Everywhere you look, people seem to be complaining about stress. They’re talking about how much stress they’re under, the things that are stressing them out and the many and varied ways that the stress is affecting them. Just listening to all this stress-talk produces waves of anxiety in even the coolest of people. After years of working my butt off at school, work, uni and in the blogosphere, I’ve come up with a number of ways to cope when life starts getting stressful. Here are my very best tips for dealing with stress.
Talk to someone
Sharing your feelings with somebody that you trust can really help to lighten the load. You could chat to a friend or family member, your romantic partner, or even a trained councilor. Sometimes, talking about the problem can help to put things in perspective, and might give you a feeling of relief. The other person might be able to offer a fresh perspective on the issue, which means that they can make suggestions that you might not have thought of yourself.
Make an ‘every damn day’ list.
I stole this idea from Sarah of Yes and Yes. Basically, the ‘every damn day’ list is a list of things that you must do every single day. No exceptions. When you write your list, be critical and try to include only the things that you absolutely need to do each day. If the list is too long, it will become unmanageable and you’ll feel even more pressured if you don’t tick off every item before bedtime. My Every Damn Day list looks like this:
– Wear something that makes me happy.
– Do one thing that improves my blog.
– Do one thing that’s just for fun.
– Eat at least one serve of fruit or vegetables.
– Exercise for at least 15 minutes.
– Talk to one person I love.
– Think of one thing I’m grateful for.
If I’m feeling overwhelmed by the number of tasks that I have to attend to in a day, I take a look at the list and check off the ones I’ve done. I tell myself that if I do everything on the list, then it’s been a good day. Making an ‘every damn day’ list really helps you to see which things are really important, and gives you a bit of perspective.
Trim your schedule.
Usually, when people feel stressed, it’s because they are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff that they feel needs to be done every day. Some days, it feels as though you’re chipping away at a mountainous ‘to do’ list without making any real progress. If you’re feeling this way, it might be time to re-assess your personal schedule. Look critically at your diary and figure out if there’s any project or activity that you could chop out. Are there any daily activities that could be simplified to save time? For example, if you are always running late because you spend forever choosing an outfit, you could try putting together an outfit the night before. Trimming the fat from your schedule will make way for more time to attend to the tasks that you have to do, and more room for the things you love.
Physical activity is an amazing stress-buster. If I’m feeling tense, sometimes all it takes is a run around the block or half an hour of yoga to make me feel human again. You don’t have to spend hours at the gym or run for miles to feel the benefits. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and use it as an anxiety elixir. Yoga, dancing, running, hula-hooping, and team sports are all fun, easy ways to get your endorphin hit. Even a gentle walk around the neighborhood will give you time to clear your head and blow off steam.
Break it down.
When we’re feeling anxious about a particular problem, it’s easy to blow things out of proportion. If you’ve got a gargantuan issue that’s clogging up your brain, take the time to break the problem down into manageable pieces. Write down all the reasons that this problem is stressing you out. Flesh out exactly how you’re feeling. Now, brain-storm some ways to overcome it. Write down any idea you have, no matter how silly it might seem. Then, evaluate your options and decide on a plan of action. I find that when I know exactly what I’m going to do to tackle a problem, it doesn’t seem quite as scary.
Schedule time for the things you love.
When your schedule is filling up with work engagements and assignments, your hobbies and leisure activities are usually the first thing to get shafted. It’s important to continue with your favorite pastimes, because these are the things that keep you sane. No matter how busy you are, schedule time to do one thing that you adore every day. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate, it can be something as simple as reading a chapter of your favorite book or taking a bubble bath. Write the activity in your diary and book yourself a block of time in which to do it. Then stick to it. Your hobbies are exactly as important as work commitments, so you should treat them as such.
It’s tempting to cut corners with meals when you’re really busy. Sometimes, it’s easier to grab a burger and chips on the way home than it is to cook a hearty, healthy meal. However, if you continue to eat poorly for a long time, your diet is going to take it’s toll. Eating a bunch of sugary, fatty junk is going to severely deplete your energy levels. You’ll also be more susceptible to illness, because your body isn’t getting all the nutrients it needs to keep your immune system firing. Make time to cook healthy meals, pack nutritious snacks for yourself and avoid drinking too many caffeinated beverages. Before you dismiss these activities as being too time-consuming, think about how much more productive will be if you fill your tank with good fuel rather than shitty takeaway. Think about the amount of time you’ll lose if you get sick or run-down. Even though it takes a little longer to prepare a healthy meal, it’s actually a much more efficient way to eat.
Write it down
I’m a creative person, and I find that writing my feelings down is a great way to get stress out of my system. You could try keeping a journal, or venting your frustrations on a blog. Something I like to do is open my journal to a blank page and just start writing. Don’t think to hard about what you’re putting down, don’t try to plan it, just write. It will start out as drivel, but then your feelings and thoughts will start to emerge and form coherent sentences. Write until there are no more words left. This really helps me to get my frustrations out and organize my thoughts when I’m really upset.
Try to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
It helps to be able to see an end to your stress. Look to the future and try to think of a time when your stress will be over. This might be the end of your exam period, the deadline for that big work presentation or the day you move out of that crummy apartment. If you’re feeling genuinely stressed, and there is no clear end-point in sight, create one. Book yourself a holiday, plan a party or just take a single day’s leave. It helps to have something awesome to look forward to, to pull you through those tricky times.
Surround yourself with people you love.
Make time to see your friends and family. These people are golden in your battle against stress. See and speak to them as often as possible. They’ll help take your mind off things, and listen if you want to talk about what’s stressing you. Sometimes, when we’re anxious, we can draw into our own little worlds, which leads to a feeling of isolation. It’s vital to keep connected with your social network, to avoid this feeling.
When I’m really under-the-pump, I find it helpful to set myself three major goals for the day. I put all my energy into getting these tasks done, and then I relax. While eating your breakfast, think about the three tasks that absolutely must be completed that day. Consider anything else a bonus. You can only cram so much into a day, so make sure your time is spent on the most important things.
Be realistic and kind to yourself.
So many people seem to wear their stress as a badge. If they don’t feel as though they’re about to explode with frustration and exhaustion, they believe they aren’t working hard enough. For some, feeling stressed means that they’re working really hard, and are somehow better than everyone else who isn’t working themselves to death. You really do need to be realistic about how much work is too much. If you’re so tired and tense that you’re snapping at random strangers on the bus, or yelling at your cat, then you’ve worked too hard. Those initial signs of stress should be a signal to you that you’re overextending yourself. If you start to get anxious, take a step back and breathe. Recognize that you’ve hit your limit, and allow yourself to take a break. There’s no shame in admitting that you’ve had enough, or taking a breather. You shouldn’t feel as though you need to work yourself into a screaming mess. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to work within your own limits. Don’t fall into the trap of pushing yourself until you have a nervous breakdown, or wearing your stress like a badge of pride.
How do you deal with stress? Do you have any excellent stress-busting tips?