I have a confession. I don’t naturally handle stress well. Some people seem to be able to roll with the punches, but as a highly sensitive person, I often sense tension and absorb it like a sponge. (And I can create plenty of tension myself through perfectionist black and white thinking–assuming things are “all bad” or “all good” in a situation.) But regardless if you’re like me in those ways or not, everyone has some amount of stress to deal with, especially now that life has changed quite a bit due to Covid19, at least for the time being. What can we do then?
I’m a problem solver, so I knew I had to do something to reduce stress in my life when I realized a few years ago that my cortisol (the stress hormone) levels were sky high almost constantly. It was affecting not only my mental health with panic attacks, but also my physical health with insufficient progesterone (the calm hormone). I read books by psychologists, stress researchers, and hormone experts about becoming more resilient, and and listened to dozens of resources as well. I want to share the most impactful lessons from those resources and my own life experience the past two years.
Here are 5 ways you can cope with stress better so that you can feel more positive and relaxed despite less than ideal circumstances! Implementing these stress-reduction strategies over the past few years has made such a difference that the panic attacks have disappeared, my anxiety is no longer at a constant high, and my creativity has come back. (Heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? If you are constantly feeling stressed, your mind will not make room for non-survival activities like creativity, which makes me feel alive.) I hope these ideas empower you to take your life back from the grip of stress!
If you prefer to watch and listen to me share these ideas, click here, or read on.
1. Think of stress as a call to uplevel. When I first heard of seeing stress as a positive, I was mind-boggled. “Seriously? Stress is horrible! No one wants stress–it’s BAD!” (There’s that black and white thinking I mentioned). But when we view stress as simply a signal that an adjustment needs to be made, we can recognize it as an invitation to strategize, grow, and improve our situation. It’s all about being proactive rather than reactive! Proactivity is solving a problem rather than simply complaining or staying miserable.
2. Realize it’s ok to restart instead of scrapping a whole day when things go south! I often say to my kids, “Let’s have a do-over” if one of us has gotten too frustrated. We also take a deep breath and think of a way we could have dealt better instead of exploding, etc. I often verbalize this to my kids, too. For example, saying, “If Mommy were calmer just then, I would have _____ instead.” That way they see what positive coping looks like, so you don’t have to feel like you’ve “blown it” as a bad example to your kids. It’s an opportunity for redeeming the moment. (With kids at home from school lately, there is plenty of opportunity for do-overs, am I right?!)
3. Leave space in your day for boredom/relaxation. The pressure to jump into the hustle culture is huge. I’m type A, very driven, and it is tempting to think I must be MORE productive at home when my schedule seems less full due to social distancing and staying at home. But self-care and giving our minds time to decompress is a necessity especially now during all the change and loss off normal! Also, implementing time-outs for ourselves when we feel pressurized, maybe putting earphones in and listening to something calming, can diffuse an angsty situation.
4. Adjust your expectations. Energy levels are not a constant, and times of stress deplete your energy much faster. (Have you heard of Zoom fatigue? It’s a real thing.) Maybe you expected to be more productive during social distancing when your calendar got suddenly cleared from your regular social activities. Many of my friends, especially ones with jobs outside the home, had a rude wakeup call about how challenging it can be to work from home and educate their children simultaneously. One psychologist, Amy Alexander, that I heard on Michael Hyatt’s podcast said working 50% less than under normal circumstances at this time would be a healthy course of action. Take a cue from nature and realize not all seasons must be productive. The world will go on without you pumping out all kinds of visible evidence of your work.
5. Curate your Input. I’m talking about your 5 senses here. Enjoy a healthy mood-boosting smoothie rather than binging on food or drink that will make you feel icky later. Feeling down or unmotivated? Listen to some peppy music, positive podcast or other pep talk! Improve your surroundings (join me here). Delight your eyes with color and paint your pet’s portrait (see my dog Kody’s here). Get some new soap (I enjoy relaxing lavender) that smells amazing to use during a hot soak in the bath after the kids go to bed.
Don’t forget about your proprioceptive input! Yep, I’m talking about movement! Your body and mind still need movement even though the gyms are closed! Even if it’s rainy outside, there are a lot of ways to exercise at home…just search on Youtube! (I love Jessica Smith TV walk-and-talks or walk-a-miles and seeing her cute doggie Peanut!)
I hope these tips serve as good reminders or helpful new ideas to optimize your time at home! Don’t do life alone! Comment below (scroll all the way down) and I’ll get back to you ASAP, or head over to my Youtube Channel Aim 4aCreativeLife and comment there. I would love to interact with you!
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