The Definitive Guide On How to Stress Less
I’m no expert, but who is. I’ve experienced a hell of a lot of stress, and I’ve dealt with it in a lot of different ways. There’s no “one size fits all” remedy for relieving stress and anxiety, but here’s a whole bunch of options that might work:
Build a Morning Routine: creating a morning routine in general is helpful, but a friend once told me to start by making your bed. It’s a mini victory that mentally sets you up for a more successful, productive and positive day. I highly advise not waking up and checking your phone first thing…. but, also, not getting upset at yourself if you do (you’re human!). Rather, try a couple of stretches or sun salutations, a meditation, make a cup of coffee or tea, or take your dog for a walk, all before you “power on.”
Build an Evening Routine: In a similar way, your wind down routine is super important. It’s really difficult to shed the stresses of the day sometimes, but imperative for not only peace of mind, but a restful night’s sleep. Sleep is wildly important for your overall health, and should be prioritized. Adjust your evening routine so that you have the best chance for 7-8 hours of restful sleep (sleep cycles will be different for everyone, but I typically try for 10:30pm to 6:30am). By 6:30/7pm I try to get off my computer, in order to cook and eat a nutritious meal. (Cooking in itself is a stress-reliever for me.) I might check my emails from my phone here and there, but try to avoid that after 9pm, as well. At that point in time, after I’ve eaten, done something around the apartment or what have you, I’ll wash my face, brush my teeth, and hop into bed to read a book—I always read something light and easy for leisure. Religiously, I’ll turn off the lights and do a meditation via the Calm App while lying down. Admittedly, it’s not the best way to practice meditation, but it definitely puts me to sleep.
Incorporate Movement: By default, if I’m feeling scattered or overwhelmed, I stop, drop, and head to the gym (or my mat in the living room, whichever works). You’ve heard it before that endorphins released during exercise boost your mood. Well, it’s true. Incorporating movement into your day—whether a dedicated gym session or just a walk to the office rather than crowded, public transportation… will do a world of good. Especially if you don’t look at anything work related during that time.
Slow the F*ck Down: Nebulous. I know. But, reminding yourself to “slow down” in any respect is really, really helpful. A simple reminder that “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” might make the daunting to-do list a little more palatable. Followed by breaking it down, of course (see below). Something that resonated with me was a quote to the effect of you don’t need to be busy to be important. And, MAN, I can speak to that on end (later, perhaps). But, truly, carving out some time to just “be,” or continuously reminding yourself that you can’t constantly be going, will go a long way.
Take (mini) Digital Detoxes: I’m not a regular practitioner of the digital detox—it’s just not possible in my life, as a publicist and social media manager—but, it’s something that I intend to pick up. Whether it’s for a few hours, a weekend, or a couple of days, delete the distracting apps that keep you on your phone, in favor of being present and doing things IRL. Not only does it help you break away from the technology and the alternate world of social media, but filling your time with something you love doing (or nothing at all) is a form of introspection that’ll help personal growth. Am I taking it too far? I believe it really can have that impact, though.
Work in Bursts of Productivity: Another thing that I haven’t put into full-fledged practice, but rather to a degree. Some believe that we are most productive for about 45 minutes at a time. Rather than forcing yourself to power through tasks for hours on end, taking that lunch break, or gym break, or 15-min walk around the block is pivotal. Not only do these spaces allow you to stop the stream of consciousness in regards to whatever the “stressors” are, but also gives you perspective and space to come at it with greater force when you pick back up. Sometimes, it may not be realistic to take a short break every hour (I get it, obviously), but working in bursts—whatever that may mean for you—is worth a shot!
Make Lists: Anyone who knows me can tell you that I’m an avid list-maker. Right now, for instance, I am looking at (no joke) 14 lists in front of me. I write lists for everything. For two reasons: 1) to stay organized and ensure that everything gets done, isn’t forgotten, etc. and 2) so that those things (tasks, ideas, random info) isn’t occupying space in my memory bank. I truly believe that as someone who consumes so much information and stimulus at all hours of the day, everyday, we need to preserve our mental capacity fore highest function. Beyond all that, writing improves memory, so you’ll naturally have an easier time recalling things you’ve written down—especially if you have a (semi-) photographic memory, like me!
Balance Your Diet/Nutrition: Another really important, yet seemingly more indirect, factor is your nutrition. “Diet” in the very literal sense: the food which you regularly consume. I don’t diet, like “fad diet.” No. And while I’ve tried all the things: keto, paleo, whole 30, vegetarian, pescatarian, etc., I always come back to eating for nutrients. Mainly because I don’t believe in limiting (stress) any wholeness foods/food groups from our nutrition, and partly because it’s way too stressful to count calories, macros, and everything else. Anytime I’ve tried to modify my eating habits, I end up obsessing and holding myself to this higher standard of achieving “perfection.” Simply put, if you fuel your body properly, it’ll function well and you’ll feel good—and you won’t need to supplement. The idea? Eat real food. Real, wholesome, nutrient-dense, food. In their purest form (not necessarily raw). Without additives: just minimal or single ingredient foods. I’ll definitely do a post (or a few) on diet and nutrition, but that’s yet to come…
Practice Mindfulness: Journaling is an incredible, proven way to reduce negative emotions. Maybe this is something you do during an Evening Routine (2) or Mini Digital Detox (5). Whether it’s consistent or not (much like this blog, I think putting pressure on yourself to do it consistently it counter-productive), writing down your thoughts and feelings allows you to purge and reflect. From personal experience, I can say that keeping a journal, particularly during times of great change or emotional pain (eg - breakups), not only speeds up the healing and adjusting process, but is massive for personal growth. I became so in-tune with my anxiety triggers, and when my anxiety was at its worst (mornings). I annotated what caused the anxiety and, in turn, what eased it. Ultimately, I had a list (7) of things that make me happy—irrespective of outside factors, or anyone else. Things that I could turn to to lift my spirits or even just to pass time that would be fulfilling.
Practicing mindfulness is also something that I believe you can and should do every minute of every day. It’s the difference between “responding” and “reacting” to a situation. That means, taking just a couple of seconds to figure out how whatever choice or decision will affect you, your life, your loved ones, the planet, and so on. Cultivating a higher level of awareness is the first major step for making any sort of changes—from reducing stress and anxiety, to approaching life with more intention. Also under this umbrella of mindfulness is meditation (you knew this would come up somewhere). I mentioned I meditate as part of my Evening Routine (2) to get to sleep, but meditating for 5-, 10-, 35- minutes is (extremely hard) incredible. The headspace and stillness itself, the focus on the breath, the slowing down of all the chatter and chaos that might be in your busy brain… is priceless.
10. Practice Gratitude and Speak Affirmations: Similar to mindfulness, practicing gratitude is more powerful than you may think. There’s a link between gratitude and happiness. And this doesn’t mean you have to stop and thank the Lord for every gift which you receive in life, but rather simply… tell yourself three things you’re thankful for, just for the day. You might also incorporate this into your journal writing, if you so choose. They can be simple; they can be repetitive; they can be self-serving; they can be whatever. No rules.
Affirmations are big, too. A self-affirmation will help remind you of all the good that YOU are. I am strong; I am resilient; I am intelligent; I am blessed. Whatever these little reminders are, speak them to yourself on the regular—loudly (in your head, or out loud… or on paper). If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, flip the script and start a more positive narrative with yourself. Affirmations are a great way to reorient in this moments and get you back on track.
Have I missed something? What else do you do to reduce or relieve stress and anxiety? I want to know—in the comments below!