Monday, January 12, 2015

10 Helpful Tips for Beating Stress in 2015

For those of us who've dealt with stress--and let's face it, life itself is stressful!--who doesn't want to see this new year less burdened by the things that worry and harangue us? Those things that make us lose sleep, needlessly, at night?
A More Serene 2015!

As someone who's struggled with managing anxiety for years, I've collected lots of tips and experimented with different outlets and strategies. Below are my little go-tos, things that I've learned that truly work on many different levels, which I now share with you. Give them a try; really throw your whole heart into it, for a less stressful 2015!

1. Eat, sleep, pray. Only not necessarily in that order.

As a matter of fact, PRAY comes first. Making time for God's Word, for that hour of devotional, whether it includes reading from a devotional or singing praises or time spent in prayer. Something I've found to be true: The earlier in the day you designate for worship and meditating on the Lord, the better. It sets the pace for the rest of the day.

On a physical level: Eat mindfully. Healthfully. Rest. Get plenty of sleep.

Putting importance on health--spiritual health, physical health, emotional health--makes you stronger in all those areas so that when stress does come banging at your door, you're strengthened to deal with it...spiritually, physically, emotionally.

2. Exercise.

Exactly what the doctor ordered, too. Three to five times per week...or more. Find a treadmill, a dance floor, a mountain trail, and stomp all over stress. Build up those stress-fighting endorphins!

3. Play.

Not the same as exercise, and not always as strenuous. Play. Break out the board game, the deck of cards, the bicycle. Share that game with family and/or friends. Get in touch with that inner child at least once a week, if not more. Hide from the adult. Even better, play with the real child or grandchild in your life. Be a Big Kid. Laugh, romp, get your clothes dirty! It beats worrying about whatever's bugging you and it keeps you young.

4. Give yourself enough time.

Sometimes, I'm one of those people who waits until the last minute to head out that door in the mornings. I make it on time, but barely. As my mom used to say, "The devil is in the details." Cutting it too close is one of those cases in life where we basically volunteer to be stressed out.

Whether you're going to work or a doctor's appointment or even a luncheon date, GIVE YOURSELF ENOUGH TIME. Don't cut it short. Take that extra five minutes to warm up the car, put on makeup, find your car keys. Shut off the laptop earlier than normal, do those last-minute checks to make sure everything's turned off or locked up. Be on time. Don't volunteer to be stressed in this area.

5. Don't overcommit and don't get pressured to commit.

This one's self-explanatory, but the bottom line is that you can't be all things to all people. You can only be in one place at one time. If you don't want to commit to something, learn to say "no." You're not Superwoman, you're Human Woman. Don't be pressured by anyone to say "yes." Refuse to make promises you can't or have no intentions of keeping. That way, besides not being stressed, you'll have the time and energy to commit to those things that you DO want to make time for in your schedule. You'll also avoid arguments you didn't need to sign up for unwittingly, hence more anxiety.

6. Stop giving others permission to stress you out.

There's this little graphic making the rounds on Facebook that I loved from the first time I saw it: Not my circus; not my monkeys.

Dramas are going to happen, but you don't have to allow someone to cast you in their little melodramatic play. Ditto for negative people who are always complaining and dragging down others. Negativity and complaints are natural stress-builders. Same thing goes for people who try to bully you, either at work or online. All those things are unnecessary stresses. Again, don't volunteer. Not my circus; not my monkeys.

7. Make time every day for the creative.

As an indie writer, I do this because it's part of my life--but you don't have to be a professional writer or singer to do this. Every day, or at least as often as you can during the week, make time for a creative outlet. Whatever comes from your heart that gives birth to something, whether it involves banging on drums or tossing ingredients together in the kitchen or splashing oil paints on a canvas, pencil in an hour in your day to do this. Get your hands and your imagination to collaborate on a project. You'll have fun, you'll be proud of your efforts, and you'll have that much less time for worry and anxiety.

8. Give yourself a gift each week.

Nothing expensive or extravagant, either. It could be something as simple as a latte at Starbucks at the end of the week or a booklet of Wordsearch puzzles, or even a luxurious oatmeal soap bar from the health food store. The "gift" can be an hour of alone-time: a leisurely walk, an hour of catching up on your reading. Treat yourself kindly once a week, whether it's a little gift or a little privilege, something special, something to look forward to. It sets the pace for taking care of yourself, which goes a long way in managing your stress.

9. Journal daily.

I have kept a journal (on the computer) for a number of years. Everything the therapists and psychologists say about doing this? It's true, ya'll. You can scream and yell into a journal, you can work things out, talk things out. Then you can delete the entry if you want. But rather than bottle up all those thoughts, some of which can grow up to be reasons for stress, whether you're dealing with work problems or personal problems, get them out in a journal. Write one sentence or 10 pages; whatever your soul wants to spill out. Just bleed it all out onto the journal page, daily or as close to daily as possible.

10. Ask yourself: Do I really need or want this?

A lot of stress comes from dealing with finances, or more accurately, finances that are way out of control. Start today, now, to ask yourself while you're at the mall or about to purchase that impulse buy: Do I really need or want this? Can I hold off on it until next week? If I still want it by then, I'll buy it.

If you really do want it, by all means, get it! What I'm referring to is those things we buy impetuously, or things we think we need just because we're at the mall and we don't want to come home empty-handed. Those things that we regret buying as soon as we get them out of the bag. We don't really need to justify every visit to a favorite shoe store. Sometimes just trying on shoes and window-shopping is enough retail therapy...and those things don't run up our credit card bills, which ends up keeping us up at night with stress.

To sum it up: Treat yourself kindly and gently in 2015.

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