Happy Wednesday! I want to talk about stress today. Specifically, how to manage it in the moment. I won’t pretend I’m an expert because I’m not, but this shit helps me, so hopefully it helps you as well.
I had a really bad day Monday. Like, really bad. I did not use any of these tools I’m about to inform you of. And it was fucking miserable. Once I was able to collect myself after what felt like the longest work day of my life, I remembered that I’m the only person in control of my emotions and how I react to them. Others may influence it, but they don’t have to. It’s all up to me. And therefore, how you react to yours is all up to you.
There will always be days where something annoying af happens that pisses you off. Some days, it seems like nothing can calm you down. But most days, for most situations, using a stress relief technique will do the trick. It might not make you feel 100% better, but honestly, it’s better than nothing.
And since drinking at work is frowned upon, these will have to do.
This one probably sounds really dumb if you’ve never thought about breathing outside of something we do automatically to sustain life. However, most of us don’t breathe “enough.” Let me explain. The point of breathing is to get oxygen to our lungs and ultimately all the cells of our body. Without oxygen, our cells die pretty quickly. When we are stressed, our breath gets super shallow, limiting the oxygen we take in and essentially causing our cells to work overtime with limited resources. So, on top of the distress you feel about a certain situation, your body and mind are also distressed. Taking long, deep breaths increases the among of oxygen to the brain, inducing a relaxing effect.
Stress.org says, “Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”
There are a ton of different breathing techniques that you can practice over time to create an overall sense of calmness in your life. But if that seems overwhelming, start with deep breathing when you feel yourself getting stressed out. Notice how different you feel in both your mind and body after taking a few deep breaths.
Take a walk
Taking a walk is so necessary for so many situations. If you are a person who is easily heated and tends to spout off whatever thought comes to your mind, I encourage you to try walking away for a few minutes. If you can avoid it, don’t storm off. Tell the person you’re talking to that you need a minute to collect yourself. You will be able to come back to the conversation much calmer. But this isn’t something that can just be used in a heated moment situation. Taking a walk when you’re frustrated by a certain task or even feeling creatively stuck can help pull you out of that rut. A change of scenery can mean the difference between an unproductive day and a productive one.
Affirmations are basically just really great things you say to yourself that change negative thoughts into positive ones. You can use situational affirmations like, “I am able to focus on this task and will complete it well” or more general statements like, “I am calm and collected. I can handle anything that comes my way.” This exercise might seem silly, but the way we speak to ourselves has a profound effect on our mental health and well-being. Think about it. If you are constantly thinking negative thoughts, they tend to become your reality. Why wouldn’t you want to flip that upside down and start lifting yourself up with your thoughts?
Step 1 – Choose an affirmation and believe it. It doesn’t have to be totally true (yet) but you have to believe in it. It should be realistic. For example, don’t say, “I am happy and positive all the time” because that’s not realistic for anyone. Instead, you could say something like, “I am learning to see the positives in every situation and I’m growing every day.”
Step 2 – Say it out loud or silently to yourself as if it’s already true. This isn’t something you want, it’s something that’s already within you and accessible.
Step 3 – Live it. Repeat your affirmations to yourself throughout the day and live them.
Similar to affirmations, visualization requires a bit of imagination and creativity. I like to use visualization more for long-term goals and manifestation, but I think it can be equally useful as stress relief. I actually listed visualization before the whole explanation came to me, but as I thought about it, there is something to it. One example is using visualization before a big meeting or doing something you’re nervous and stressed about. Visualize that shit going so smoothly. As with affirmations, be realistic. You can’t just visualize yourself speaking perfect Italian to a group of students if you’ve never spoken Italian in your life and then expect that to become reality. You also want to be realistic about the different outcomes that could occur. It might be useful to visualize a few different scenarios to prepare yourself. Don’t spiral into a negative vortex, but again, be realistic about what could go “wrong.”
These are just a few of the tools I personally try to incorporate into my life, especially during stressful situations. Like I said, I’m not always successful. At the end of the day, we are all human. All we can do is try to get better every day. When you fall short, acknowledge it. Honor your feelings about the situation. And then move on.
Until next week!