Get stressed? Make a list!

Stress and worry can strike suddenly. Your chest tightens. Your mind races. Your chest aches. It can physically hurt.

You try to get it under control. You bring in your event horizon, or send it way out. You tell yourself you are ok today. Don't live in fear. You know you can't predict the future and that even tragic events have unexpected positive results. You know all this.

Sometimes, it is not enough.

Sometimes, you just need to stop. You need a timeout. Your defense is tired. Your defense needs a break.

Give yourself one.

But to give yourself a break, you need to prepare. You will often be unable to make good self-care decisions or think creatively when stressed. So prepare beforehand. Make a list.

The list you are going to make is a list of things that make you happy. Things that bring you joy. Actions, not items. Actions you control.

You need at least ten items on your list. It is ok to have a few items that need other people, but most should be things you can do yourself. Some can require money, but some should be free. Some may be time-bound, but you should be able to do some at any hour or on any day. The key is to have a variety to choose from in the critical moment.

Here is my list:

1. Read a book

2. See a movie

3. Eat a milkshake

4. Play a game with a friend

5. Have a beer with a pal

6. Call a friend

7. Call my kids

8. Have a cup of coffee and read the news

9. Write

10. Take a walk

As you can see, there is a nice variety. 4 of the actions require me to find another person, but 6 of them I can do on my own.

Seeing a movie, for example, means there has to be a movie playing I want to see. It has to be the right time of day. I have to set aside 2-3 hours. It is a powerful one, though. I am alone and unreachable for hours (I leave my cell phone in the car), immersed in another world, eating my warm popcorn and taking my mind far away from my troubles. I save this for tough days.

Reading a book, on the other hand, I can do anytime, anywhere, and for however long it takes for the bad feelings to subside. I make sure I have a book available most everywhere I go.

Eating a milkshake is almost foolproof for me - but I try not to go to that one too often. You certainly don't want all your choices to involve food or alcohol.

In any case, when all else fails, I pull out my list and pick one. I that isn't working, I pick another. I keep the list handy because it's hard to remember these when you're in the moment of stress. Just stick in in Google Keep of wherever you keep your notes, and you will have it when you need it.

What are your ten things? Make a list, save it where you can find it, and use it next time you feel overwhelmed.