Cooling stress tips

Gain control of your to-do list and manage stress. Dreamstime/TNS

Do you feel depressed because you’re battling several large problems at once?

Maybe you have a financial problem that’s growing. On top of this, you might have a serious family illness. In addition, maybe you have a teenager in the family who’s in trouble at school.

Each of these problems is a “10” on a scale of 1 to 10.

You can feel your stomach tighten as you fight off anxiety. Sleeping a few hours straight might seem next to impossible, and one defeated thought leads to another.

If you’re completely overwhelmed, sit down and do a little planning. There’s nothing like a plan of action to help you get back on track.

“Before you address your problems, take control of your thought processes,” says a family counselor we’ll call Sherry.

Sherry insists, “If you can visualize your steps, you’re going to be a lot better off. I’ve been working with a close cousin, who has been suicidal. She tells me my methods of coaching are working for her.”

Sherry has coached many families, including military families, through many overwhelming issues.

She’s found that stress grows when you feel there’s nothing you can do.

Here’s Sherry’s advice to create a plan to reduce anxiety:

n Never overlook small changes to help a problem. For example, three or four improvements in your spending habits will add up.

n Make time to focus on fixing the problems. Set a time each week, such as Saturday afternoon, to figure out what you’ll change in the coming week.

n Balance pain with healthy activities you can control. For example, ask a friend to join you for lunch, if you’re going to face your child’s irate guidance counselor the same afternoon.

n Don’t let your thoughts run wild. Write down what’s bugging you and ask yourself what options you really do have to correct things.

“I thought I was going to lose my business and my house,” says a good friend of ours we’ll call Bill. “What really helped me cope was pretending I was helping someone else. I said to myself, ‘What would I advise someone else to do?’”

Bill explained that he decided to be honest with his wife. His wife, cool-headed by nature, said to Bill, “Tell me what you think could change your business worries?”

Bill figured out that having a good sales manager would be key. His sales manager, who quit last year due to a family illness, had kept Bill’s business in good shape.

“My wife helped me see that if I could find such a replacement person, I’d be OK,” says Bill. “Her brother, also a businessman, helped me hook up with a fabulous sales manager in less than a week.”

Having several overwhelming struggles at once can boggle the mind. If you’re in such a situation, it pays to immediately find some people to help.

For example, if you’ve got a major family illness going on, talk to people who’ve gone through the same challenge. They can likely give you some pointers, so you’re not struggling with too many variable factors.

The minute you can find a friend, mentor, or paid consultant to help you, you will have a new influx of knowledge to address an illness, financial setback, or family problem.

Keep in mind that stress can be defined this way: It’s anything that makes you feel out of control. Reversing that feeling will keep you calmer and in charge of your life.

Judi Light Hopson is author of the stress management book, “Cooling Stress Tips.” She is also executive director of USA Wellness Cafe at

Tribune Wire

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