Managing Stress: What Works For Me
About a year ago, I was headed down a bad path. I felt over-worked, over-scheduled, over-committed and I was over it! At the pace I was going, I wasn’t much fun to be around and my kids were starting to adopt some of my bad stress-induced habits: mindless eating, loudly sighing when asked the smallest of questions and being a general grump. I wanted things to change and I knew it was up to me. I knew I had to do something to reduce stressful triggers as well as manage the stress that I couldn’t avoid, like raising a teenage son and a tween daughter, and running a business. I knew there had to be a better way to move throughout my day. I wanted to feel lighter, less “put upon”, more in control of my moods.
Back then, if you had asked me what my stress level was like, I would have said everything felt like an 8 or a 9 on my imaginary stress scale. But, in reality, things were more in the 2-3 range at most. Why had I adopted this sense that I never had enough time, that my kids were exhausting and I was the only person that could get things accomplished? Why did I feel like every question or comment was a huge inconvenience when it really wasn’t? Not every request I got should have warranted a freak-out best saved for the day when I’m asked to donate an organ. I got to the point where I couldn’t decipher what was truly a big deal and what was trivial.
I knew I needed to do something different when I was in an all out tizzy over planning our summer vacation, which wasn’t until August and it was only January. Shouldn’t vacations be a time to relax, recharge and reconnect with family? Why wasn’t I excited about the ideas of hiking, swimming, biking, eating out and sleeping in? Why was I looking at this vacation as just another thing to cross off my to-do list? Why was I stressing about something that was 8 months away? I needed some perspective and quick.
Rather than turn to Google (which often stresses me out with it’s rabbit-hole tendencies), I decided to walk to our local library for some good, old-fashioned books!
Here’s what I learned that day:
Meditation really is all it’s cracked up to be. My husband, Jesse had been meditating for a few years and he loved the results. I ended up downloading a free app for my phone and the good vibes started flowing almost immediately. The health benefits of daily meditation are boundless, but for me, meditating helps me feel calmer and more in control of my moods. I feel recharged and sharper after I meditate. I can feel my breathing slow down, my shoulders relax and an overall peaceful feeling. Nowadays, I only freak out a little bit when my son asks if he can go to the movies with five of his friends and zero adults.
Stoicism is pretty epic. The ancient practice of stoicism can be described as the understanding that the world is un-predictable and we are not in control. The only things that we can control are ourselves and how we react to external events and situations. Our time on this earth is very brief, we don’t live forever and we don’t get a second chance. While we are here, we need to learn how to be strong and resilient, calm and patient. We need to shift our focus from what we can’t control to what we can control. Of course, this is easier said than actually done. But, a year ago, I signed up for Daily Stoic’s emails and I LOVE them. I have an inspiring and motivating email waiting for me each day. These emails help me see that ancient stoicism can be adapted and practiced today, that the stoic beliefs and habits are not just applicable to the 3rd century BC. Phew.
I exercise. Every. Single. Day. I am serious, unless I am really sick or stuck in a burning building with no escape route, I am at the gym, out for a run and I try to walk my adorable dogs (pictured here) each day. The health benefits of daily exercise are too numerous to list in this post, but you and I both know that no one ever said, “I wish I was less healthy and more stressed,” on their death bed. When I exercise, I smile more, I eat less, I eat healthier, I sleep better, I have more energy, I like myself more. And, (I think) that makes me more fun to be around.
I re-read one of my favorite books, Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. Folks, this book puts so much into perspective for me. Ever complain that you don’t have enough time? Read this book. Ever feel like you’re a people pleaser? Read this book. Ever feel like you don’t know how to say “no”? Read this book. Ever feel like you are stretched too thin? Read this book. Whenever we are undecided about something (professional or personal), Jesse and I use a phrase from Greg probably 2-3 times a week: “It’s either a ‘hell yeah!’ or a ‘no’.” Pretty simple, but pretty powerful.
I created my own stress-busting technique that I call: DWMY. When I am faced with something that I think is particularly stress-inducing, I ask myself the following questions:
Will this matter in a DAY?
Will this matter in a WEEK?
Will this matter in a MONTH?
Will this matter in a YEAR?
I am happy to report that when I stop and ask myself these questions, most of the things I thought were highly stressful, won’t matter to me or my family after a week. And, the best part is that my kids have started to apply DWMY to their own lives. After a pretty tough day in school this year, Josie came home upset that she couldn’t sit next to her best friend at lunch. She realized that this was something that probably wouldn’t matter in day. Crisis averted.
2019 was filled with a lot of challenges and a lot of uncertainty, but I know I have handled life far better than I would have in 2018. Do I have all the answers? Hell, no! Do I make mistakes…daily? Hell, yes! But, I am trying each day to live a calmer and more peaceful life. I am trying to find what works for me and to be a better person. I know there is always room to grow, there are always new techniques to try. And I hope I never stop trying!
Do you have any techniques or strategies that you use to manager the stress in your life? I’d love to know!