Since when is it cool to replace sleep with copious amounts of caffeine? And jam-pack the day so there isn’t time to eat lunch? Forget about relationships. Who has time for those? Stress has become so normal.
We might even feel like we’re doing something wrong if we’re not stressed-out. All nighters are the norm on college campuses. I can’t speak for other generations, but I can speak for my own. Work hard and hustle, they said. The harder you work, the more successful you’ll be. Work. Work. Work….and more work.
Stressed-out seems like a requirement of success.
Last week I shared a little bit about my journey with stress and today I wanted to provide some tips I’ve learned along the way. I’ve had to pick up the pieces of my deteriorated body since chronic stress finally caught up to me last year and I got shingles. For so long I believed the only way to be successful and happy in life was to live in a constant state of stress by literally working myself to death. Chronic stress is still a battle I face daily. I’ve nowhere near figured out a cure, but I’ve definitely figured out some things that help.
Do you ever get to the end of the day feeling like you didn’t even have time to think? It’s so easy to relate productivity to success. The more tasks completed, the better. But checking off every box on the to-do list doesn’t necessarily equal a successful day, especially if the entire day was full of mindless activity and stress.
Try completing one simple task, like folding laundry or washing dishes, as slowly as possible. Focus only on the task at hand. Instead of mindlessly scrubbing your lunch plate from yesterday while thinking about how you haven’t renewed that overdue book at the library, notice the temperature of the water and the smell of dish soap. Be fully aware of the moment.
Walk slowly from one place to the next. Instead of rushing from here and there, try and slow down the pace just a tad. Slowing down can allow your mind to rest and give you space to be present.
Learning to slow down has helped my stress levels decrease immensely. It hasn’t been easy, though. I’ve had to literally force myself to slow down. I’ve been surprised that tasks don’t take that much longer than they normally would when I choose to slow down. Perhaps it’s because when I’m more present, I’m able to do a better job. Quality over quantity.
Right alongside slowing down is being more present. Have you ever finished eating something and thought where did that all go? Or do you ever find yourself completely lost in thought listening to your good friend talk?
Our thoughts are not the present.
“We are not what we do, what we wear, or what we think.” It’s easy to turn our thoughts into the narrative of our life. Think about the last time you someone close to you was not very nice. Perhaps they apologized and gave you a hug. During that hug it’s likely you still felt pretty upset or even angry. Negative thoughts about the situation were likely racing through your head. But if you were able to get out of your thoughts and be present, you would see that everything in that moment was truly okay.
We will notice the extra special things around us when we are fully present in our lives.
Sleep is usually the first thing to go when life gets hectic and going days on end without adequate breaks becomes more and more the norm.
Our overall health is not determined only by what we eat and how we exercise. It’s so much more than that. Waking up for that 6am spin class when you didn’t get to bed until 2am and you’re stressed out at work might not be the best for your body. As good as that workout might be, the sleep deprivation and stress counteract any sweat you might have dripped at the gym.
Studies have repeatedly shown that sleep deprivation can decrease cognitive function, encourage a declination in mental health, increase inflammation in the body, and numerous other negative consequences.
Adequate sleep and breaks throughout the day are necessary to reduce stress. One of my most favorite ways to destress is to simply sit on the couch and do absolutely nothing. No, this does not make me a couch potato; it makes me human.
Taking the time to tune into your intuition is incredibly important. There are many different ways to do so and it is important to find what works best for you.
I have found that a combination of daily meditation, prayer, and scripture study makes me feel the most in touch with myself. I feel significantly more anxious on days where I don’t take the time to check-in. Spending about 30 minutes first thing in the morning is my favorite time of day to do so. Establishing a morning routine has been one of the biggest factors in decreasing my stress levels.
It’s easy to internalize the messages the world continuously gives. Health advice from the internet will never be as good as listening to your body. If your body needs rest, give it rest and if your body needs chocolate, give it chocolate.
Find quiet time during the day to tap into your thoughts and feelings. Tune into how your body feels and act accordingly.
We can’t give 100% to the world when we’re not giving ourselves 100%. Self-care is taking time to rest and to partake in activities we enjoy. It’s feeding our bodies with nourishing food and adequate sleep. Self-care is not working ourselves to the ground.
A self-care technique I use often is treating myself throughout the day. These treats don’t have to be grandiose and they’re usually not.
Some of my favorite treats are:
- Going on a morning walk as the sun rises
- Taking a break in the middle of the work day to savor a delicious cup of tea
- Stretching after a long work day
- Cuddling up with a cozy blanket with a good book
- Talking to a family member or friend on the phone
- Lighting a candle
- Taking a bath
- Painting nails
- Buying fresh flowers
- Eating a really good breakfast
It’s so important to find the time to take care of ourselves even when life gets busy. We can be the best version of ourselves when we take the time to practice self-care. Consequently, the better we will be able to give to others.
Nourish Mind, Body, & Spirit
Lastly, it’s important to remember to nourish all parts of ourselves: mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Our health is not one-sided. I have found that increased stress is often caused by an imbalance mind, body, and spirit.
Find a creative outlet that helps you stress less and do it every single day. Cooking and writing are two of my favorites, but find what works for you. Spend time with loved ones. Laugh. Find a community you belong to and practice faith, hope, and gratitude.
Practicing yoga is one of the best ways to connect with the big three: mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is all about learning to persevere through difficult circumstances. Connecting with the breath guides the body to move and provides a point of focus during challenging poses. We learn not to push the body farther than it can go, but to listen and act accordingly.
Yoga is more than just exercise, it’s a way of life.
Nourishment comes from more than just food an exercise. Our stress levels will decrease when we strive to live in a constant state of balance.
What are your favorite self-care activities?
How do you like to de-stress?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for reading!