As responsibilities mount and options narrow, we are inundated with news and evidence concerning changes. Difficulty that causes worry or emotional tension may induce a response in us of feeling stress. Stress is a term we use to describe both the physical and psychological state. Experiencing stress includes a state of alarm and adrenaline production, short‐term resistance as a coping mechanism, and exhaustion. Common stress symptoms include; irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches, an elevated heart rate and sleeplessness. So what are we to do?

Our First Step is to identify and examine the causes of our stress. Recognize the difference between what we can control, and what we cannot control. To identify our true sources of stress we must look closely at our habits, attitude, and excuses.
In times of stress it is important to be proactive and focus on what we can address, recognizing the balance is out of
our hands. We have a lot more control of our life than we might think. In fact, the simple realization that we’re in control of our life is the foundation of stress management.

Second Step: Managing stress is all about taking responsibility for what we can do: taking charge of what we think, accepting responsibility for our emotions, our schedule, our environment, the way we speak, and the actions we take. The ultimate goal is a balance of doing what we can do, and letting go of what we cannot control. I am not minimizing the fact that letting go can be very difficult.

Third Step: Be deliberate in our physical self‐care. Choose healthy, safe ways to decrease stress. Exercise regularly.
Physical activity plays a key role in reducing and preventing the effects of stress. Make time for at least 30 minutes of exercise, three times per week. Nothing beats aerobic exercise for releasing pent‐up stress and tension. In times of economic stress fast‐walking, jogging, floor exercises, and TV/DVD workouts are free.
Eat a healthy diet. Well‐nourished bodies are better prepared to cope with stress, so be mindful of what you eat. Eliminate all foods containing partially hydrogenated oils. There's growing evidence that these unnatural fats are not good for us, and avoiding them and the processed foods that they come in would be a huge step toward improving nutritional health. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eat smaller meals at more frequent intervals. Feeling better physically enables our coping skills and productivity to increase. Article on effects of stress;

We cannot allow ourselves to decrease our stress in unhealthy or unsafe ways. Avoid alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs.
Self‐medicating with alcohol or drugs may provide an easy escape from stress, but the relief is only temporary. Don’t
avoid or mask the issue at hand; deal with problems head on and with a clear mind.
Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep fuels the mind, as well as the body. Be intentional during the evening to prepare your mind and body to relax and sleep. Helpful Hints; Use low lights, avoid high action or violent TV and movie themes, do not work on stimulating computer projects. The goal is to slow down the mind and body so that sleep is possible even in difficult times. Safe, organic supplements are available to help with sleep.

The Fourth Step: Connect with your spirituality. If you identify with a particular faith, become active. If you adhere to any beliefs regarding your spirituality, develop them. There is great relief in knowing that there is a spiritual purpose to your life untouched by external circumstances. Be aware of the meaning of your life. There is peace in contributing to a faith community, especially in challenging times. Practicing our beliefs can increase hope, strengthen social support, increase our sense of purpose and provide answers to the difficult questions in life.

Step Five: Connect with others. Spend time with positive people who enhance your life. A strong support system will
buffer us from the negative effects of stress. As a Relationship Therapist I cannot emphasize this point enough. Resist trying to control the uncontrollable. Many things in life are beyond our influence— particularly the behavior of other people. Rather than stressing out over them, focus on the things we can control such as the way we choose
to react to problems. No matter how difficult our circumstances are, let’s count the blessings. When facing major challenges, try to look at them as opportunities for personal growth. If our own poor choices contributed to a stressful situation, reflect on them and learn from our mistakes.
Share your feelings. Talk to a trusted friend or make an appointment with a therapist. Expressing what you’re going through can be very beneficial, even if there’s nothing you can do to alter the stressful situation.
Learn to forgive. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world and that people make mistakes. Let go of anger and resentments. Free yourself from negative energy by forgiving and moving on. Take steps to increase your family’s emotional wellness in stressful times; Improve opportunities to strengthen relationships, provide quiet time that
is age appropriate for each family member, be a positive influence on your children.

Step Six: Address the practical issues of Life. We can also prevent ourselves from getting into an overwhelmed state
(where we're more reactive to stress) by maintaining some regular stress relief activities as part of our schedule. Studies show that those who meditate regularly are less reactive to stressors that occur in their lives.
Watch minimal news, and not in the presence of children. Provide an environment of emotional safety. Children absorb the stress and chaos of the news and adult conversations even when they appear to be busy with other things. Carefully reserve all conversations regarding finances and the recession to when the children are not present, regardless of their age.

Decrease time the TV and electronics are on in the home, and provide relational activities such as craft projects, picture albums, board games or interactive games such as Cranium or Charades. Economically, these activities may
replace costly forms of entertainment. Fight a mediocre family life, quality time is not determined by finances.
Re‐discover relationships with walks, picnics, BBQs at the beach, scavenger hunts or outdoor games. Note that many family moments, even the trials, become cherished memories when our children leave home. They are emotional heirlooms. Some individuals reduce stress by:

Spending time in nature
Calling a good friend
Regular exercise
Writing in a journal
Taking a long bath
Lighting scented candles
Meeting a friend for coffee or tea
Enjoying pets and nature
Working in a garden
Getting a massage
Curling up with a good book
Listening to music or watching a comedy

Set aside relaxation time. Include rest and relaxation in your daily schedule. Don’t allow other obligations to
encroach. This is your time to take a break from all responsibilities and recharge your batteries.
Do something you enjoy every day. Make time for leisure activities that bring you joy, whether it be stargazing,
playing the piano, or working on your bike.
Keep your sense of humor. This includes the ability to laugh at yourself. The act of laughing helps your body fight
stress in a number of ways.

Author's Bio: 

Marta Hatter, LCSW provides psychotherapy services to clients at her office in Irvine, Ca.
Professionally, Marta is active in the National Association of Social Work, the EMDR International Association and the American Association of Christian Counselors. Marta is an EMDR Certified Therapist. In addition, Marta also provides online counseling for cross-cultural workers, humanitarian aid workers, and missionaries from California who are living and working abroad.