We generally think of stress as a negative thing, yet this is not necessarily the case. Stress drives human behavior, making people want to try new things and giving them a general sense of excitement about life. Some thrive on far higher amounts of it than others. However, it is negatively perceived because chronic stress can be devastating. It has the opposite effect of the good version, grinding people down and making them less functional. For this reason, it’s important to understand how to deal with stress in a healthy way.
When stress becomes overwhelming, it often feels as though many different things are clamoring for your attention at once. Even if the real source of your problem is a single thing, stress can make everything else in your life seem insurmountable as well. The first step you should take is to try to simplify, which is in itself really two steps. One is to slow down, practicing mindfulness by paying attention to your breath and your five senses, placing yourself in the moment. This can help stop your mind from racing and reduce physical symptoms of stress. When you have calmed yourself down, you then need to prioritize. What absolutely has to be addressed now and what can you drop or worry about later?
Once you have a better handle on the main things that you need to deal with, look for ways to solve the most important problems. Maybe you have moved an older parent into your two-story home and their mobility is becoming more limited. You work full time and have a family and you’re trying to do your best by your parent, but how do you address the fact that if you aren’t home during the day, they may not be able to get up and down the stairs? They might even be at a greater risk for a fall.
An important element of problem solving is letting yourself brainstorm, allowing yourself to explore all options instead of shutting some down. With this in mind, you might come to a solution like wheelchair elevators for seniors. Maybe this sounds impractical, but you can actually have a lift installed in most types of homes for a reasonable price. This would allow your parent to remain more independent and would relieve a significant source of stress for you.
After you have simplified and solved some major problems, you need to look at how to keep overwhelming stress from recurring. The key here is setting boundaries. Go back and look at how you simplified and prioritized, and think about what obligations you may be able to cut out of your life. It can be hard to get into the habit of saying no to things that people want you to do, but it is only in doing this that you can give the people and things in your life that matter to you the attention that they need. Learning to set and enforce boundaries is the long-term solution to stress reduction after you deal with the immediate problems as described above.