Let’s talk about stress for a minute, shall we? We all experience stress from time to time. You know, like when you look at your calendar and realize you’ve booked two appointments for the same time slot. Or when you have a looming deadline approaching and can’t seem to focus. And, lastly—my personal favorite—when your to-do list is a mile long, and you don’t know what to tackle first (so you procrastinate and do nothing). While we all experience stress, and I would argue that some degree of stress can act as motivation, we all react to it differently.
Last week when I was scrambling to finalize tons of papers for my grandmother’s Medicaid application, trying to work on my website, and needing to do work for my client, I was the definition of stressed out. Sometimes, I do my best work when I have a lengthy to-do list, am light on time, and feel the pressure. But not in this instance. From the minute I opened my eyes in the morning, I felt a palpable sense of dread at the thought of tackling the day. I was overwhelmed, and rather than leap out of bed to start my day, I pulled the covers over my head and tried to pretend that it was all a bad dream. After a couple days of this morning routine, I had a full-blown panic attack. The rest of the week was met with lots of tears, followed by physical and mental exhaustion. For whatever reason, I couldn’t shake the emotions I was experiencing, even though I knew they weren’t helping my cause. Friends tried to be supportive by telling me that I was “doing my best” and “could only do what I could do.” But these sentiments didn’t help. Sometimes, you have to feel your feelings and find ways to work within or around them. And that’s exactly what I did last week to accomplish what I needed to.
In honor of National Stress Awareness Day today, I’m sharing a few ways I cope with stressful situations.
- I give myself permission to take a break: When everything I tried to do went wrong at the start of the week last week, I decided to take the day off. I was in a negative headspace and grew more frustrated with each passing task that I couldn’t cross off my to-do list for one reason or another. By mid-day, I called it quits. I took myself on a long sanity stroll at the beach and gave myself permission to take the day off from doing any more tasks. By the next day, I felt slightly more capable of getting back to my to-do list, and by the end of the week, I had accomplished the monumental task that had been in front of me.
- I do something I love: Today, I’m heading to a pilates class. I haven’t taken an in-person studio class since the pandemic started, but attending boutique fitness classes used to be how I liked to start my days. While I’m not a morning person, I find that getting in a good sweat session can put me in a better headspace and emotionally prepare me to deal with stressful moments that arise during the day.
- I developed a self-care practice: One of my favorite ways to unwind after a stressful day is by spending 30 minutes in the infrared sauna. There is something about the dry heat that makes me feel like the stress has melted away. It also helps that my body feels more limber and loose afterward, my aches and pains are gone, and I know I will sleep better that night. Practicing self-care doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be doing a yoga workout at home, calling a friend, ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant, doing a 10-minute meditation app, or anything else that helps you take your mind off your day (or whatever is stressing you).
There are many kinds of stress to manage, from career, family, and financial stress, to caring for a child or a loved one. Learning how to navigate stressful situations and figuring out what works for you takes time. But giving yourself permission to go at your own pace or to access additional resources, if needed, is always a good first step.
How do you manage stress? Share your tips in the comments below!