Frazzled? Harried? Over-scheduled? Stressed out? Not sure how to manage your stress?
Yeah, I know the feeling. When I was getting overwhelmed with graduate school, family commitments, work schedules, and the throes of infant parenting, every piece of advice from the Internet said “self-care” and work harder.
Related post: 50 ideas for self-care
It seems odd to say “advice from the Internet”. We know what a mixed bag that can be. There are millions of voices out there and they all have different opinions and expertise. And it is getting harder and harder to filter through to reasonable and sensible (read: not crazy) advice.
During the most chaotic times, I would talk to family about my feelings and how we could help manage my stress. The phone calls, tissues, and hugs would certainly help, especially because I felt completely at ease being honest with them. Being vulnerable.
I sought advice on parenting, productivity, graduate school, and “work-life balance” to soothe myself when I needed some passive guidance. I think I kept hoping that one of these would solve ‘all of my problems’.
I thought, maybe the right spreadsheet, getting up an hour early every day, going gluten-free, the perfect planner, flossing, and meal planning would make my life stress-free.
When in reality, my problem was just that I needed to:
- Give myself some grace.
- Realize that life is in seasons and some things would be temporary (i.e. infant-hood, graduate school)
- Take time to take care of myself.
- Stay the course for my goals (with periodic evaluation if they were still my goals). And do the damn work.
- Put down the phone and be present.
So what do I mean by all of these?
(By the way, I’m not a medical doctor so this isn’t medical advice. If you are having a tough time, please don’t be afraid to seek help. It’s there for a reason.)
Stress Management Tips
1. Give myself some grace.
Yes, I was stressed. It’s okay to be stressed. I was dealing with a lot. It’s probably a lot more that I needed to be doing but the activities were things I wanted to accomplish or needed to get through. Stress is neither a thing to be ashamed of or a badge of honor. Recognize your feelings but do not judge yourself for having them.
(Side note; The badge of honor thing seems to be a trend nowadays. Where does this come from? Why are we doing this to ourselves? Does it actually help us get anything done? This may need to be a another post.)
2. Realize that life is in seasons and some things would be temporary (i.e. infant-hood, graduate school)
Thank goodness for this one. We are on this amazing earth for a short amount of time. And these chapters in life are temporary. Your beautiful babes will grow out of nursing every 2 hours, waking every night, fighting potty-training, and a million sports activities.
You can find ways or mantras to help you in the crisis points. At the moment, with Miss C so little, I’m trying to remember “little kids, little problems” when she is screaming at the top of her lungs in the grocery store and some random women is ‘tut-tutting’ and shaking her head at us. (Seriously lady, you even had to do that twice?!) When the work assignments and school assignments were all due at the same time, I thought “The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step” (Lao Tzu).
Personally, I also love the WWII British propaganda sign: “Keep Calm and Carry On”. I got my sign at the home of FDR, now a National Park. Sometimes, I justneed to put my head down and get through it. Plus, since I love British history, it makes me happy to have it around.
3. Take time to take care of myself.
When everything is going crazy, it’s hard to think when you could squeeze a workout or meditation. But it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL and I’ll tell you why. When you are under-stress, you are maxing out your entire body and mind. Sometimes the effects take a long time to show up but they will. It may be a slow creep of weight gain, muscle tightness from tension, or a thinning thread of patience. Taking time to care for yourself, whether it’s running or a hot bath, will save your body, mind, and relationships. And they don’t have to take a lot of time. You’d be amazed what 5 minutes of quiet reflection in your car before work will do. Or even a walk around your block. In my case, I love the walk to the mailbox (on our 1/2 mile driveway)! If you don’t know where to start, here are some self-care ideas.
4. Stay the course for my goals (with periodic evaluation if they were still my goals). And do the damn work.
If you are pursuing one of your dreams, keep your end goal in mind. It will remind you that the small tedious moments have a purpose. Break out the large big-idea goal into medium and small size steps that will help you move forward. The small size steps should also be broken into ideas that you can do when you’re tired or crunched for time. Make sure to draw or write it out and post it near your work-space.
Don’t be afraid, when you get to the milestone moments, to evaluate your progress and your goal. Does this goal still resonate with you? Does it still move your towards your the person you want to be or the life you want? Is this still one of your top priorities?
If not, think about why you feel that way. Is this just a momentary feeling? Has it been an overly hard week or even month? Before you throw in the towel, I’d wait a few days or maybe a week to give yourself some time to reflect. If, after a week, you still feel that way, maybe it’s time to take a break or to tinker with your ultimate goals. Or, if this type of existential crisis happens to you often, and you keep stop-start-stopping on different pursuits, it may be time to think about why that is.
Life is not a static situation. There is no need to pursue something that no longer speaks to you. More than likely, you will be able to use what you’ve done so far to help you in your next quest.
5. Put down the phone and be present.
I think one of the reasons we feel so overwhelmed these days is the fact we are constantly ‘in touch’. We are in information over-drive: TV, radio, podcasts, newspaper, social media….even if you’re trying not to listen, it almost slips into our pores. So even when we aren’t actively working on a project, it still feels like you’re doing something. I’m really bad at this. When hubby and I are watching TV and “relaxing”, I’m on my phone, he’s on his iPod, and sometimes I have my tablet open on my blog on my ottoman. What in the heck am I doing? And WHY? It’s not like I’m doing a good job watching TV, reading my email, checking reader stats…any of it!
So, I’m making a promise to myself to try and be more present. Whatever I’m working on, it will have all of my attention.
Did these tips help? What has helped you get through the tough spots? If these helped you or if you have some other ideas to share, comment below!