When we think “stress”, most of us take that to be negative. We associate stress with overwhelm, chaos, and headaches.
While stress can be unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be.
Stress is simply a part of the human condition. It is a reaction in our body to a change in our environment. That’s it, that simple.
So, if stress is such a simple and normal part of life, why does it feel that our world is in full upheaval when we “feel stressed”?
Because we’ve been taught to ignore the early signs of stress and do our best to operate on top of whatever we are feeling. That usually looks like throwing ourselves into work, a project, or the endless world of subscription television shows.
When we do that, stuff down stress and emotions, we create a pressure cooker for those feelings. And what happens when the air in the pressure cooker isn’t purposefully released? It explodes.
For most of us, only when that explosion occurs, we then start to realize that we “are stressed”, burned out, and on the brink of meltdown.
IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE THAT WAY!
Instead of stuffing down feelings of stress, we can use them to get to know ourselves better, to make ourselves healthier, and to keep burn-out to a minimum by following these three practices consistently:
GET ORGANIZED & STAY ORGANIZED: Create a system for yourself where you have ALL your to-dos in ONE place. Most of you probably have a work list, a home list, a one day list, a kid list, a pet list…etc etc etc. Having multiple lists keeps you from seeing a whole picture of the expectations you’ve placed on your day/week/month. When you have all your action items in ONE place you get an accurate view of what is on your plate AND you can visually see what is realistic to accomplish at one time. If you have 5 lists and you mark 5 things on each of those lists as “to-do today” you suddenly have 25 things on your plate and have set yourself up for failure and burnout. But when everything is one place, you can easily see that 25 things in one day is way too much and needs to be spread out to the lighter days. (My favorite tool for this is asana because it lets you have your bazillion lists while combining them master plan making equitable distribution of tasks clear and easy.)
CLEAR YOUR MIND: Take time when you first get up and/or right before bed to do a brain dump of all the thoughts floating around in your head. Keep a notebook on your nightstand or kitchen counter and start writing before your brain has time to talk you out of it. How do you know what time of day you need to do your dump? Think about how your mornings and evenings usually go: when do you find yourself running through a million thoughts of what needs to get done or fixed in your life? If you are having a hard time falling asleep, do your writing before bed. If you pop awake before your alarm goes off because you are running through your calendar and yesterday’s awkward encounter, then morning writing might be best for you. There is no one size fits all though, test each one out for a week or two and see what works best for your brain and schedule.
ACKNOWLEDGE YOURSELF: This is the practice that my clients are most resistant to doing regularly. Initially, they think that it’s selfish or self indulgent. But, once they start to make this a part of their day to day, they are astounded at the amount of peace and calm they are able to bring to the most overwhelming experiences. The easiest way to practice self acknowledgement is to take 1 to 2 minutes at the end of each day to go through all the things you accomplished and improved. For example, you might acknowledge yourself for:
- doing your mind clearing writing from step 2 and for adding to your master to do list from step 1 more than you did last week. WIN!!
- listening to your partner fully before responding WIN!!!
- Getting selected for an award at work. WIN!!
ANYTHING can be a win, the more you do this, the more compassion you have for yourself, the more patience you have for those around you, and the more brain space you clear up for focus and motivation.
Creating time to implement these three habits into your day sets you up for peace, clarity, and fulfillment. No down side in sight!