Summer is supposed to be a time of rest and relaxation. So why is it that it so often stresses us out instead?
We're anxious about getting all of our work done before we leave for our vacation.
We're stressed about packing everything in our suitcases-- how does anyone manage to fit it all?
We're worried we're going to forget something important and mess it all up.
We're even anxious about our anxiety, concerned about our worrying, and stressed without knowing exactly why.
What in the world do we do about it?
I'm going to offer some simple solutions for reducing our stress and anxiety levels, as well as giving ourselves grace for them as we go along. What do you say?
[Anxiety is no joking matter. Neither is grief or depression. I'm not saying these things aren't real problems that deserve thoughtful approaches, and I don't want to underestimate the power of a good psychologist or pharmaceutical help for even a second. I'm merely opening the conversation up for things that can be added onto outside help for those with mental illnesses and things that can help the rest of us who just experience some anxiety from time to time.]
IDENTIFY THE ROOT PROBLEM
What's really causing our anxiety? Chances are, if we're obsessing about packing just the right t-shirt, it's not about the shirt.
Most of the time, things like finding the right shirt are just the straw that broke the camel's back, not the bigger problem. There's generally an underlying issue or a problem swept under the rug that needs to be unearthed and addressed.
To discern what the bigger problem might be, there are some introspective questions you can ask.
- What am I really upset about?
- Why am I upset?
- Am I upset about something someone else said to me?
- Am I worried about what other people will think?
- Am I fearing the worst case scenario?
- Am I afraid to fail?
- Am I getting upset with the wrong person?
- Is this a time management issue?
- Is there a bigger conflict with my family, friends, or coworkers?
- Is this feeling triggered by a sensitivity?
Once you're aware of the underlying issue, you can begin to face it!
*If you can't identify the root problem, consider talking to a friend, family member, mentor, or counselor for some help. They'll be able to help you see things differently, and that will be the beginning of working your way through it! There's no shame in getting help!
One of the best ways to reduce our anxiety and stress surrounding a situation is to gain some perspective. We often lose ourselves in our circumstances and challenges simply because we're just too close to the problem to see the solution.
Taking a step back to gain perspective allows you to see the problem within its context and observe its objective size and weight. When you're standing too close to the problem or all wrapped up in the middle of it, it feels all-consuming. It's not until you look at it from another vantage point that you're able to realize it's not as overwhelming as you once thought.
To gain better perspective, here are some questions you can ask yourself:
- How big of a deal is this problem?
- What will happen if this goes unresolved?
- What will happen if I fail?
- How long would it take for me to recover from this?
- What are some good things in my life right now?
- What do I know to be true about myself and my circumstances?
Assessing the actual size of your problem (which generally means realizing it's smaller than you originally thought) allows you to release some of the built-up stress surrounding it. It's like shrinking the problem back down from a mountain to a molehill. It immediately makes the issue feel more manageable.
No matter what the problem is, I've always found that taking a minute to just breathe helps me refocus. It helps me also avoid knee-jerk reactions, and when I'm stressed or not quite myself, that's paramount.
Whether you have to take a little walk and actually remove yourself from the situation or just sit with it and pay attention to your breathing, focusing on the simple act of breathing gives you a break from trying to solve the issue right away. It allows you to pause so you don't react too quickly and rashly, instead giving you a moment to refocus and return with clearer vision.
REMEMBER WHAT'S TRUE
When our perspective has shrunk and all we can see is the issue that's causing us stress, anxiety, or worry, we find ourselves believing lies about who we are, where our worth comes from, what we're capable of, who God is, what God is capable of, and the reality of our situation.
I'm a BIG believer in affirmations. I have several that I speak over my life every day to remind myself of what's true because it is all too easy to get sucked into believing lies.
Some affirmations you might try include:
- I am doing my very best.
- I can learn from my mistakes.
- Every experience offers an opportunity to grow and learn.
- I'm not alone in this.
- There are people I can talk to and trust.
- This too shall pass.
- There's a light at the end of the tunnel.
- Just keep swimming.
- Don't stop believing.
- God has brought me this far and will continue providing for me.
- I can do this.
- I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
WORK THROUGH IT
Now that we've taken the time to identify the root issue, gain some perspective, and remember what's true, we can work through the situation that's causing our anxiety and stress. Often it's fear of failure, fear of messing up, or fear of disappointing others.
But what's the worst that would happen if we did mess up or disappoint others? We would learn from our mistakes. We would have to start again with the knowledge we gained. We would maybe have a little mess to clean up. We would perhaps have to apologize. We might have to run to the store for something we forgot to pack or go without that thing we left at home. We might have to come up with a Plan B.
But did you notice that none of those things are earth-shaking? That none of them are really that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things? We might have to endure an embarrassing or uncomfortable moment, but we will make it through and live to tell the tale. And, what's more, we'll learn from our mistakes and grow as people, which is all we can really ask of ourselves.
So let's embrace the journey we're on, a journey filled with mishaps and mistakes because we're all human, but a journey that's unbelievably beautiful because of all its humanity and authenticity, all its variety and growth and strength resulting from persevering through challenges. Doesn't that sound better than hiding in the corner and letting our fear and anxiety win? Let's give ourselves grace and space for the journey, and I think we just might come to enjoy it.
P.S. If you want to chat more about giving yourself grace, I'd love to talk to you! And if you're looking for a place where you can be encouraged and empowered to create a life, home, and/or business you LOVE by designing them with joy, simplicity, and intention, I have just the place for you! It's called The Joy + Full Living Community, and I know you're going to love it!