Hi, my lovelies! It’s National Stress Awareness Month, and so today, I wanted to talk about stress. It’s everywhere, and it can cause you a lot of harm. While some people wear stress as a badge of honor, too much stress is not healthy for anyone and a host of health issues can arise when you are too stressed without a break.
If you let your stress build up, you’ll find yourself irritable, unenergized, hungry all the time, sick and overall just miserable with your life (and most likely miserable to be around too). Of course, some stress is good, but a lot of chronic stress (daily and constant) is bad. And believe it or not, exercise is stress too, which is why you have to make sure you aren’t overdoing it there either.
Before now, I spent a good portion of my life walking around like a giant stress ball. But somehow, over the years, I’ve learned how to manage my stress and not let it control me (sometimes it still gets the better of me, of course). And looking back now, the things that stressed me before (being young, single, working a busy 8-to-5 job and managing the gym and my social life) just don’t seem all that stressful compared to what I deal with these days.
Five little things I do to feel less stressed
Here’s what works for me …
I mean it. If I feel a little stress coming on, the worst thing I can do is scroll social media on my phone or mindlessly look at the Internet. Yes, there is some great content out there (like this blog??). But seeing what other people are eating or doing with their lives in a perfectly curated way will not make you feel better about whatever is weighing on you.
That’s why I recommend that you put your phone down and away. Perhaps even put your phone on airplane. And get away from the computer (if you can). When I feel overwhelmed with life or with what I’ve got going on, I unplug. It works! If you’re in a busy job and you can’t totally unplug from your work to-dos, then when you get done with work, take that time to separate yourself from technology and digital communication — do your best to get away.
Going for a walk outside.
When Brady was a tiny baby and things were absolutely ridiculous — we weren’t sleeping at all, we had just moved into our first home, we had zero babysitter options and no family around, and I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right — you know what would always make me change my mindset and have a better outlook? A walk. A walk outside. Sounds silly, but it’s a real thing. I had to pull myself away from whatever was going on in the moment and leave it behind for a bit.
Of course, taking a walk with a baby also meant getting him into the stroller, leashing Rudy up and grabbing my hat, glasses and keys — quite the production — but it was always worth it. I know that going for a walk is a simple idea. But if you’re working on a project, you spill a mug of coffee on your desk and you are worried about something going on in your personal life and you feel a big cry coming on when it all hits you at once — I bet you don’t immediately think to separate from it and get fresh air at that moment. But you should.
Even now, when things are tough, I always try to get a little sunshine and move my body in a gentle way. And during busy weeks when I have a lot I’m worrying about, those are the weeks I try to schedule a walk with a friend, because I know getting out there will help me. I believe there’s some connection with nature as a calming force too.
Eating a healthy, but tasty meal or snack.
You know how people who live a healthy lifestyle often have a nice disposition and feel good in their bodies? Well, there’s a science behind it. Get this: The nutrients and vitamins in healthy food like salmon, spinach, nuts and yogurt to name a few can actually help your body to produce and release both serotonin and dopamine — happiness chemicals that improve your mood and numb your pain. That’s also because the stomach/gut is completely connected to the brain. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous? There you go.
If you aim to keep your gut functioning properly by eating fermented foods and food with active cultures, your brain and mindset will benefit — thus helping you deal with stress. Not to mention eating healthy food is a form of self-care, whereas diving headfirst into fast food or a processed and packaged sugary snack will disrupt the balance in your stomach and make you feel worse, physically and mentally. So when in doubt, sit down to a healthy and tasty nutrient-dense meal and see if it does anything for you.
Adopting a “one day/one thing at a time” mindset.
I have a tendency to get overwhelmed when thinking about stressful things that may continue in my life. It used to be: How can I keep up with this go-go-go, never home, always working or teaching classes or at an event lifestyle that I had before Brady was born making me exhausted. Now it’s more like, how will I continue to work as Brady schedule changes and be able to get what I need to do done and how will I handle one more toddler tantrum in a public place? Etc. etc. The thing is, I usually see situations as lasting forever, but finding that “take it one day at a time” mindset has been really helpful to remind me that things aren’t forever. And they are more manageable than I originally thought.
If I sit back and think, okay, all I need to do is get through this day or this thing, then I can feel more at ease and as though I have the capacity to handle it. Anyone else?
Doing a low intensity, but valuable workout.
Movement is medicine. And too much medicine is bad for you. When you’re stressed, or if you are a high-stress person, believe it or not, intense exercise is not the answer for you. All that it does is continue to keep your cortisol high and spiked, so that you can’t come down and feel better. In fact, high-stress days and stressful times actually call for more gentle, purposeful and low impact or lower intensity work. I feel like barre, Pilates, yoga, walking and short weights circuits are ideal for stressful times. That’s what I like to do.
While some people think they can work their stress out with a super tough sweat session, I would completely recommend trying try a more gentler version of movement, which is still very valuable, and see how it helps. Trust me on this one, friends.
Other honorable mentions for reducing stress ….
- Meditation. I’m only 11 days into my meditation journey, so I won’t even try to speak intelligently about it as though I’m wise and all knowing. But I will say that countless people and many studies have shown that spending time in meditation each day helps you to put things in perspective. Being connected with your thoughts helps you to see your life from the outside in so you know that some things really don’t matter. And most importantly, meditating helps you to deal with everything that comes your way, because how you react is everything. That’s stress relief right there.
- Yoga. Mindful movement that requires you to focus on your breathing, stretching your body, flowing and being present — another great way to reduce your stress. Yoga is so darn beneficial, and I think that anyone who is a high-stress person should consider adding a gentle yoga class into their week, or at least try a few sun salutations at home each morning to start the day. I miss yoga and really should do it more often.
- Calling a friend or family member. Who can talk you off the ledge like your people, you know. When I’m wrapped up in a big bundle of stressful thoughts with a lot going on, I usually call my mom. She helps me break things down and listens to me rant. The act of ranting actually gives me a bit of relief for sure. Don’t be scared to reach out to someone else to help you in your time of need. They will be glad to do it.
- Journaling. Writing down what you are grateful for, writing down everything that you need to take care of and when you will do it, writing down your thoughts — these are helpful efforts. While I don’t necessarily “journal” in the hard-copy sense outside of my daily handwritten to-dos, I do write to work through things at times (through various unfinished and published blog posts).
- Music. Listening to your favorite song, dancing to it, or even making your own music by singing or playing an instrument — all valuable things.
- Laughter and snuggles. I swear, Brady and Rudy may cause me stress, but they also take it away. If you have a dog and you are not utilizing them to help you to feel better during a stressed state, you are missing out. I feel like Rudy knows when I need him, and I hold him, pet him, play with him and feel better.
There you have it! I know some of these things may seem trivial, but oftentimes, when you’re caught up in a bad way with what’s going on in your day, it’s the little things you forget to do. Good luck to you, my friends! Sending you lots of stress-free vibes!
As a side note: If you’re struggling with stress that’s also combined with anxiety, you should seek out help from a doctor. You don’t have to go at it alone. 🙂Need to stress less? Here are some tips on A Lady Goes West for #StressAwarenessMonth ... Click To Tweet
Here are some other posts you may like:
- Three things that could be holding you back from feeling good on a daily basis
- How to learn to be less rigid to find your real health
- This is my actual must-do healthy morning routine to start the day
Questions of the day
What’s something that always stresses you out?
How do you deal with stress?
Who do you call when you need to talk to someone?
What was the best part about your weekend?