Here are some of the things you never want to say to me when I’m stressed out:
-“it’s going to be okay”
-“just relax!” (my favorite)
I get it, all of these actually make sense and hey, I myself say those things all the time to other people or even to myself. When you’re under a lot of stress though and your body already feels tense, the last thing you want to hear is to “just relax!“- it’s sort of like telling someone who’s having a mild panic attack to “just stop feeling anxious!” It doesn’t work like that.
The other day I was freaking out about having to get an MRI done (super claustrophobic- I can’t even drive a car through extremely narrow roads without getting nauseous), and while everyone kept telling me to “just relax, it’s going to be okay” all I kept thinking was “noooo it’s not!!! I’m going to die a horrible and painful death while suffocating once that awful tube slowly shrinks and crushes me to pieces.”
I was on my way to a full-blown panic attack when my husband told me to“just breathe.” Then, I remembered that yeah, breathing deep is what I do, meditating, taking care of myself, these are all the habits I’ve been learning to adopt over the years. It’s those little rituals and routines that I should treat as tools for dealing with all this stress. I find that words “just breathe” are a lot more helpful since it actually gives the other person something to do, something to focus on.
Sometimes it feels like there’s just so much we need to worry about. While I felt like my entire life had to be put on hold since my accident, I also worry about work deadlines, getting things done, staying productive and healthy, now I also have to deal with a paralyzing fear of being crushed to death?!
So yes, if you’re feeling stressed out, I guess the good news is that you’re not alone. Stress is a such a big issue for us these days, bigger than it’s ever been. We all seem to be under so much pressure. We all also stress about many different things: work, school, relationships, health. Always chasing something bigger, something better.
Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand and it can manifest itself in many different ways- there are also some ways to reduce that stress in your life.
10 WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS IN YOUR LIFE
In order to eliminate (or reduce) stress, you first need to identify major stressors in your life. Stress assessment is a very personal process. Take a close look at your daily routine and think about some of the things that often make you feel tense and stressed. Maybe it’s some of your relationships, certain behaviors, activities, places? Make a list of those things/activities and ask yourself how you can eliminate some of them from your life- some things you will not be able to change completely and finding a way to make them less stressful might take some thoughtful planning.
STICK TO A HEALTHY DIET
Here’s the thing with stress: it’s during those stressful moments when we usually reach for unhealthy foods. Then, we feel sluggish, tired and sometimes a bit guilty about… well, eating crap. Try to eat a little healthier- always keep a healthy snack in your bag/desk, so that you don’t reach for anything unhealthy when you get those sudden cravings. This REALLY doesn’t need to be complicated- I always have some berries and a handful of almonds with me. Stay away from processed foods and foods high in sugar, make sure that your diet is rich in foods that help fight stress, like:
-Dark leafy greens (like spinach)
Staying active is just as important- even if you only spend 20-30 minutes a day, doing some light exercising.
Clutter, I think we can all agree, adds unnecessary stress. Lack of organization is a part of all of our lives, to some extent. Over time, things just move around, get displaced, stacked up and messy. It’s natural. What’s a bit scary at times, is the rate at which that clutter accumulates. Dishes that you don’t feel like washing right after dinner stay in the sink until morning, only in the morning you’re running late and they have to wait until you get back from work early evening.
What’s one of the last things you feel like dealing with when coming home after a long day?
Yup, you guessed it: a pile of dirty dishes. This is why the clean-as-you-go concept, is so important. Not just when it comes to dishes, but everything else, too. When getting organized, start with the area where you spend most of your time- like your work desk. While I’m pretty good at unintentionally creating a ton of “organized mess” on my desk, I find that having a workspace that actually is clean and organized, helps me stay both creative and focused.
Think of organizing as a way of guarding your time.
CREATE + COMMIT TO A MORNING ROUTINE
Increase your morning stress and chances are it will carry on throughout the day. Not having to rush means that you won’t be running late and adding more unnecessary stress to your day. Create a morning routine and set a good tone for the rest of your day. This will help you eliminate stress before it even happens.
It’s not easy to notice the good if we’re constantly chasing something better. Learn to take and do things slowly and try not to rush through life too much. Enjoy your food, savor that book, take time to enjoy nature, pay attention to the people around you.
One of the easiest ways to reduce stress is to simplify as much as possible. Don’t overcomplicate things. Get rid of clutter, delete all the apps you don’t use from your phone, simplify your wardrobe by getting rid of old and unloved clothes (this will make simple things like getting dressed in the mornings much easier). Simplifying also means reducing your commitments, tuning out unnecessary noise and distractions. Think of simplifying as editing your life- edit it frequently and have a little “cleanse” once in a while.
SCHEDULE MINI BREAKS
Good time management is key and hey, I personally don’t know what I’d do without time-blocking. I schedule everything, even short breaks during my work day. By doing this, I avoid both procrastination and a burnout. Sometimes, I also take time to “unschedule” things, too; learning to say “no” is just as important.
The more you need to get done, more overwhelmed and stressed you probably find yourself feeling. There are times when your to do list is so long, the only way you think you can tackle it is by doing everything at once. The thing about multitasking is that we all think we’re good at it. Truth is, for most people, multitasking increases stress levels. While it might seem productive, multitasking is actually less-efficient and makes you more prone to making errors.
TAKE A DEEP BREATH
Don’t underestimate the power of a good, deep breath, yo! Every hour or so, take a minute to stop and breathe. Take a few deep breaths, have a gentle stretch. If you can’t remember to do this on top of every hour, set hourly reminders for yourself on your phone. If you suddenly start feeling stressed at work- go outside or a different room and take a few deep breaths. A good cuddle is another thing you shouldn’t underestimate.
CHANGE YOUR UNHEALTHY BELIEFS
You guys know that I’m a huge believer in positive affirmations. I know that stress can manifest itself in many different ways and development of unhealthy habits is one of them. I specifically mean the way we sometimes make ourselves feel small when we feel either stressed or under pressure. We use words like “I can’t” a lot more often during times of stress. Recently, I also talked about perfectionism, and that’s another habit/belief that often limits us: if I can’t do this perfectly, then I won’t do it at all. Learning to let go, changing these habits and beliefs, can alone make a big difference.
DON’T MAKE YOURSELF FEEL SMALL!! Don’t think that just because you’re feeling stressed or tired, or burned out, it makes you weak. It doesn’t make you any less productive, ambitious or driven. We all have shit to deal with and even though sometimes you might feel small, alone, overwhelmed or tired, know that you are not alone in this.
I’d be great if every time we feel stressed, we could take an afternoon off, book a massage, take a bath or plan a weekend getaway. That’s just not realistic. It’s important to have a variety of these strategies as ways to reduce stress- sort of like a toolbox for stressful times. Some other things that work for me are talking it out with someone close (someone whose mindset at the time is a bit more positive than mine), going to bed early and letting go.
How do you guys cope with stress?