Coping with Stress

Do you ever get stressed?  Did you just let out a little laugh and shake your head “of course.”  Than you are like me.  In fact, I’m feeling stressed in this exact moment and I’m guessing a lot of other people are too!  In a 2017 survey, it was reported that 8 out of 10 Americans feel stressed.  That’s a lot.  So, what do we do about it?  We know it’s not good for us, so why do we keep persisting as if nothing needs to change?  As if, feeling stressed is normal.  Yes, stress is a part of life, but how we deal with it, can set us apart from living healthy or going down the stress rabbit hole.  

Personally, I don’t experience heavy volumes of stress daily.  My daily stress is minimal mostly because I do my best to prepare myself for each day.  However, I do have seasons of heavy stress.  That became clear to me over the weekend.  When I feel stressed it shows up in my body.  Not my mood, not my habits, but it’s truly inward.  My chest gets tight.  No, I’m not having a heart attack.  It’s just a physical symptom for me.  Last week when I felt my chest get tight, I thought to myself, “Hmmm, that’s interesting…” because I hadn’t felt that in quite some time.

When I approached this physical manifestation of stress with curiosity it put answers into focus.  See, while most people feel stressed at the end of the calendar year, this mama feels it at the end of the school year.  Why?  I mean, I’m not the one taking final exams!  Seriously though, as a part-time-working-stay-at-home mama it’s all I can do to keep up with end of school educational activities, dance recitals, karate tests/classes, performances, vacation planning, summer camp sign-ups, costume adjustments, kids who need new summer wardrobes because they went and outgrew everything they owned, my own work and clients, and a husband (God Bless him!) who is entering a busy season and finds himself working long hours while I manage our home the best I can (and when I say that don’t get me wrong, he’s there for the kids and me when we need him, he’s also just working a ton!).

My chest was tight one day, then the second, and then when I noticed it on a Saturday morning I was like, okay, there’s something to this.  Time for a BALANCE SHIFT!

What’s a BALANCE SHIFT?  This is a phrase I like to use to describe a time of change.  Sometimes we can be going a long just fine with the way things are.   We have our plans in place, we love our schedules, we are doing well with nutrition and exercise and then “BAM!”  Something isn’t suiting us anymore – time for a BALANCE SHIFT.  Time to look at what’s going on, where we can make changes, and what will help us best as we manage this period of stress.  Balance is about making changes, even small ones, in order to keep balancing.  So that’s what’s about to happen with me!  Here’s how I like to approach it:

Recognize the Season: 

I first like to recognize that this is a season of stress for me.  By doing so I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I know that seasons don’t last forever.  Which means, neither will my stress.  Recognizing that the stress will hopefully be short term I can immediately feel some sort of relief and give myself a little grace.  Which leads me to the next one…

Extending grace and patience to myself: 

It’s easy for me to not be patient with myself.  But the truth is, if I can’t extend that grace inward, how will I ever extend it outward.  During stressful situations we need to give ourselves permission to work through it and be patient as we do so.   We can’t put ourselves down for mistakes made or things forgotten.  We must simply learn what needs to be learned from it, forgive ourselves, and move on.

Set My Intention for the Day:  

During seasons such as these, I make it a point to meditate every morning and set my intention for the day.  Lately, I’ve been choosing patience and love.  Patience and love for me and for those around me.  I will often also say a prayer that God help me with this.  When I set my intention it clearly places it at the forefront of my mind so that every situation, I encounter that day I can remind myself to face it with patience and love (or whatever my intention is).  The funny thing about stress is that it can bring out our mean alter ego…. I do my best to keep that ego out of the equation.

Re-evaluate My Nutrition Habits: 

A lot of people don’t realize how what we eat can seriously affect our body’s stress levels.  Simple things like being a little dehydrated, under nourished, over nourished, too much sugar, caffeine, or junk food can put our bodies under stress all on their own!  One of the things I notice for myself personally is that too much sugar can make things worse.  Now, if you know me, you know I love cookies!  But just recently after noticing my body feeling this stress, I decided to say no to a deliciously looking piece of birthday cake because I knew what season I was in and the cake was only going to stress me out a little more.  Normally, I like to indulge every so often, but knowing what I know about where I’m at in this moment I said no, and it was the right decision for me.  There will be more cake.  Some might say just relax and enjoy yourself!  I will, when I’m not feeling stressed…. make sense?  It does to me!  I also try and eat lots of stress reducing foods: things that contain omega-3, like fish, and other foods that contain fiber (lots of veggies), B Vitamins, Zinc, and Vitamin C.

Re-evaluate My Exercise Habits: 

When I’m feeling this level of stress in my body, it’s a sure sign I need to back off a little with the exercise.  See, my body can’t tell if I’m being chased by a cheetah or just stressed about getting the kids to their spring performance on time in the middle of traffic.  So, even though most of me wants to hit it hard because I feel this way, what I really need to do is back off.  Which means replacing some of my workouts with walks or yoga, or even just fun play with the kids like riding bikes, scooters, hiking, etc. 

Get Outdoors: 

Nothing cures stress like nature.  Nothing!  So, when I feel this way, especially if the weather is nice, I get outside.  I take walks, I make the kids go outside and play so I can watch them, go swimming, have a picnic…anything that doesn’t involve being in the house!

Make Sleep a MUST:

It’s easy for me during these times to just wave off sleep.  There is too much to do and so little time to do it…. but there will always be time for sleep.  In fact, I’d bet this is one of the best things I do to help myself relax…I go to be early.  Lack of sleep equals crankiness, slower thoughtful reaction time, and just a lagging human being.  I’d rather be in a good mood and alert to handle everything coming my way.

Drink My Tea: 

I can drink gallons of lavender chamomile tea when I’m stressed.  I don’t.  But, I could.  This tea helps me so much to manage and relax and sleep well.  I’m super grateful for every sip.

Social Media Hiatus: 

I take a break from my phone.  I try not to spend to much time surfing social media, news articles, or the latest trend.  This is the leading cause for stress among our youth!   I’m convinced it can make me feel that way too.  Knowing that, if I’m stressed, I consciously don’t look because I know subconsciously it’s not doing me any favors.

What are some of your stress coping tricks?  I’d love to hear from you!  Do you also find that you go through seasons of stress?  I’m going to do my best to get through this one, and I’m going start by going for a walk with my dog, right now in fact.  And just so I don’t get dehydrated I’ll make sure I have some water.  It’s going to be a nice easy walk with no agenda – no rules either!  Have a great week and may your day also be viewed with patience and love.