08.16.2017

Wellness Wednesday || Let’s Talk About Stress….. 10 Ways I Tackle It

I almost feel the need to add an immediate disclaimer to this post: Just because I’m writing about the ways I manage my stress in no way means I am perfect at doing so. I’m like everyone else. Stress happens. Sometimes more than others. It’s unavoidable…..

I spent most of my time, when I was a practicing Marriage + Family Therapist, chatting with clients about feelings, and the fact that they are necessary and unavoidable (at some level they all serve a purpose)… and when you try to avoid them, that’s usually when other problems arise (think addiction). The key is in recognizing those feelings, and managing them effectively.

So, today I’m tackling the topic of stress, because, over the past few months, I’ve felt a lot of it. Stress sucks. It’s unpleasant, and longterm stress can reek havoc on the body, in more ways than one thinks. For starters it can lead to physical pain (that’s likely why your shoulders and neck tend to hurt when you’re under a lot of pressure), impacts your gut health (which affects so many different parts of life), causes high blood pressure, increases your desire for unhealthy foods, and shuts down the immune system (I can attest, in periods of high stress like when I was studying for my licensing exam I was frequently sick… and my girlfriend developed a serious stomach condition). All that to say, over the years, I’ve come up with a few ways to help me to manage stress on a daily basis and thought I’d share them with you today…..
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1. Prioritize: Sometimes, I find myself stressed simply because I have too much on my plate and it feels overwhelming. When this happens, I take 10 minutes to sit down and look at everything, sometimes I even pull out a few sticky notes and a calendar. I then prioritize everything that I have numerically, with the most important being at the top of the list. From there I tackle everything starting from the top. This usually helps me gain perspective, since, when I’m stressed everything feels like a priority… even though it isn’t. Sometimes, I am even able to schedule in when I will address certain tasks (example: Monday is the day to return all calls and e-mails I’m behind on….). This also helps with taking things little by little, since most of my stress stems from feeling like everything has to be done now.

2. Create A Relaxing Environment: I know that this is sometimes much easier said than done, especially, if you’re like me and have a very active toddler running around. Yet, it helps incredibly. For me, personally, the space I am working in needs to be clean in order for me to relax and manage my stress better. Since I work from home, this means the beds are made, toys are put away (obviously this happens when little miss is napping or down for the night), and clutter is gone (this is probably the one thing I can’t stand!). I have also started using some essential oils, diffused, in our home. Since TJ and I both work there, I’ve found that it’s a great way to help facilitate a calming environment. My favorite blend is lavender + frankincense. Turning on some mellow music also helps as well, as does soft lighting. When I worked a traditional 9-5 office job, we were able to create these environments in our work space, just had to get creative! (note: I’ll be sharing more on oils in future posts, but if you have questions, you can e-mail my girl kateporath@gmail.com). 

3. Deep Breathing: I know this sounds so cliché but it really works. I used to recommend it to client’s all the time. In a nut shell, deep breathing (when you breath in through your nose from your belly and out through your mouth…) tells your brain that it’s time to relax and chill out. I typically give myself about a minute to do this when I find my stress levels rising… whether it’s mid-tantrum with little miss, or in response to a frustrating e-mail. Giving myself permission to take a moment before I respond to anything, or to just pause in the middle of the day, allows me to slow down and have a clearer mind.

4. Have A “Wind Down Routine”:  I do mine all the time, and it’s something I always recommended clients (specifically moms) do on a daily basis. Having any kind of routine just prepares the mind, and body, for that specific event. So, immediately when we get home, or at the end of the day, I change into comfortable clothing. This is a must for me… taking off the clothes from the “day” and tossing on something comfortable almost instantly helps me to calm down. Make + Model has some of the softest pieces ever and I love this pullover, this one with cute ruffle details, these joggers (own in the blue), fleece shortsruffle shorts (seen above), and my favorite oversized cozy cardigan (that I’ve had for over a year).  They are my go-to’s when I need something comfortable. After little miss goes down, I wash my face which is another ritual that signifies relaxation. I love the products I use, so it’s like a little self care after a long day. I usually have some additional work to do (for about another 1.5 hours), so I sit down on the couch and finish it… and after, I make a relaxing bedtime tea. This all helps me to unwind from the stress of the day. While each piece is separate from the other, it’s almost as if it’s a countdown. The more I get through, the more relaxed I become.

5. Avoid Caffeine: I know this almost seems counterintuitive to being stressed…. the more stressed, the more energy one needs, and therefore more caffeine must be consumed. Yet, I found a while back, that it made me crazy anxious when I was drinking coffee and stressed (which is one of the reasons I don’t drink coffee anymore). In those times I opt for a lighter form of caffeine… such as a white tea. It gives me a little pick me up without getting my mind racing. For this one, understanding your body and how it reacts to caffeine is important, as some people are not impacted by it at all.

