Tips to Help Make Stress a Smaller Part of Your Life
Recent life events have left me feeling strained and tense. Though I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am now, to identify my stressors, incorporate things into my routine to keep peace, and talk myself through hard times, I never really know what life is going to throw at me- even when I think everything is stable and good. That doesn’t mean I should fear that something ‘bad’ or ‘inconvenient’ will happen because I like to think when things fall through, there’s something good coming on the other side. It’s all for a reason.
I work hard towards my healing because it’s what I’m passionate about (among many other things). And it will take a while to completely build back up from the physical damages stress has done over time, as it will for me to work through mental/emotional barriers and coping habits that come up when I feel stressed. It’s important that I stay grounded when tough situations come along and work through it, but I definitely struggle to not lose it sometimes.
Stress is a physical, mental, and emotional burden. It’s an intelligent response from our body to keep us safe, but it takes energy and life force out of us- especially when it’s triggered often. Our bodies have the ability to (and do) remember trauma and stress. It can be triggered by a sight, place, smell, etc. And whether or not it’s a big or small stress- our body perceives it all the same.
Creating little or big ways to “keep the peace” (i.e. keep yourself from always being in the stress response) can make your life all the more easy and enjoyable. You can start to flow through life effortlessly and not hold onto everything so tensely anymore. I even see it in myself, that when I start making the effort to change and to help myself, I have a better experience existing here.
So how can you reduce stress and its impacts in your everyday life?
Start with the Basics:
- Sleep. Good quality sleep that is. It doesn’t have to be the standard eight hours. It can be more or less depending on what your body needs and asks for, but it’s important to make sure you’re getting restful sleep. It’s also best to go to bed 2-3 hours before midnight. And you can always take naps to get the rest you need in!
- Eat. Not when you’re stressed, but having grounding meals can help set you up to be grounded (so you’re not running off your own stress hormones). Spend time with your food, and cook a nice meal. Fueling yourself with a proper, full breakfast is the perfect way to start the day.
- Exercise. Sweat. Work your body. Doing some sort of physical activity when you’re stressed can help disperse and burn off that energy as well.
- Build a routine. This can be creating morning and/or nighttime rituals to help set you up for a peaceful day/evening. Something to give you a reason to get up in the morning and to wind you down at night.
- Make a to-do list. This can help organize your thoughts and tasks and also give yourself something to do if the reason you’re anxious is because you have an abundance of time to worry. The more time there is to be swimming in thoughts, the more lost in the stress sauce you can get. This doesn’t mean run away from what’s stressing you, but picking and choosing what consumes your time. You can give yourself the space in your list of to-dos to create something you’re passionate about.
- Start each day with gratitude. Something as simple as thinking positive thoughts or reliving happy memories each morning can set the tone for the day.
- Do things that give you joy. Nothing brings stress relief like something that makes you happy. Make time in your day for whatever it is that brings you joy.
- Identify your stressors, as well as how you respond to them. This can give you insight on what’s giving you so much stress and keeping you from your peace. Is it your job? Is it someone in your life? Is a certain overwhelming thought? How can you shift things around, deal with this, or make the predicament you’re in better? And how can you find ways to deal with this in a balanced way?
- Consider how social media and electronics are affecting your mental health. Social media and technology weren’t always a part of our lives. And in recent years, it has absolutely affected the health of the general population. Take into account how this might put strain on your mental well-being. What can you do to change that?
Build Up From There With (find what works for you):
- Be your own best friend. I’ve found that journaling my hardships has been my best medicine. I’ve taught myself to go to myself when I need comfort or to come down from my whirlwind of thoughts. It also helps me explain how I’m feeling, so I can find the good in it.
- Find time each day to go outside. Breathing fresh air can work wonders and even be the one thing you need to ultimately reduce your stress.
- Forest Bathing. Go to the woods or the ocean nearest you and fully immerse yourself. Experience the warm sunlight, the rushing water, the tall trees and leaves, breathe clean air- all the little things.
- Meditation. Doing some sort of meditation at some point (or multiple points) throughout your day can help give you perspective. It brings you to a neutral and blissful place where you can find what truly matters. It also has been proven to lower stress and anxiety levels across the board. I like to put on ambient music and drift off to a place that I feel happiest (visualization meditation).
- Breathwork. There are different forms of breathwork, but learning to do this as a mode of calming down at any point in your day can keep you from being locked into the stress response. It tells your brain you can relax and feels good.
- Create a space that gives you peace. Wherever you spend most of your time, make a space for yourself that gives you joy and makes you feel safe. When you’re feeling uncomfortable, anxious, sad, or stressed- go there and breathe.
- Work on coming from a balanced place. Train yourself to come from a neutral place when you’re faced with a stressful situation. You don’t have to hold your emotions in (feel them), but know not everything is a big deal. Life is too short to stress over every little thing.
- Community. Whether it be good friends or family, a loving partner, or nice coworkers, having a support system can bring security, a sense of purpose, and a feeling of being at home. Having loving relationships with the people around you is so important for your mental and emotional well-being. And working to create community or seek one out can make you feel less alone in your feelings and give you a place to go to safely speak of them.
***BONUS: Work with Plant Friends (herbs) to help combat stress!
So many things in life cause stress. Something I learned that was really big for me was what was really worth being stressed out over. I have to ask myself this every time a situation comes up- is it worth my time, energy, and worry? I have the power to give my stressor power. And though I may relinquish my thoughts or time to pestilent moments on occasion, I am my own ruler.
I ask myself- how will I choose to see this? Some things are just completely out of my control. And as my teacher said, the only things we have control of are 1) how we react to things, and 2) our actions and what we put out into the world. I need to let go of the fact that shit happens and sometimes there’s nothing I could’ve or can do to change that. And that’s OKAY.