Stress affects every human, invariably in many different ways. Stress is the nagging static in your brain that beckons your attention. When stressors crop up, it is seemingly impossible to stay focused on the present moment. When I feel stressed, my brain feels like mush and self-care goes out the window. These stressful moments can be entirely stifled by implementing some much-needed self-care practices. When tensions, anxiety, or any powerful emotions arise, the best way to rediscover balance is to get back to a sense of self through self-love, compassion, and self-care.
I don’t know about you, but I am an avid list maker/wannabe famous journalist by day. When I am feeling overwhelmed – my knee-jerk reaction is to jump back into bed in hopes of waking up to all of my problems ceasing to exist. Thank God for my sponsor, who reminds me how insane and avoidant this behavior is. One of her first suggestions when I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed is putting pen to paper and getting it all out. My sponsor is a very wise woman, and she knows that when I am stressed, I am constitutionally incapable of focusing on anything but fear and calamity. (She isn’t wrong)
When we are stressed, it can be impossible to focus on the present moment. Typically, we become consumed with stress, and we cannot perform at school, work, home, in our relationships, or even within our day-to-day responsibilities. If left unattended, we likely fail to perform. Brain dumping is one of my favorite self-care practices that help me work through stress. Start by getting comfortable. Grab pen and paper. Be intentional about not judging or worrying about what spills onto paper. Begin writing; let your thoughts rush onto the paper, so they no longer occupy the messy spaces in your head. Once you write everything down, leave the thoughts where you left them. This is a great practice to give yourself some freedom as you give your stressful thoughts an exit.
One of the best things you can do to relieve your stress is to get active. Physical movement is one of the most effective ways to expel the energy of stress. Energetically, we carry the weight of stress in our bodies – mostly in our neck, shoulders, and hips. Doctors have reported that regular physical activity reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, while also helping stabilize mood and improve sleep.
Committing to regular exercise can be exceptionally challenging for someone who is already attempting to work through stress. The best way to get active is to start by finding physical activities you enjoy. Perhaps it’s a walk on the beach, a game of basketball, or maybe it’s visiting the gym three times a week. Whatever body movement you decide to engage in, be sure to break a sweat. Physical activity is one of the best self-care practices to mitigate stress.
Take a Breath
I remember the cringe I felt throughout my entire body when my dad would tell me to “take a breath” when I was stressed. The idea that taking a breath (something we have to do to survive) seemed erroneous. After walking through astronomically stressful situations, I have realized that breathing exercises can absolutely demolish the physiological symptoms of these overwhelming moments.
When feelings of stress arise, the first physical symptom our bodies experience is a change in our breathing. You may notice that you are breathing faster or that you can’t seem to catch enough breaths. Focusing on your breathing will help to open up and control your airflow. The best way to implement this strategy is to put both feet on the floor and start breathing in – hold – and release in counts of four. If you’re anything like me, this probably sounds absolutely ridiculous. Not only does this practice relinquish the physiological components of stress, but it will also help to clear your mind and help you to find your grounding and ultimately find peace in the present moment.
Interrupt Your Day
Interrupting your already stressful day may sound counterproductive; however, this is one of my favorite self-care destressing techniques. Taking a moment to introduce something random or new to your monotonous day can actually help to reset your flow during a stressful day. COVID has landed me in the position in which I am working from home each and every day. As much as this sounds super exciting, it can become overwhelming and I sometimes feel like I cannot do enough.
There are days when I work way past my typical working hours. I have found that I tend to create unnecessary stress due to following the same old routine day in and day out. The best way to combat this is to bring in an interruption. I have found that when I make the random decision to go for a walk or take my laptop by the pool – productivity and creativity start to increase as my stress levels diminish. I also like to take a random break to blast my favorite playlist for a song or two as I take a few minutes to pause and disconnect from the build-up of stress. Interestingly enough, interrupting your day can actually ignite excitement and some randomness to help you destress.
Connect with Your Tribe
Humans are created to experience connections with one another – we were created to share intimate and loving experiences with other humans. When I am feeling stressed, I have gotten in the habit of picking up the phone and calling some of my closest friends and family. Not only does this give me the space to talk through some of my stress, but it also allows me to listen to others around me. I have found that my stress is insignificant when I am throwing myself into someone else’s shoes or extending a helping hand.
Tori is my go-to woman. I cannot account for the mid-day phone calls made to her when I contemplate smashing my laptop and driving out of the country to start a new life. Tori is the first person to reel me back in. She helps me scale the exaggerated emotions I am feeling, and she also reciprocates transparency which allows me to focus on something other than myself. If you are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, isolation is your biggest foe. Your brain will continue narrating the impending doom. Connecting with your tribe will most likely reset your thought process, provoke a few laughs, and help to relinquish the stressors you are experiencing.