6. Workout…. Or, Get Moving: For me, personally, this is one of the most effective ways to keep my stress levels down on a daily basis. It’s why I start my day with a workout. I remember a time last December, when my site went down and lost all of it’s data (4 years worth of content). Both TJ and I were on the phone with tech help for hours and no one seemed to be able to help. My stress level was through the roof. I remember TJ said he would take care of it all, and I laced up my shoes and headed out for a walk with Harper. It was a 30 minute break that I allowed myself to take and I felt so much better when I returned. If you can find a way to incorporate this throughout the day, it will help so much with stress…. maybe on a break during work… at the end of your lunch break (this is a good time, because walking after a meal helps with digestion…. a two for one!), or even at the end of the day, before dinner.

7. Check Your Thoughts: I did a whole post on thoughts that promote anxiety and stress. If you have any of them, you’re bound to feel worse. Challenge them!

8. Hug Someone: In full disclosure, I’m not a super cuddly person. Luckily, TJ is. When I’m feeling particularly stressed, I love getting a hug from him… I immediately feel better. The science behind this is as follows: giving a hug raises our serotonin levels (the feel good chemical in the brain), in turn increasing positive mood and facilitating happiness. It also helps me feel safe, comforted, and brings me to the present moment (not about the 800 other things that need to be done). Virgina Satir, a well known family therapist, said this about hugs,“We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” 

9. Take A Break: While I know this seems counterintuitive to managing “all that’s on your plate,” sometimes, that’s just what you need. My favorite supervisor ever was someone who did a good job of teaching me that, and I will be forever grateful. She used to tell me “You don’t have to respond right away.” It basically meant, take a breather, gather yourself, and then come back to everything. I’ve never forgotten that. My “breaks” typically involve a few text messages exchanged with girlfriends, an overdue phone chat, maybe a few deep breaths, a short walk, or a few uninterrupted sips of my iced tea while I recollect myself. I’d say that ninety percent of the time this “breather break” helps me feel ready to re-address the issues in front of me.

10. Get In Relation: When I feel stressed my inclination is to isolate, so I can get everything done and not get distracted. Yet, that only makes me feel alone. Which only adds to the stress. I’ve found that carving out a little bit of time, each day, to connect with someone is a great way to mitigate some of the stress I feel. Sometimes it’s chatting with TJ about what’s going on, other times it’s just chatting with someone about their life (and not about my stress at all), or a text message to my mom or sister…. and other times it’s having a small little dance party with Harper. It’s hard to know which I need in the moment, but just connecting with someone reminds me that I’m not alone, and that I have people to go through life with.

I also had a couple questions over on instagram regarding stress, and the answers are below (most were around the same topic, so they have been condensed into 2 main questions):

1. I seem to struggle with being more stressed/overwhelmed when I don’t have anything fun/trips to look forward to. How do you keep perspective/keep stress at bay in regular, everyday, situations?

I hear you on this one. It’s always easy to get through a stressful week when you have something fun to look forward to at the end of it all. While that isn’t always possible, I do think small “indulgences” are. I struggled with this one a lot for a while, and still do occasionally, and what I found most helpful was to schedule in small things that I like several times a week. Whether that’s an evening of watching a favorite movie with pressed juicery, a relaxing bubble bath at the end of the day with a favorite book, trying out a new workout class (or video), or a small date night/day that’s planned with TJ at the end of the week, I find those small things help get me through a stressful time. I think it’s so important to reward yourself regularly, and it doesn’t have to cost anything (…. bubble bath…. favorite movie you haven’t seen in a while….). Scheduling in those small little indulgences can really help manage stress when you don’t have anything “big” planned in the foreseeable future.

2. How do you manage stress and frustration from your kids, when you can’t catch a moment for yourself? 

So hard. I’ve had a lot of questions in this realm, and what I do is make time. If it’s in the middle of a tantrum, I assure Harper is safe, and sometimes I walk out of the room, around the corner and just take a few deep breaths and recollect myself before going back in and helping her work through her feelings. If both of us have elevated stress levels, nothing good will come of it. I also schedule downtime in her day, so that I can have 15 minutes to recollect myself as well. Once, when I was working with a client on scheduling in time for herself, she mentioned that there wasn’t any “down time” scheduled in the children’s day. So, we came up with a scheduled that included an age appropriate amount of time, in the afternoon, where everyone did something relaxing. Whether this was reading a book, listening to music, or just resting their eyes. She mentioned that it worked wonders for the sanity of the home.

There were numerous questions about managing stress with your significant other, which I decided to answer in a separate post next Thursday, as I have something scheduled with TJ!  So, stay tuned! 

Comments

  1. So good! Thank you for answering my question. I have a 2.5 year old, these suggestions will be so helpful for me.