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How to Manage Stress
It’s not just in your head, but it’s all around you. In the car, at work, at home. Anxiety disrupts your everyday life in more ways than one.
And you’re not alone in that.
Can I repeat that for reassurance? You. Are. Not. Alone.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults and 18% of this nation’s population.
For the longest time I thought of stress and anxiety as something one should hold in. I felt so alone thinking that my emotions weren’t meant to be discussed in order to avoid judgment. Well, I’m here to say no more. We are all suffering, and that’s no secret. And, as we welcome a new year, it’s time to diminish the stigma once and for all.
Okay okay, so you might be thinking to yourself, I don’t have clinical anxiety in the same way others do. You might not be taking antidepressants or seeing a counselor. Or maybe you are. Regardless, it is not something to be embarrassed about.
Let me remind you that anxiety, just like human beings, comes in all shapes and sizes. Everybody has their own anxiety. What makes you nervous or anxious might not affect the next human, and that’s completely normal. It is a part of what makes our human race so incredibly unique and diverse.
Maybe I’m the only one, (though I surely doubt it) but I am sick and tired of us judging one another by taking terms like ‘stressed’ and ‘worried’ and exchanging them for words like ‘manic’, ‘psychotic’, and ‘crazy’. It’s offensive and oppressive, and it is not okay. When we welcome terms like those, we validate discrimination in every facet of life.
So let’s just stop, okay? We’re all anxious and tense and nervous. Because life is real damn stressful, so let’s stop pretending that it’s not and instead use that energy to find methods for managing our anxiety in the new year. Here are a few (dare I say, candid?) tips from yours truly that I believe are worth a shot.
**Disclaimer: these tips are simply things that I have tried to manage my own stress. Please consult a professional if you have hesitations.
I know it probably sounds strange (we’re not all dancers) but releasing tension in your muscles does help you feel relaxed and at ease. All too often, we don’t elongate our muscles enough, causing them to bunch and tense up. So, pull out your best Frances Houseman warmups and get those muscles moving.
Now, let me just say that the mere concept of meditation can be stressful. Questions like “what the hell do I do?” and “Am I supposed to be connecting with some bigger power or godly force?” might arise. But I just have to say it: there is no right way to meditate. That’s right, everyone can meditate differently. Set a timer on your phone for 2-3 minutes to practice. Get comfortable, close your eyes, and try to picture something really relaxing. Even if it’s crashing waves or sandy beaches, see how long you can go without thinking about work, what to make for dinner, or any other interrupting thoughts.
3. Try yoga
Okay, I promise I am not trying to turn us all into yogis. But you don’t have to be a flexible pretzel human to enjoy this pastime. Even if you attend one class for the mere sake of challenging yourself, it can be really helpful. A guided class like yoga allows you to focus on a variety of meaningful poses while simultaneously taking your mind off other things (i.e. that damn dinner menu you’re always thinking about. Ugh.)
I feel like every year, we put all too much pressure on ourselves to become workout gurus when the ball drops. Let me just say that is not what I am proposing. If you’re new to the gym scene, start slow. Whether it’s 15 minutes, 3 times a week or 45 minutes once a week, find a rhythm that works for you and keep up with it. Many of us don’t have the time to squeeze a bit of exercise in, but making a small portion of time for it once a week will not only make you feel better, it’ll help with your mental health too. There’s nothing like jamming to some music and moving around to clear your head of those stressful thoughts.
Okay, we’re not all Hemingway or Fitzgerald, I get it. But we’re also not all writing in perfectly crafted prose for an audience to enjoy. Writing has proven to be an incredibly therapeutic and oftentimes wonderfully private practice. Keep a journal by your bedside table/ nightstand with a pen, and write in it every so often. It doesn’t have to be interesting or witty, just talk about your day. If you’re happy- write. If you’re sad- write. If you’re indifferent- write. It feels good to write it out, even if it’s for an audience of one.
6. Create a routine
This sounds redundant. But this is more of a response to everything else I’ve said. Many times we know in our heart of hearts that we’d like to try something good (i.e. meditation, etc.) but can’t make the time. There’s always an excuse to not spend time on yourself. But think about it: you brush your teeth everyday (I hope) because it’s part of your daily routine, right? Well, if you meditated every night 10 minutes before bed, maybe right after that tooth brush is dry, you’re much more likely to do it. So, incorporate some “me” time into your daily routine by trying a few of the ideas listed above throughout your week. And start small- I cannot stress that enough. It’s not a sprint, but a marathon. Once you get in the habit of working on yourself, you’ll see how important it is to living a truly fulfilled life.
So here’s an example of a daily routine, one that takes place at night:
6 pm- home, dinner
7 pm- hot bath
7:30 pm- stretch, then meditate 10 minutes
8-9 pm- tv time
9-10- read and journal, bed.
And here’s a morning example:
6 am-wake up, stretch for 10 minutes
6:30 am- 15 minute workout
6:45/7 am- shower
7:30 am- listen to relaxing music while getting ready
8:15 am- write down one goal for the day and one for the week in journal
8:30 am- leave for work
It’s that easy! These baby steps will take you closer to your goal of ridding that anxiety and feeling better about yourself.
So friends, what do you think? Please don’t feel limited to my suggestions, but it’s a small start to get you into a healthier headspace. Every year comes with its challenges and its stressors. But I can assure you that anxiety is certainly not something to be ashamed of. We’re only human, after all, and we should embrace our vulnerabilities. With the new year comes new strengths, so let’s build on that positivity. After all, we start with a clean slate.
How do these strategies work for you? Let us know in the comments below.
I get asked all the time: where do I start?
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