Stress Management – Lesson 5
5.1. Budgeting Basics
Finances are a common cause of stress. Not having enough money to pay the bills can wreak havoc on an individual and a family. Plus, finances can limit recreational activities, which reduce your ways to relieve stress. Talk about a vicious cycle!
At the beginning of every month, sit down with yourself (and your spouse, if you have one) and create a budget. You can use a piece of paper and a calculator, a spreadsheet program, or a personal accounting package – whatever works for you.
Make sure that you account for the necessities, like mortgage or rent, car payments, debt payments, heat, light, groceries, and gas. Don’t forget to budget for some fun stuff too, even if it’s only $20. Savings are another important part of your budget – if your car breaks down and you’re stuck with a repair bill, it can be less stressful to take it out of the savings account than to put it on a credit card.
If you find yourself struggling to make ends meet, talk to a debt counsellor to help reduce your financial stresses. If you have an extremely high-end or low-end lifestyle, consider whether you can make changes to reduce your stress level. Spending tons of time and/or money on maintaining expensive cars, homes, and boats may not be wise if it’s causing you stress. Likewise, pinching every penny when it’s not necessary might not be worth it.
5.2. The Everyday Stuff
Much work goes into running a household. The good news is that a little planning can go a long way towards reducing household stress and arguments.
Every member of the family over the age of two should participate in household chores. Small children can place their clothes in the laundry hamper, make their bed, set the table, and feed pets. Older children can help cook meals (particularly if it’s an easy chore like mixing up a salad kit), walk the dog, and load the dishwasher.
It can also be helpful to identify who wants to do what. We all have chores that we don’t mind doing, and chores that we hate, so if you can find some overlap, life will be easier on everyone.
Another option, particularly if you live alone or have a small family, is to hire out some of the chores, such as mowing the lawn. Just make sure you’re not causing yourself financial stress!
Sitting down on the weekend and planning your meals for the next week, and then going grocery shopping with a list, accomplishes several things.
- During the week, you don’t have to worry about what to cook or if you have the supplies in the house.
- When you get home from work, you shouldn’t have to rush back out to the grocery store.
- You will be more likely to eat healthy food and less likely to stop at your local restaurant.
- Cooking at home is better for your wallet and your waistline.
- Sitting down as a family and eating supper together is a great activity.
Here are some tips for meal planning:
- Choose recipes that are quick and easy to make.
- Purchase foods that reduce preparation time, such as pre-cooked chicken pieces or salad kits.
- Slow cooker meals are great any time of the year.
- Involve everyone in meal preparation. It can be fun to have a different family member cook every night, or to have someone responsible for the salad, another person responsible for the meat, and so on.
- Theme nights are a lot of fun. Meals like pizza and tacos can be easily customised by each member of the family.
- Keep frozen pizzas on hand, and allow yourself takeout once every week or two.
5.3. Organisation Tips
Write Things Down
We all know someone that remembers every birthday and sends cards for every holiday. It’s not magic and they don’t use memorisation. Trying to remember things will not help you to stay organised. You should try writing things down.
A pen and some paper is our way of remembering things externally, and it’s much more permanent. You can also use a computer or a smart phone. You will only further complicate your life by trying to contain important dates and reminders in your head. Write down everything: shopping lists for groceries, holiday gifts, home decor, and important dates like meetings and birthdays.
Make Schedules and Deadlines
Organised people don’t waste time. They recognise that keeping things organised goes hand-in-hand with staying productive. They make and keep schedules for the day and week. They make deadlines and set goals. And most importantly, they and stick to them! Similarly, by living a cluttered lifestyle, you will not have the time or space to make your deadlines or achieve your goals.
The longer you wait to do something, the more difficult it will be to get it done. If you want your life to be less stressful and less demanding, then organise as soon as you can. Putting in the effort to get things done as soon as possible will lift the weight off of you from doing it later.
