HOW TO COPE WITH STRESS WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED AF
Raise your hand if you’re stressed? (Me, right here!) Whether you’re sending me a digital high five or an emoji fist bump, I see you. Like, really see you. These days stress is baked into everything – from grocery shopping, to online schooling, to the state of the world everywhere. It’s a lot. Like, a lot lot.
Although not a natural beauty, stress is still natural
Now typically, this is the part where the author will tell you to “follow these 10 simple steps to kiss your stress goodbye!” And yes, while there’s a ton of that content floating around out there right now, I wanted to take the road less traveled to say this one simple thing: it’s okay to acknowledge that you’re feeling stressed AF.
No matter how much you “have your shit together”.
No matter how rock hard your abs are, or are not.
Given the state of the world, we’re all stressed, and there’s no hacking our way out of this reality without first acknowledging that stress has become our constant, unwanted companion. It’s like low-grade pressure that we’ve gotten somewhat used to carrying around all day – that is, until it boils to the surface and comes out as a surprising grown-up tantrum. Just me? I don’t think so. I know we’ve all had moments like these throughout the last year. And yes, while these barely-holding-it-together moments haven’t necessarily reflected us at our finest, they have been a part of the collective experience. So why run from the stress? Why try to hide it? Why not acknowledge that this is a natural part of what we’re all going through right now and then try to flow through it with a little less angst?
What can we learn from stress?
Stress can actually teach us a lot about ourselves if we choose to tune-in and pay attention to it. What triggers us and why? What feels heavy and why? Where is the disconnect between our expectations and reality… and why? By exploring the answers to questions like these, we can learn so much about how to bring ourselves into a better harmony.
With summer right around the corner and the world (maybe one day) opening back up, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on my own stress levels. Because that’s the thing about stress too – you often don’t realize just how much of it you’re carrying around because it just kind of creeps up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar. It starts to feel normal. It starts to feel – dare I say – “comfortable”.
However, I’ve recently acknowledged that my heightened stress levels aren’t serving me, and I’m choosing to take deliberate action to combat my nerves so that I get back to a more sustainable rhythm and balance.
3 THINGS MY STRESS LEVELS HAVE TAUGHT ME
Staying present and focusing on the “moment”
really helps calm me the EFF down
I find my days feel far more manageable when I can keep my mind focused on the present moment. What does that mean? How do you actually stay present? Well, for me, it looks like carrying around a little journal that I can access when I find myself spiraling into negative-narrative (which, hello, happens pretty regularly). When I’m in the downward spiral, I simply take a second to write down all the angst that I’m feeling. It’s almost as if writing the feelings down de-burdens (yes, I just made that word up) my soul and calms the angst that’s quietly brewing beneath the surface. At the end of the day, I take a look at my list of “worries + negative thoughts” and actively process them by acknowledging the feelings and figuring out what I can tangibly do to move forward.
Can I prioritize things differently?
Can I ask for help?
How can I refute the limiting beliefs that seem to be popping up?
I know this process seems a bit cumbersome and daunting, but really, you’ll be surprised at how quickly it becomes second-nature and how much lighter you’ll feel by offloading your feelings throughout the day.
Good food is my foundation
I know – it’s so, so, SO tempting to grab a granola bar or a handful of chips or (if you’re anything like me) a cup of crunchy cereal when you’re on the verge of getting hangry. One snack turns into another and then before you know it, you’re overloaded on pseudo-junk that begins to exacerbate the stress you’re already feeling. Now, not only is it about your real-life stressors, but it’s also about the fact that you’ve let your nutrition slip, your tummy feels uncomfortable, and your blood sugar is running wild. Can you tell I’ve done this many-a-time?
What have I learned? That taking 10 minutes to eat a wholesome meal filled with protein and healthy fat keeps me feeling in-control and in-charge, which in turn helps to reduce my stress levels. By nourishing my body in a healthy way, I instantly feel like I’ve done something “deliberately good” for myself, which gives me the small-win I need to feel like everything isn’t falling apart.
Letting go of the “small stuff” is necessary
Isn’t it so annoying when people say, “don’t sweat the small stuff”? It’s so annoying. Like, really, really annoying. But man, they’re so right, aren’t they? And never have I felt it more than during the pandemic. I used to care about the small things:
Is my daughter eating enough broccoli?
Do I have the perfect skincare regimen?
Are there weeds growing in our backyard?
Is Niam mastering his nap schedule?
That was then. This is now.
Now, I just don’t have the capacity to sweat the small stuff. As long as the general picture looks semi-decent, I don’t worry about it. Why? Well, I guess you just can’t help but gain major perspective when you’re faced with catastrophic world events. Things that used to seem important and stress-worthy just don’t anymore, and in some ways, it’s pretty liberating. It’s a small win, but I’ll take it because often it’s the “small stuff” that really gets in the way of us experiencing peace-of-mind and joy in our day to day lives. I’m not saying I’m grateful for the pandemic, but it certainly has shown me the importance of perspective and letting the small stuff roll off your back.
Stress is here to stay, but we can make peace with it
As much as I know that good food and regular exercise can help reduce stress levels, I’m not here to tell you to do 1, 2, 3 and ‘bam!’ your stress will disappear. What I’m trying to say is that like it or not, stress is going to show up in life over and over again in new and challenging ways. But if we look closely and pay attention, stress can contain all sorts of insights that can fuel our personal growth in ways we never expected.
Lean into it.
Explore your stress a bit.
You may just uncover some important tidbits about who you really are.