Stress! Everyone experiences it. 2020 had us whirling and 2021 brings variables daily. Between to mask or not to mask, income challenges, vaccine wars, political opinions, the housing challenges and now potential bacon and Oreo shortages…it’s no wonder we’re stressed!
In all the crazies, we might do better to focus on a few of the constants we can count on. Sunsets. Sunrises. Family. Friends. Breathing. The change in seasons. Stress can make us feel stuck or like we’re standing still, but sunrises remind us tomorrow comes regardless. For a time, depending on your circumstances, tomorrow may feel lonely or overwhelming, but the joy of moving forward can have its rewards as well. For every loss there is a win, for every death look for a birth and for every tragedy look for the helpers or the opportunity to help.
Sometimes the worst of times brings out the best in all of us. We might need to look hard to find the good, but it’s there if we choose to see it. Covid lockdowns has slowed us down in a way we haven’t done since the 1950’s. We’re getting to know family members in ways time-restraints wouldn’t allow. We’ve stopped taking people for granted. We’re returning to cooking at home—that might mean better health. Businesses are learning if they are essential or not and maybe are re-evaluating employees’ value and the cost of doing business. In a world padded with excess, we’re all learning to value the simpler things in life or at the very least, becoming more aware.
There are lots of division among vaccinated and anti-vaxers, democrats and republicans, racism, the me-too movement, the baby-boomers’ opinions of millennials and vice-versa. And just like newbies to any protest we start out screaming our case poorly in order to be heard, but I’m confident in the pendulum swing people’s voices will bring positive productive change.
In the meantime, here are 16 ways to manage the monster of stress:
- Routines. Creating and following daily routines eases stress by creating familiar situations that require calm thinking. Schedules remove the elements of surprise and allows a feeling of controlling your surroundings or situations. Plan your day and relax moving through it.
- Yoga-Meditation. Training the body to be present in the moment, breathing through difficult situations, increasing blood flow and staying healthy are all benefits of Yoga and meditation. As your skill increases, your stress may decrease.
- Breathe. The simple act of breathing deeply signals the body to relax. Much like calming a dog with a yawn, breathing is self-calming. Next time you feel your blood rising, try breathing in to the count of 4 and out to the same count. Repeat 4 times.
- Music Therapy. Different beats and styles of music have a variety of effects on our energy levels. Dance music makes us want to move and likewise mellow music can have a very calming effect.
- Unplug. Establish times that are ‘off’ hours for electrical gadgets like: Television, social media, emails, cell phones, IPad, anything with a screen. Quiet the noise these modern devices bring into our world. Go for a walk, take a 15-minute powernap, meet a friend for coffee, play with a pet or simply sit.
- Move. Breaking a sweat clears the pores, relaxes muscles, lowers stress hormones, unclutters the mind, and inspires sleep. All these benefits encourage better health and directs stressful energy.
- Journal. Writing down all the things that are troubling you not only allows you to leave it on the paper, but helps you know what you’re thinking. Sometimes transcribing your concerns takes the power out of them. Something sedative happens when we see things written down, they often move into a better perspective.
- Multi-tasking Myth. We live in a society that revers those that can do several things at once. Truth is we get less done when our focus is scattered and we incite more stress. Try focusing on one project at a time.
- Play. We often think we out-grow play. As adults in a world that moves at an unbelievable speed, taking time out is vital to avoiding snapping or becoming ill.
- Laugh. Spend more time doing things that bring your joy. Schedule times with friends and events that cause you to laugh so hard your jaws hurt (even if it is on zoom). Stress dies when we laugh. Bury it often.
- Tea Time. Taking the time to brew and sip herbal tea gives us a moment’s break. The simple act of sitting down long enough to taste and swallow tea allows us to be present.
- Praise. Commit to praising five random people and watch their reactions. Make five positive statements about the day and change your own energy as well as everyone around you.
- Unclutter. Calm down your environment by removing clutter. Surround yourself with clean lines, and open spaces. We tend to be people who fill every space with something and our eyes may record it as chaos. Pick one room, start there and slowly move through your home and work space.
- Sleep. Adequate sleep is the best way to manage stressful days. We’re much more able to calmly make decisions and work through difficulties when we’ve enjoyed a restful night’s sleep.
- Still. Close your eyes and be still for a moment. Focus on being aware of everything around you: smell, feel the temperature of the air, sounds around you and just listen. You can do this anywhere and as many times as you need to decompress.
- Hobby. Find an activity you enjoy doing. Use it to empty your mind and relax your body.
Perhaps it’s time to reverse being stressed. If you flip the word stressed, you get desserts—a new way to find the sweetness and manage our lives. It hard to say what our new normal will look like when all the variables settle down, so in the interim, find a friend, go for a walk, turn off the news and share a cupcake!