Why the eff are we so stressed? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to answer that question. People are rightfully stressed, outraged, anxious and living in fear over recent events, COVID-19, and the economic crisis ensuing. I am in no way discounting the reasonable fears and anxiety that people are experiencing. I am not naive to the pain, suffering and loss that many are enduring.
I do want to offer some actions that people can take to lessen the burdens. I want you know that it is okay to care for yourself, even when things quite literally are burning down around us. Dealing with stress is no longer a luxury but rather a necessity. Stress has the ability to spread, destroy and infect every area of life. Do not allow it to take you down with it.
According to the American Institute of Stress around 75%-90% of visits to a medical physician are linked to stress. It is quietly and unsuspectingly terrorizing our mind and bodies. The effects are wide and devastating from our digestive systems to more serious issues like chronic heart disease. Here are 5 effective ways to reduce and cope with stress.
1.) Breathe. Take a deep breath and give yourself the air it needs to survive. So many people overlook this seemingly small action. Breathing quite literally is the most effective way to reduce stress. Breathe as deep as your lungs allow and exhale whatever it is you are holding onto which you cannot control. Let it go.
This does not mean you do not care about people, things, tragedy or social injustice, this simply means you are not willing to allow anything to destroy your own wellbeing. Don’t destroy yourself. If you are not in control, you have no ability to help someone else. If a plane is going down, you have to put on the mask to be able to help your children get their masks on. If you are not alive and well, you have no power to help or save someone else.
2.) Start taking action in your life. We must be proactive and not reactive to take our control back. Stop chasing the fires and figure out how to stop them before they start. Those fires being our own mind. Yes, there is devastation and terrible things happening. Unfortunately, that is not something new.
There is always a tragedy happening somewhere every single day. That is the sad truth of it and not something you can control. There are actions you can take to lessen the pain and suffering of others. If you want to help or contribute to people in need, there are many ways to do that. You could volunteer, donate to a cause or write about something you want to change or feel passionate about.
News and media coverage often sensationalize current events to increase ratings and thus profit. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not lessening the injustices and tragic events that have occurred, that most of us are mourning and outraged by. I am simply pointing out that there are still many stories, tragedies and devastating events that most of us have never even heard about.
Take empowered, intentional and purposeful action. Start with yourself. As I mentioned above everything starts with you. Write in a journal, read a book or start a podcast discussing something you care about. Do your part to make this world a better place for all of us to live in.
3.) Declutter. I can not emphasize this point enough. I will write an entire article on decluttering because it is that important. I find it to be one of the most effective ways to reduce stress. Having a chaotic and disorganized environment will lead to a paralyzing stressed out head space. If you don’t have control over your physical environment you will most likely be scattered, confused and stressed out mentally.
It is essential to organize and get rid of excess in your spaces. Start with a small area in your home (like a closet) and get rid of anything you don’t need or use. Donate it to someone who is less fortunate and will be so grateful and utilize it. It gets easier as you practice this. I say just take the plunge and commit to donating straight away.
Releasing things we don’t need leaves room for more positive energy to occupy our space. Get rid of anything you have had for over a year and never used. Do not talk yourself out of it. Less choices mean less anxiety on the daily. I personally have anxiety if I have too many options or things are overcrowded.
Those insignificant choices you have to make everyday can really make a difference with stress levels. Trust me that the less you have to worry or think about the more clarity, and less anxiety you will feel. Most of us are guilty of overconsumption in many ways. Simplifying, decluttering and clearing space in our physical surroundings will greatly lessen your mental clutter.
4.) Set up routines. Automate your systems. Okay, if you are not into business or marketing, you may be wondering what I am talking about. It means putting everything on autopilot. Set up the conditions for everything to run smoothly with minimal effort. Routines are my life saving stress relief remedy.
I have a routine for everything. That doesn’t mean it always goes to plan but generally I know what to expect from my day. I design my day right down to the strategic placement of my running sneakers. I may be a tad bit meticulous with my lists, planners, journals, and calendars. Still though, this has kept me sane throughout this COVID crisis. Routines give me a sense of personal power, control and certainty.
It allows our brain to work smarter and think less about unimportant things. That is precisely what habits are. Ever wonder why it is when you are driving, you zone out and before you know it you are pulling into the driveway, slightly terrified of how you even got there? That is our minds going on autopilot. Simply put, with practice and consistency we can essentially train our minds to do anything.
“Cues” are a way to train ourselves to adopt different habits. If you want to start reading more, place a book on your bedside table. Turn off the guesswork or ability to talk yourself out of doing things and set up the right conditions. That will signal your brain to act. It won’t be automatic at first but with consistency you will reap the benefits of having to think less and act more.
5.) Get back to basic needs and wants. Eating well and moving more are the most effective stress relievers there is. Not only will your brain produce the neurotransmitters associated with feelings of happiness and joy, but you will be releasing built up toxins through that sweat. Couple those actions with things that you actually enjoy to ensure you will follow through.
Do NOT overthink it. Just start doing something that peaks your interest. It could be a DVD of Zumba or a long walk to the park with your kids. Most important is to just start! Cook healthy tacos with your children or play in the backyard while you listen to Miley Cyrus. I mean honestly it really does not matter as long as you are happy and doing your best.
Life is way too short to be stressed out all the time. Trust me I have been there. I struggled with anxiety my entire life. I have talked myself out of dealing with my stress so many times. It wasn’t until I actually started doing things that I began to feel release.
When we are busy actively living our lives we simply have less to think about. Stop thinking and start taking action. It really is as simple as that. There will always be something happening in your life or in the world around us. We cannot allow the exterior world to harshen or threaten our interior wellbeing.
Be strong enough to stand up for yourself. Value the health of your body and mind. Take bold actions and never let the fears, doubts or others voices from holding you back. You are capable and you have the power to lead a healthier and purposeful life.
We must lead, and lead by example for our children, and the generations to come. That is all of our responsibility to be better and that starts with ourselves. Mental health matters. Make the choice and take your mind back. Do it today!