Give Everything a Home
It’s easy to get lost if you don’t have a home. Keeping your life organised means keeping your things in their proper places. Organised people keep order by storing things properly and by labelling storage spaces. Make easy-to-access storage spaces for things you use all the time, and don’t let your storage spaces get cluttered. Be creative about finding places for things. In addition, as a BIG NO: never label a storage space as “miscellaneous!”
Find time each week to organise. Highly organised people make sure they find time every week, or more, to organise there things. Stuff does not stay organised on its own; it needs to be reorganised continuously and consistently.
Keep Only What You Need
More stuff means more clutter. People who live organised lives only keep what they need and what they really want. Having fewer things also means that you enjoy those things more and feel better about using everything you own, rather than letting half of what you own collect dust. Have you ever felt like you don’t have the space to keep all the stuff you own? Instead of renting a storage unit or buying a larger home, get rid of some things.
Know Where to Discard Items
Do whatever you can to get rid of stuff. Less stuff means less clutter. Donate to thrift stores. Sell on Craigslist or eBay. Take a trip to the recycling centre. Set up a garage sale. Find a place to get rid of your things.
Stay Away from Bargains
You have removed the things you don’t need. Will you replace them when you see something on sale? Instead of bargain shopping without planning ahead, write down down exactly what you need and buy only those items. Organised people do not give in to false advertising. Items on sale will only produce more clutter.
A really organised life is not overfilled with responsibilities, meetings, and deadlines. In fact, it has less because things that create stress have been slowly organised out.
Put in a little effort. Actually, put in a lot of effort when necessary. Once you have delegated responsibilities and made a schedule, then you can organise what you have to do and when you can do it. Staying organised is not all a breeze. It requires that you work hard with recognition that when you work harder, you can enjoy your clutter-free home life later.
5.4. Drainers and Fillers
Visualise the way you usually spend your day. Then list the least rewarding aspects of your day – those places/activities/people/conditions that diminish your energy.
|Activities/Conditions/Places/PeopleThat…||At Home||At Work||At Play|
|Wear you out|
Visualise the way you usually spend your day. Then list the better aspects of your day – those places/activities/people/conditions that renew your energy and well-being.
|Activities/Conditions/Places/People That…||At Home||At Work||At Play|
|Bring you joy|
|Give you meaning|
|Make you laugh|
This guide will lead you step-by-step through a creative planning process for coping with stress. It draws on your internal wisdom, so spend more time on the questions that strike you as particularly meaningful:
- Summarise your symptoms. What is wrong? Where are you experiencing pain? What are you worried about? What signals are indicating stresses in your life?
- Define the problem from several perspectives. What is the source of your stress? Write three or four different descriptions of the problem. Which one most clearly captures the cause of your stress?
- Learn from your previous attempts to solve the problem. What coping strategies have you already tried? Why didn’t they work? What new strategies are suggested by these previous failures?
- Check your attitude. How do you feel about this problem and your capability to deal with it? Herewith some suggestions:
- hopeless doubtful may be possible hopeful
- What about your desire to tackle the problem and do something about it? Herewith some suggestions:
- motivated willing to try partially committed highly motivated
- Identify your resources. What special strengths and skills can you bring to bear on the problem? Who will support you in the process?
- Specify your goals. What do you want to happen? To feel? To change? To accomplish? To increase or decrease? To learn? Be very specific.
- Formulate a clear plan of action. Based on the changes you want to make and the goals you’ve set, what specifically can you do?
- Go back and rate each of these potential action plans according to these criteria:
- Is it specific?
- Does it avoid radical change?
- Does it have long-term value?
- Will it provide some secondary benefits?
- Does it involve you as a whole person?
- Now, what exactly will you do? Include details on frequency, starting point, ending point, etc.
- Add a creative touch. Creativity makes any plan more enjoyable and usually more successful. How could you spice up your commitment? (Exaggerate it? Do it backwards? Minimise it? Combine it with something? Complicate it? Do it with a friend? Do it a different time?)
- Reward yourself. What special treats will you give to yourself when you accomplish some or all of your plan?