Stress is one of those things everyone deals with. Whether you’re a cashier at McDonald’s, the CEO of a big company, or even a kid on a playground…at some time in your life, you’re going to experience stress.
NOW, WHAT IS STRESS?
It’s anything from that pain in your chest and shortness of breath, to fixating on a situation for an extended period of time. Stress expresses itself differently for different people. Some are better at dealing with it compared to others.
Some people eat when they’re stressed. When I’m stressed, my body either goes into starvation mode or binge-eating…neither of which are healthy.
Some people get closed off when they’re stressed. When I get stressed, I have a tendency to get mad at whomever is around me; it doesn’t matter if they’re at all related to why I’m stressing or not. It’s one of my worst qualities and something I’m constantly trying to work on, but, like any work in progress, it’s a piecemeal effort.
SO WHY AM I WRITING THIS POST?
Well, I found myself in a tremendously stressful situation the other day and I didn’t know how to get myself out of the funk it put me in. The only thing I did that entire day was feed my dog and take him outside to pee. Other than that, I slept and cried all day, crippled by an onset of anxiety and depression as a result of what was stressing me out.
That’s usually how my stress manifests. I overthink about the situation, fixate on possible solutions and why they won’t work, and then I’m stuck in this circling cloud of depression that won’t bugger off.
Well, until now.
I sat my ass at this computer and cranked out the top five ways that help me get out of stressful funks. I want to share them with y’all because I’m sure there’s someone out there reading this that’s dealt with stress and could use a friend.
Consider me volunteering to be that friend.
FIVE WAYS TO REDUCE STRESS (RIGHT NOW)
1. WRITE IT OUT. That’s pretty much how this blog got started. If you go back and peruse the early posts on 2LWithIt, you’ll read about how my health hit rock bottom. I had to make a decision about taking a leave of absence from law school; which to me at the time, meant entertaining the possibility of never coming back at all. To add insult to injury, the dog I was training to become my service dog was dealing with health and behavioral issues, which ultimately resulted in her being put down a few weeks later. I didn’t know how to process the range of emotions I was going through, other than spitting it all out into blog posts as an anonymous nobody on the internet. Slowly but surely, I kept writing (about the good and the bad), and I’m glad that I did because the good posts give me a frame of reference for the bad moments that stressful situations are finite periods of time. They might feel like they’re never going to end at that moment in time, but they always, always get better if you have the patience to ride out the storm.
2. DO SOMETHING THAT MAKES YOU HAPPY. The other morning, even though I didn’t want to, I drew a bath and just sat in it. I threw in a bath bomb and watched the bubbles dissolve, one by one, until it completely disappeared. Normally, I love to take baths. They’re relaxing, phone-free, and just a place to sit and decompress. I wasn’t in that kind of mindset, but I thought by at least going through the motions, maybe it’d help me get out of my funk. (TBH, it didn’t; I went to bed with my towel still on and fell asleep until the afternoon…but I sat down to write this post a couple hours later, so maybe it actually did do some good). I’d like to think that it did. Other suggestions here could be: reading a book, making a cup of tea, turning on your favorite tv show, calling a friend, or even going on a walk (with your dog). It doesn’t matter what it is, just get up and do something.
3. EAT & DRINK SOMETHING. When I wrote this post, I had yet to do this myself, but sometimes stress is exacerbated when you deprive your body of essential nutrients. I’d liken this to being hangry (hungry + angry), and how it’s difficult to think clearly when you’re upset and haven’t eaten in a while. Take the time to have a glass of water and a piece of fruit…but if potato chips are the only thing that’s available, that’s better than nothing. (Full disclosure: when I eventually did it, it was soup and some Trader Joe’s truffle chips from the holidays; how they weren’t stale, I will never know, but I was very happy to find them tucked away in a kitchen corner).
4. SIT WITH THE STRESS. Hear me out. Sometimes it helps to just marinate in WHY you think you’re stressed out. If you give the situation a couple minutes, a few hours, maybe even a day or two, you might see it differently. I was taught growing up to never make a decision when you’re upset, and that includes: consuming alcohol and getting behind the wheel of a car. It holds true today, because while things may look bleak and full of despair one minute, there might be a glimmer of sunlight or possibility for resolution if you just give it a little time. In the meantime, do something to occupy yourself, like: going on a run, staying busy with work, or cleaning the house. Just keep yourself busy until the brunt of the stress blows over, because it always, always does (eventually).
5. LOOK AT THE SITUATION FROM A NEUTRAL PERSPECTIVE. Sometimes it helps to look at whatever you’re stressing out about from a different point of view. If your boss is giving you a hard time, is there something you did or said that might have been taken the wrong way and the cause for way they acted the way they did toward you? If you’re in a fight with your significant other, put yourself in their shoes and try to see the situation from their perspective. If you have difficulty doing this, my go-to is to talk to a close friend or family member and ask how they see the situation. I’d recommend talking to someone that you trust, and if that’s not an option, try the internet. There are tons of resources, from anonymous message boards to niche-specific Facebook groups (e.g. groups about people who’re recently engaged/married and stressing about wedding-related things, or people with new kids and all the unforeseen worries that come with parenthood, etc.). OR, another go-to way to see a different point of view is to write it out in a side-by-side chart. I put how I feel about things in one column and their responses or reactions in the other. Sometimes it’s helpful to put it on paper, and then I can go back later and ask if my assumptions were correct; nine times out of ten they’re not, and that’s where the disconnect/argument/stress happened.
Writing this post helped me decompress and look at the situation that was stressing me out with fresh eyes. There will always be factors outside of your control, like how other people respond to a situation, but know at the end of the day, you can only control your own words and actions. That might not seem like a lot, but big-picture, if you’re able to channel your stress into healthier behaviors (like eating some food instead of binging or starving, for example), you’re so much better off than without those skills.
Let me know if you found any of this useful! I like to share tips and tricks as I use them myself, because like you, I’m a real person on the other side of this computer screen, just trying to figure out this thing called “life” like everyone else.