We could all use less stress in our lives, right? More and more results of high stress levels are being made known to us: poor sleep, poor eating, lack of energy, lack of desire to engage in relationships, poor health. As if those weren't enough, there's always the feeling of spinning out of control looming right around the corner, the threat that we feel might be sneaking up on us, the deadline we're sure is approaching like a freight train.
We all can get consumed by stress, whether it's in our work, relationships, health, finances, or life goals. We've become so accustomed to struggling under the weight of our stress that we don't even realize it's possible to live without it.
But as someone who has lately been battling high stress levels, I think it's time we all check out an alternative option. What would our lives look like if we didn't accept high stress levels as an inevitability? What if we actually believed that this isn't how we were meant to live?
What if we actually tried to reduce the stress in our lives?
I know, it sounds rote. Or like make-believe. Like an unattainable goal. You've probably heard it before and don't really believe it. But hang with me for a second.
While there certainly are circumstances that we can't change, there are things we can do to better manage the stress we experience. We don't have to carry the weight around and let it taint the rest of our life.
I know one thing that has helped me immensely has been taking a second to breathe when I'm feeling overwhelmed. If it seems like there are too many things being piled on my plate all of a sudden, threatening to crush me with their cumulative weight, I take a moment to pause and just breathe. As simple as it sounds, it allows me to come back with better perspective and a renewed sense of my ability to conquer whatever it is that I'm facing.
Taking the time to figure out what stresses me and what relaxes me was a big step, too. I didn't realize how helpful it would be just to think about what kinds of things in my life are causing negative emotional and psychological impacts and what things drive me or excite me helped me reframe the concept of stress. I can better limit the things that overwhelm me and incorporate more of what is life-giving.
I also have found that limiting distractions is really indispensable. It's easy for me to feel like things are spinning out of control when I'm trying to manage too many spinning plates at once. But if I focus on one thing at a time, tuning out other things around me, I have a much better chance of finishing things because my attention isn't divided.
Appropriate self-care is huge-- namely, sleep. When I don't get enough sleep, I know I am far more likely to be stressed and irritable. Sleep has a way of making us relax, which is definitely necessary when we're feeling overwhelmed.
Giving thanks for things I've been blessed with is also a way to lower my stress levels. It's really hard to be stressed and thankful at the same time. When focusing on the good things, I'm not dwelling on the things I can't change or the frustration of having a to-do list longer than my arm.
And I still think there's something to be said about making a plan. You probably all know by now that I'm a Type-A, organized person. I like having a plan and a schedule. I used to live out of my planner in high school and college. Now I've just moved on to using the calendar and to-do list apps in my phone.Having a plan allows me to take intentional steps toward my goals and filter through the things in front of me to better prioritize them. It helps me to know what I want and where I'm headed.
But I also know that I can't hold onto my plan too tightly. Things are constantly changing, and if I'm too rigid in my planning, I'm probably going to miss out on some good things and be disappointed when things don't go my way. There's a delicate balance that must be struck in creating a plan and holding it loosely.
And, if all else fails, there are always the tried-and-true methods of taking a nap, relaxing in a bubble bath, or eating some ice cream. : )
What helps you relieve your stress?