As summer comes to an end, many of us will be returning to a hectic schedule of school and kids' activities. The end of summer also means shorter days with less sunlight and less time spent outdoors being active. And all of these factors can contribute to higher levels of stress.
While a modest amount of stress may actually be good for us and help motivate us to complete tasks, too much stress can lead to a host of emotional and physical ailments. It can also cause a decline in energy, focus, and efficiency at home and at work.
So what can we do? The key to successfully managing stress is recognizing and accepting good stress - the type that motivates us - while minimizing bad stress.
The first step in that process is identifying your stress triggers, or what is creating your stress - both good and bad.
Some causes of stress are clear, such as deadlines at work, relationship and family problems, or financial difficulties. Things that you do as part of your daily routine, such as commuting, managing family schedules, and keeping up with to-do lists, can also create stress.
Once you identify your stress triggers, you can start thinking about ways to better manage them so that they don't overwhelm you and create bigger problems.
For example, perhaps one of your stress triggers is the morning hustle and bustle when everyone in the family is getting ready for work or school. Consider preparing as much as you can the night before, such as packing lunches, laying out clothes, making sure homework is done, etc. to better manage the morning stress trigger. Getting all the family members involved in the night-before preparations can also make the process easier and less stressful.
Don't be afraid to ask friends or family members how they cope with stress triggers. Many people are dealing with the same pressures and stress in their lives - work, family commitments, trying to make ends meet - and how they deal with those pressures may help you, too.
Many employers offer wellness programs as part of their employee benefits to help with stress management. Employee Assistance Programs, or EAPs, are a great resource for help coping with legal, financial, emotional or family issues - usually without any direct cost to the employee.
Be sure to find out if an Employee Assistance Program is available to you and your household's members.
Finally, it's important to understand that there will always be stress, especially with today's fast-paced lifestyles. But with some practice - and a little help when you need it - you can better manage stress and the daily events that can trigger it.
Barry Beder, MSW, LICSW, Vice Presidentof Corporate Healthand Productivity,Blue Health Solutions