When you start to live a truly full life it can be exciting and rewarding. I have a full-time job managing a busy counseling office, full time college completing my counseling degree, part-time waitress & bartender at my boyfriends restaurant, a mom of a teenager, a sweet dog and 3 lazy cats, paying the bills & the mortgage, trying to stick to a healthy diet and exercise routine, keeping up my look with hair, nails and fashion. From self care to balancing work and school and financial responsibilities it can all add up to a lot of stress!
Research has steadily proved that stress is one of the leading causes of health problems. The need to deal with it has become more of a need to just cover-it-up and avoid by incorporating things that may not be any better for us than the actual stress itself. Some of us eat more because of stress, some smoke, some drink, increase caffeine intake, some take medications (maybe you do all the above)… all to deal with the stresses of life. When we adopt these bad habits we are actually just making matters worse. After reading and listening to thousands of books, articles and research journals I have experimented with many different methods. In this process I have come up with a few that really work for me and are much healthier.
When I first started my personal journey to de-stress my life I found the number one tool was having a routine. Having consistency in your life makes life much easier and less stressed. Important routines are morning and bedtime routines. Having a certain time you go to bed and wake-up each day will not only give you the proper rest you need to fight off sickness, but it will make life feel a lot less chaotic. I can tell when I stay up too late the night before and it throws off my routine the next day. I don’t want to get out of bed and then I feel rushed when I finally do motivate at the last minute. Planning out what you will wear and what you want & need to accomplish the next day is a great way to mentally prepare you before you go to bed. Have a routine of washing your face, brushing your teeth, adding a nice night cream to your skin and listening to a meditation at the same time every night. Also, (as most of us already know), reduce your screen time and remove technology from the bedroom as much as possible so you are not tempted to stay up late watching TV or getting on your phone.
Once I get up in the morning I like to exercise first thing and then shower and ease in to my day with a light breakfast, morning news and a cup of coffee while I get ready. I listen to an audio book on my drive to work and I like to get in my daily water intake as I go through my morning. I drink water upon waking and throughout my workout, then another bottle after my workout while I am getting ready and then a third bottle on my drive to work. I usually have half my water intake complete before I even sit at my desk in the mornings. Having routines at each part of your day can be very beneficial. I have a routine I go through once I arrive at the office as well, to insure I am as productive and efficient as possible.
The next valuable tool I have learned and applied in my life is preparation. Being prepared saves you time, money and frustration. Have a certain place you always keep your phone, keys, wallet/purse and other important items so you are not always looking for them. Lay out your workout clothes/shoes and work clothes/shoes for the next day so you don’t have to waste time in the morning looking for them. If you have a certain travel coffee mug you like make sure it is washed and next to the coffee maker the next morning. Check your calendar the night before and prepare by making a list of any errands or special events you need to take care of in your day so you are not caught by surprised or miss something important. People who follow certain diets do meal preparations so they have healthy food choices, this is a great example of how being prepared can keep you on track. Walking yourself through your day the night before is a great way to do a mental check-list to be sure you have everything together.
Organization goes along with preparation in a lot of ways, but it gets a little deeper. Anyone who have recently read the book or watched the show Tidying Up knows how helpful and refreshing the look of a truly organized home can be. A clean and organized home can drastically reduce stress in life. Be diligent about cleaning out pantries, closets, dressers and cabinets. Throw away or give to charity what is not serving you anymore. I have slowly been doing this in my house and it does create a better feeling when I come home each day and go into my kitchen to prepare a meal. Opening the kitchen pantry and refrigerator to see it clean and neatly organized is very rewarding and encourages me to cook more instead of eating out. Having my closets and dresser neatly organized with clothes I love motivates me to immediately put away my laundry instead of leaving it in the basket or piled on a chair in my room. Organizing my bathroom has been the most helpful, having makeup and other beauty products neatly separated in baskets makes getting ready each day a breeze!
Lets be honest, you can have routines, be prepared and organized and still have mountains of stress. Your mental capabilities really come in to play when the going gets tough. Are you a Negative Ned/Nancy or a Positive Paul/Pam? Your brain and thought processes are like muscles in the body and you need to be honest with what process you choose when shit hits the fan. Are you instantly thinking the worst and giving up by pulling the covers over your head, or are you a person who tackles the tough stuff head on with grit and determination? You can train your brain to handle things in life just like you can train your body to run a marathon. For many people, once they adjust how they perceive the world around them then their entire lives change. Your mental loop can make or break you in high stress situations.
I am taking an online class and I had logged on to take a quiz. The quiz allowed me 20 minutes to answer 15 questions and as soon as I hit the button to start the quiz the page just froze. The quiz would not load on my lap top and I felt the panic rise within me because I had no idea if the time was ticking away on the quiz as I was waiting for the page to load. It took me 15 of that 20 minutes before I was finally able to get the quiz to load on my computer and I then had only 5 minutes to answer 15 questions! Needless to say, I did not do well on the quiz and for about 5 minutes I felt frustration, anger, and stress. However, instead of going into a complete meltdown I simply emailed my professor and explained what happened and went on about my evening. My younger self would have let it ruin my whole evening but the fact is, shit happens and sometimes there really is no matter of preparation, organization or any special routine that is going to stop the flow of shit. That is when you have to be able to depend on your mental strength to logically evaluate the situation and decide if you have truly done your best. There is no sense dwelling on things if you have sincerely tried and done all you can do. Acknowledge your anger, frustration or any other emotions you are having and then move on. Never feel bad for being emotional but never remain in that emotional state. Allow yourself to cry or vent about the stress in your life and then let it go or do something about it, but do not be the person who constantly cries with no action or effort to fix it.
Last, but certainly not least, take responsibility for choices you have made in life. We all make mistakes, we may rack-up debt and have financial stress, we may not take care of ourselves and end up sick, only you know the truth of why some stress is in your life. Owning your role in it is a bit of a relief in itself. Once you stop pointing fingers you can focus on what steps to take to remedy the issue. One of my favorite quotes comes from Andy Stanley: In light of my past experience, my current circumstances, and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing for me to do?
I believe the main goal in life is not to just survive but to thrive. In order to do this we must constantly learn and grow as individuals. When a person has something to strive for they are usually happier and healthier. Having hopes and dreams that you choose for yourself can be invigorating. Do not focus on what others think you should do, not even what may be considered the right or wrong thing for you to do, instead ask what is the wise thing for you to do? Nobody else knows what you want in life better than you and if you are unsure maybe you should explore those questions. Making choices for yourself instead of living the hopes, dreams and expectations of others can relieve a lot of stress. Without a plan you cannot possibly know where to start and that can be stressful. What do you want out of life? Are you making the wise choices to make it happen?
In conclusion, stress is just part of life, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. To keep a healthy balance it requires really knowing yourself. Your routines, level of preparation, organization and mental strength will be different from everyone else. Don’t add stress to yourself by trying to take on a morning persons routine if you are a night owl. Be realistic and create a lifestyle that works for you!
With love, health, happiness & less stress