How to Effectively Manage Stress and Anxiety
I find it fitting that I'm sitting and working on a blog about stress when I'm currently feeling an overwhelming amount of it. I'm also terrible when it comes to dealing with stress. My general way of handling it (poorly, I might add) is to lock myself up in my house and refuse to leave. Sometimes, I don't even talk to anyone. Just my cats. Because they understand me. That's healthy, right? Probably not, but like I said, no one said I was a master of handling stress. I much prefer the "Do as I say, not as I do." method. Because, sometimes, we really are our own worst advice takers. Here, however, are some of my best tips for handling stress.
Do less, instead of more.
Ah, yes. This is both one of the best ones, but also one of the hardest ones for me to follow. You're probably like me:
Does the thought of deadlines give you crippling anxiety?
Do you think that you can always squeeze a little bit more out of each day?
Do you feel guilty if you leave things unfinished?
Do you feel paralyzed by overwhelming to-do lists?
Ah! So you are like me. When it comes to stress, I find that the only way to clear your mind and set it at ease is to just take a step back. Give less fucks. Seriously. Do less. It seems so counterintuitive, because when we feel like the world is crashing down on us, the only way for us to get out of it is to work harder. For me, stepping back and taking the pressure off of constantly creating content or working with clients is the only thing that helps. It's about putting yourself first. In a lot of ways, you lose your own identity and sense of self when you're consistently grinding away. And when you're grinding that hard, your end product usually shows it. I know that some of the best blogs I've written have come from periods of time when I've stepped back for a few days, never glanced at my email, and let myself decompress. Heck, just this week instead of going for a run, I went home and took a nap. Do you know how much better I felt when I woke up? 100x. Easily. And, after that time to myself, I was able to focus on what I wanted to write and it came out effortlessly.
So my best advice to you is this: Look at everything you have in front of you and get rid of one thing that is expendable. What is the one thing that is at the bottom of your list? Get rid of it. If it's at the bottom of the list, chances are it wasn't that important anyway. So get to it another time. Wipe it right off the table. Feels cleaner already, right?
Learn how to say "No!"
I love this. I have the hardest time saying no to anything. I'm 100% a people-pleaser and according to my Meyers-Briggs personality test, I'll continue to do this until I drive myself into the ground (Any other INFJs out there?!).
This was something that I have struggled with a long time and the Younger-Me would never have understood how to stop the vicious cycle. I think back to all the times that Mama Gaye used to put me in situations at the clinic where I had no choice but to stand my ground and say, "NO!" At the time, I thought they were the toughest, most unfair, exercises of all time! But she was right!
Here's the thing. If doing something does not serve YOU, then you have no business doing it. And, I don't mean it in the "What do I get out of it?" sense, but something that truly has a purpose. I might not like working late at night, but I can see that, in the end, there is a purpose for it. If I work these long hours, I'm setting the foundation for success later. That is a very different statement than "I'm working this dead end job and I hate it."
It's also incredibly important to stay true to yourself. There is no worse feeling than agreeing to something (and increasing your stress levels!) by saying yes to something you really don't want to do. I talk more about saying "no” in my blog post “5 Ways on How to Say “No” and Meaning What You Say.”
Get a workout in.
Endorphins make people happy. You get endorphins from working out. It's a pretty simple mathematical equation. No matter how busy I am, I never regret taking some time out for a workout. It's about prioritizing your personal fitness (Read my blog "Make Your Personal Fitness a Priority" here). You don't have to spend hours working out, but sometimes, just getting outside for a walk will help relax your mind.
Keep a stress journal.
I keep a variety of journals. I really like to write things down, so I have a personal planner, but I also have several notebooks for journaling. One thing I like to do is keep a gratitude journal. (I wrote more about this in my post, “How A Gratitude Journal Made a Huge Change in my Life.” For me, this is a simple reminder each day to sit down and write a few things that I'm thankful for. Sometimes, just stepping away from the stressful things, and focusing on the things that are going well in my life, gives me a mental reprieve from the stress. At the very worst, it's good for a smile.
Another idea is to keep a stress journal. Just because a gratitude journal is a positive journal, make sure that you don't allow your stress journal to become a series of negativities. If journaling helps you relieve stress, then, by all means, go ahead and write it down. But once you write down those negativities, I implore you to toss them into the recycling. Relieving sad and negative imagery is an easy way to hold on to it. I would, however, encourage you to write down the events that caused you to be stressed. Keep it matter of fact. Write down the days that you felt stressed and what was causing it. Finding a pattern in my stressors usually helps me eliminate the things that continuously cause me stress. Or, it allows me to plan more self-care days when I find that I'm not taking time for myself. Make yourself proactive, instead of reactive.