So I discovered something I didn’t know today. April is Stress Awareness month. I know that every month, week and day has a theme and that we are taking pause for everything. Well, almost everything, apparently there is no national scrunchie day (I checked), but there is a national pickle day (November 14th) National Sugar Cookie Day (July 9th- My birthday), in case you wanted to know. While most of these days are just an excuse to have a margarita, wear socks that don’t match or post a selfie with your dog, I felt like Stress Awareness Month was worth taking note. I wanted to share
A little history: This isn’t one of those social media inspired monthly themes. Apparently, since 1992 April has been recognized as Stress Awareness Month. This month is all about raising awareness of stresses causes and cures in this pressure driven society. I’ve been talking a lot about anxiety lately and felt this topic was a great addition.
I don’t need to list out things that cause stress for me or in modern society as a whole. I mean dismay and anxiety are just part of the American way nowadays. With changing politics, personal stressors, bills, personal relationships (or relationshits depending on your situation), stress is all around us. While I haven’t managed to find a way around entirely avoiding stress, I have worked on the search for ways to cope with it and prevent it from turning into crippling anxiety.
This is somethings the only option. Things get so heavy or crazy all you can do is keep pushing through. Don’t focus on what is stressing you out but why it’s stressing you out.
Example: You’re stressed because the negative number on your credit card statement is four times as much as the positive amount in your bank account.
Solution: Look through those statements. What are you spending your money on? What can you cut back? What can you reduce? Don’t think, “I’ll never pay this off!” Change your thought too, “How can I pay this off?”
Sometimes pushing past the negative paralyzing feelings and focusing on your abilities makes all the difference. No one has ever made progress focusing on their limitations, they focus on what they can do and they do it.
To-do lists are my bread and butter. Seriously I’m obsessed with them. Taking a big project and breaking it into bite size doable tasks makes my heart happy. This also can have a bit of a Catch-22 effect for some people. They write out all they need to do and it freaks them out, they look at it and say, “How will I do all of this?”
You have two options. You can put them in order of urgency, ease or return and then just make the conscious decision to work on one thing at a time. Go down the list and focus on the tasks one by one until you get them all done.
Another choice (my favorite) is to make a master list, see what you can eliminate (by eliminating I mean take off completely, outsource or do at a much later date), then pick three work on those three one at a time. Totally block any of the other things out of your mind and focus on the three you selected to complete.
I like to-do lists because you get to cross things off as you do them. Putting the line through or checklist next to a task, moving a sticky note into the done column on my Scrum board is like saying, “Look at me kicking ass!”
Focus on One Thing at a Time
This isn’t the same as the to-do list. With this, I’m talking about massive projects. I’ve been guilty of having multiple passion projects at once and not getting anywhere on any of them because I was taking little chunks out of them but not consistently.
Write a chapter of the e-book, make the slides for one lesson of a course, reach out to a few contacts about webinars and so on. If you have a project that requires a lot of time make that your top priority and get that done then focus on the next big project. This isn’t to say you let the daily tasks required to live life or run your business fall through the cracks. You still have to answer your emails, pay bills make dinner but you should limit the number of things that are taking large chunks of your time. You will be more likely to retain your drive if you see yourself accomplishing things and making progress.
Taking Care of Yourself
This one is kind of obviously but still warrants mentioning because the truth is most people don’t. There are tons of things you can do to take care of yourself. The important thing is to make sure you are doing so inside and out. If you go to cardio kickboxing four days a week that is great. If you’re going to cardio kickboxing four times a week, are in an emotionally abusive relationship and 90% of your meals come with a side of fries it’s a little less great.
You may need to take a hard look at your life. Think about what your habits are. Who do you surround yourself with? Again focus on what you can change. This year I’ve worked hard to heal myself inside and out.
Some of the things I do to make sure I’m taking care of myself:
I take personal days off– I take days off of work just to relax and spend time with myself. I seriously have scheduled vacation days months ahead of time like, “There aren’t any work holidays in June, I think I’ll take the 15th off and have a long weekend to recharge.” You may not have the money to take a vacation at the beach but if you have vacation days don’t let that stop you from using them. I was so bad about this until a few years ago. I didn’t have money to travel, so I’d let my hard earned vacation days go to waste.
Take nights off from my business– As a side hustler, I know how easy it is to fall into the habit of working all day then coming home and working all night. I make a point to give myself Thursday nights off. I take the night have some wine, hang out with a friend and watch our favorite shows. It may not seem like much, but I look forward to that time and rarely miss it.
I meditate daily– I’ll be honest I can’t meditate most days without falling asleep. That’s why I’ve incorporated it into my bedtime routine; it’s the perfect way to clear my mind before I go to bed. Each night I do a guided meditation to help wipe away the day and prepare my mind for rest.
I journal– I know I do my best to publish a new blog post each week, but it’s not the same type of writing or reflection. Each morning I write out five positive affirmations to start the day and each night I do a goal and gratitude check in. Between the two things, it probably takes me 5 minutes a day. In that 5 minutes, I get reminded of all the great things in my life, the greatness in myself and the greatness to come.
Workout– This is an excellent way to get my heart pumping and clear my mind. It’s hard to think about that stupid email a client sent you at work when you’re doing squats to Jason Derulo.
Make time for my loved ones– Sometimes the best thing you can do is give a part of yourself to others. When I talk to my sister after she’s had a long day and make her laugh about my own misadventures, I feel good.
Eat Healthy– I have lost almost 30 pounds since New Years. I’m not starving; I’m not depriving myself, I’m just healthier. I eat more greens and protein, fewer carbs and hardly any dairy. I find it helps me sleep better and has given my IBS a reason for pause.
What! I know everyone has been talking about how bad comparison is for your mental wellbeing. I totally agree comparison can take you down a dangerous rabbit hole, but I like to practice positive comparison. When I am feeling down, victimized or defeated I think about how bad things could be.
For example, when I have a bad day at work I think about a friend of mine who lost their job and is having to move back home because they can’t find a job. I reflect on how lucky I am to have a job, apartment and car!
I think about how lucky I was that I wasn’t at home the day I got robbed. Does it mean these things don’t still bug me or I don’t have self-pity moments? No, but they do let me get over them quicker.
Another comparison tactic I recommend is self-comparison. So you’ve hit a plateau in your weight loss, so what? You are still 15 pounds less than you from 3 months ago.
Even when I get frustrated with my current state I think about 19 year old me, driving a car with a mind of its own and working two jobs while going to school full time, she would be so happy to have some of my problems.
This isn’t to say you should look down or others or your past self but you should realize that some people would love to be where you are. Count your blessings and celebrate your progress.
What are some ways you deal with stress?