We are only halfway through the first month of the new year and most of us are already feeling stressed out. Let’s face it. For most of us, 2013 is not going to be the year when stress miraculously leaves the face of the earth.  Things are not always going to go the way we would like and the only thing we can really do in those situations is develop better coping strategies.  Here are some suggestions to make it easier for dealing with life’s challenges.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep is underrated. With busy schedules, the first thing we are willing to sacrifice is rest.  While everyone is different, the average person needs between 6-8 hours of sleep every night and most of us are not consistently getting enough.  If you have children, think about how well things go when they haven’t had enough sleep. Not a pretty picture, is it? Why would you be any different?  If you find that you’re trying to get sleep but can’t, some of the suggestions can help with that too.

Eat Better

Our bodies need fuel to work but there’s a real difference in how we perform based on what we’ve eaten.  A drive-thru burger meal might be quick and convenient but most of us feel gross and sluggish shortly thereafter. Not to mention that any resulting weight gain doesn’t exactly help reduce stress. Think about a time when you ate well for a few days in a row. You likely felt proud, healthy and strong. Those are exactly the traits you need to combat stress. After all, as the old saying goes, you are what you eat!

Get Active

Too often we skip out on exercise because we are too busy, too out of shape or too tired.  The funny thing is that those are the most important reasons why we need to exercise.  When we engage in activities, we stop thinking about all of our problems for a little while.  It also activates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good neurotransmitters.  One other added perk is that studies show that people who exercise regularly have improved self-image and experience an improvement in symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

Breathe

If you’re feeling perpetually stressed, take a moment to check your breathing.  Are you only taking short, shallow breaths?  If so, that could be exacerbating your feelings of distress.  Take time for a few deep breaths and regain your composure and center yourself.  It sounds so simple but it really can make a huge difference.

Pick Your Company

Whether it’s a spouse, family members, friends or coworkers, most of us have someone in our lives who adds to our misery.  It might be time to reevaluate some of your relationships.  It can be hard to sever even the most unhealthy ties but it might be worth the initial pain if it means a toxic influence is being removed from your life.

Priorities

Life moves so quickly and we juggle so much at once that we often end up with our priorities in all the wrong places.  For that reason, it’s vital that we regularly reassess what we consider important.  It’s amazing how we can get so caught up that we lose sight of what really matters.

Limit TV and Social Media

We are overstimulated all day every day.  Even when we are alone (sometimes even in the toilet!) we are watching YouTube videos, updating Facebook, sending a tweet, recording a TV show or playing games.  How often do we give ourselves even a minute to just be?  Find relaxing instrumental music and play that on your commute instead of listening to the radio.  Put down your smartphone and actually look at the people you are talking to.  Climb into bed without a to-do list.  Commit to avoiding electronics for at least 30 minutes before bed. You might be amazed by how much your overburdened mind needs the break – and how much easier it will be to think clearly.