Hi & welcome to my blog!
If you’re here, you’re probably wondering how you can make your days a little easier, and dare I say…less stressful? Sometimes it feels like we’re stuck and there’s no way out. We’re struggling to meet deadlines, pay bills, take care of family, keep up with our social lives, and still find enough time to get all the other tasks done. All of this is bound to build up over time and cause those tight shoulders, lumps in our throats, wobbly tummies, regular tension headaches, and sometimes worse. From wreaking havoc on our immune systems to keeping us from falling asleep, stress impacts our health in all kinds of ways. But learning how to deal with stress in healthy and productive ways can greatly improve both mental and physical health.
Assess where you are right now with self-care.
Self-care is so important! It keeps us in good health and helps us maintain balance in our lives. Unfortunately, many of us have the belief that spending time on ourselves is selfish. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Taking care of ourselves is vital to living a happy and stress-free life. I really like this Self-Care Assessment from Therapist Aid. Spend some time answering the questions to see where you need some adjustments and where you’re doing just fine.
Learn to practice mindfulness.
When we’re living mindfully, we’re aware of our experiences without passing judgement. We’re living in the moment and accepting whatever thoughts or feelings pop into our heads. Learning to practice mindfulness daily can help decrease depression, anxiety, or general stress. Mindfulness can be done in all kinds of ways, so try a few out and see what fits for you.
Body Scan: Sit somewhere you can concentrate and pay attention to physical sensations in your body. You aren’t trying to change the sensations or relax like you would during a meditation. You’re just noticing and being aware. Start from your feet and slowly work your way up your calves, thighs, hips, etc. Some feelings you may notice are tingling, pressure, burning, coolness, or pain. Do this slowly and remember to only notice what you’re feeling. Sometimes it helps to take notes of what you’re feeling after you finish the body scan. Do you find that your ankles feel sore every night? Are you getting headaches every afternoon? Think about why this might be happening and how you can improve it.
Eat Mindfully: Find a small food (something that can be held in your hand mess-free is best) and spend some time with it. Before touching it, notice how it looks. What color is it? How is the light hitting it? What size is it? How does it look sitting on the surface? Then, pick up the food and notice how it feels. What is the texture? What does it feel like in your hand? How heavy is it? Hold it up to your nose and notice what it smells like. Then, take a bite (but remember not to swallow it yet!). What’s the texture now? How does it taste? How does it feel on your tongue? Teeth? Gums? Chew your food and notice the way it feels and tastes now. You get the idea. Do this slowly and stay in the moment with your food.
Use Your Senses: Notice what you see. Notice what you feel. Notice what you hear. Notice what you smell. Notice what you taste. Remember to do this without passing judgement. This can be especially helpful for people dealing with panic attacks. If you’re ever caught in the middle of one or feel one building up, notice your surroundings. Sometimes it’s helpful to think of 5 things for each sense.
This is my personal favorite. Meditation can be especially helpful if we’re feeling wound up or in the middle of a particularly stressful task. I prefer guided meditations because, as someone with generalized anxiety, it can sometimes be hard to quiet my mind completely. I recommend The Honest Guys on YouTube if you want to try some of these. If you prefer meditating on your own, sit or lay somewhere you can get comfortable and be undisturbed. Focus on your breathing - taking slow, deep breaths through your nose and letting them out completely through your mouth. Once you feel relaxed, you can either sit quietly or repeat a word/mantra in your head. Words like peace, relax, calm, or breathe tend to be favorites. Remember to continue focusing on your breath. Do this for 10 minutes or whatever feels comfortable for you, then slowly come back to reality.
Reach out to your support system.
Remember, we’re social creatures. Taking about what’s bothering us or stressing us out can help us feel better even if the problem isn’t solved or the stressor doesn’t go away. Learning to ask for help when we need it or just share what’s on our minds can help ease some of the burden we’re feeling.
Take a step back and make a list.
Sometimes things can feel really big when we’re caught up in them. Removing ourselves from the situation and thinking about just how important things are can be incredibly helpful. Will this matter in a week? A month? A year? Five years? For the things that still feel big even after taking a step back, work on prioritizing what matters the most. It can be helpful to make a list of what needs to be done or what’s stressing you out. Rate each item from 1 to 10. If knocking out a few of the smaller, “1” items will help free up your mind, focus on doing those first. If there’s a big, “10” item that’s taking up too much brain space, work on pushing through that one. Figure out what kind of system works for you and follow that!
That’s it! These are just a few ways you can manage stress. Obviously, this isn’t a completely comprehensive list, but these are some of the regular ones I recommend to clients. Are you using any of these already? If not, which ones would you like to try?