Certain everyday situations have huge potential for causing stress. But by being organized and easing up on self-imposed time pressures, you can dodge these situations and skip the stress.
Sometimes, stressful situations occur because we let them — once you allow stress get to you, tension and anxiety can mount very quickly. Here are some common anxiety-creating everyday events, and ways you can reduce stress and minimize their impact on your life:
1. Being stuck in traffic. There are few feelings as frustrating as being in traffic that has come to a dead stop or is crawling along when you need to get somewhere in a hurry — your child’s school, your office, or a doctor’s appointment. You can’t anticipate an accident on the road, but you can do some advance planning to avoid stress:
- When possible, avoid scheduling appointments during peak traffic hours; when that’s not possible, give yourself twice the time to get to your destination.
- Research alternate routes or adjust your work schedule if leaving home 15 minutes earlier, for instance, can help you avoid traffic. And if you do get stuck, keep in mind that while you can’t control the traffic, you can control your reaction to the situation: Use your time constructively and reduce stress by listening to an audio book or practicing deep-breathing relaxation to prevent frayed nerves. If you’re going to be late for a meeting or appointment, call ahead to explain what’s happened rather than keeping someone else waiting. The person on the other end of the phone will probably be more understanding of your predicament than you expect.
2. Arriving on time. To reduce stress from being late, plan for unforeseen delays and give yourself extra time to reach your destination. If you arrive early, use the extra minutes to freshen up, get organized, return a phone call that you thought you’d have to delay, and delight in the fact that you avoided the stress of cutting it too close!
3. Meeting a deadline at work. It may not be uncommon for your boss to ask you to complete a project on short notice. You can use this opportunity to flounder or shine. Being organized in general can help make a pressing deadline a little less stressful. Practicing good time management skills will also reduce stress when you’re crunched for time. Consider writing out a concrete to-do list or making a schedule to help stay on track even when a major deadline is looming. Taking these methodic steps will increase your confidence level and help you avoid stress.
4. Making a presentation. Many people become anxious about giving a presentation whether it’s at work, a PTA meeting, or in front of a volunteer group. Taking the necessary time to get ready, though, can help you avoid stress. Plan ahead so you have plenty of opportunities to prepare, review, and give a dry run in front of a friend or your spouse — if you feel confident about your knowledge of the material, you will reduce stress. If you’re feeling nervous, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing before, during, and after your presentation, can help slow your heart rate and make you feel calmer.
5. Arguing with friends, family, or coworkers. It’s normal not to always see eye-to-eye with those around you. Even so, a disagreement doesn’t have to become a stressful confrontation. When you approach your loved one or co-worker respectfully — and recognize that you are each entitled to your own opinion — and having different opinions doesn’t have to change your opinion of one another. If it seems like an argument is spiraling out of control, take a deep breath and step back from the situation. A brief time-out can help both of you keep things in perspective.
6. Having a financial problem. Planning for potential financial issues ahead of time can help you reduce stress. Focus on building up your savings, consider taking an additional job if necessary, and stick to a reasonable budget. Living within your means and replenishing your savings account can help significantly reduce financial stress. If you do find yourself in a financial bind, seek out the advice of a financial counselor who can help you deal with creditors and find ways to cut your bills.
7. Waiting in line. Lines always seem to be longer when you’re in a rush. Unfortunately, waiting in line is another stressful situation that you can’t control, but you can anticipate and plan for by shopping at off-hours and online. If you’re pressed for time, put off tasks, like going to the post office, where there’s likely to be a long line. Look for stress-free ways to get your tasks done; using the Postal Service, it’s now possible to mail almost anything from home — you can print out postage and even request a pickup. Use self-checkout aisles at stores; they’re often less crowded. And if you have no choice but to wait in line, take deep breaths, think of something soothing, and simply try to let your stress go (but don’t give in to that impulse candy purchase!).
Careful planning and a change in your overall attitude can also go a long way toward reducing stress … and what a relief that will be!