some of that stress? You probably don’t have only one source of stress, so there probably isn’t one answer on how to fix it, so you’ll have to try a multi-pronged approach. Start with the easy stuff, and make some time to do some of the more time-consuming so you don’t get even more stressed out in the process of getting de-stressed.

  1. Easy things to do include drinking plenty of water and less caffeine and alcohol. When we are feeling stress, we tend to reach for caffeinated, alcoholic, or sweet beverages, and they actually make us feel more stressed.
  2. Stretch every hour. No matter how busy you are, you can take a couple of minutes to stand up and stretch.
  3. Take a break – a real break. Leave your phone behind and walk outside for a few minutes, or put on some headphones and close your eyes and listen to your favorite song. Even a 5 or 10 minute walk around the block with make you feel better, and music is a great way to take a break.
  4. Talk to a friend. A phone conversation or a cup of tea and a conversation in person are both great ideas! Stick to the things that are going well in your life once you’ve established that you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed.
  5. Eat regularly and healthily. One of the first things to go when we feel pressed for time is our good eating habits. We reach for what is fast and easy, which usually means fatty and unhealthy.

As busy as you are, it’s important to schedule time out for you. Make sure it’s a regular part of your day or your week.

  1. Get exercise. Whether you take a walk on your lunch hour or you work out before heading in to the office, do something that moves you and releases stress hormones from your body.
  2. Get some quiet time alone. Read a book, meditate, take a nap, play the piano. Do something that is just for you and that gives you time to just be yourself.
  3. Make a plan to relax so it’s on the horizon. Schedule a massage, facial, pedicure, or haircut; plan a lunch date with someone you haven’t seen in a while; hire a babysitter so you can have time to do something you want to do; plan a vacation so you can relax.
  4. Say “no” to a request. In fact, say “no” to several requests because you can’t take on anything else right now, and the future isn’t looking so great, either. (How do you think you got into this situation in the first place?)
  5. Give yourself a break. Knowing that you’re stressed, don’t pack your days so tightly for a while so you have plenty of time and energy to do what’s really important.
  6. Get some sleep! Several good nights of sleep will do wonders for your energy levels and your memory.

Good luck getting through the holiday season, and don’t get too stressed out!