Managing Stress: Tips for when it all feels like too much

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Does this feel like your life too?

I won’t get into the details, but on a scale of one to ten, my stress levels right now feel like they’re sitting at a solid 11. There’s a lot going on in my life (mostly good, which I’m excited about), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few moments when I feel like I’m skating on the edge of panic. Instead of freaking out, I’m taking a moment to slow down and remind myself of some ways I can more effectively manage stress.

Writing it down

The most stressful periods in my life are brought on when I’ve got a lot of open tasks and I don’t feel like I have enough time to do it all. The sensation of feeling overwhelmed usually stems from carrying around a mental task list in lieu of getting it all out of my brain and onto paper. Writing down tasks that feel like they’re breathing down my neck clears the mental clutter and helps me to focus on doing one thing at a time. If, like me, your stress stems from several different areas in your life, try this simple approach to task organization favorited by Christine Merrill of C’est Christine.

Taking a mental break

Some might call it avoidance (which isn’t healthy when practiced over long periods of time), but a little bit of escapism isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes picking up a juicy novel or watching a favorite film with a happy ending is all it takes for me to get lost in a different world and then come back fresh to the tasks at hand. It’s usually much easier to attack my to-do list when it hasn’t been top-of-mind for an hour or two.

Working up a sweat

I’ve been running on and off over the past two decades and during that time, pounding the pavement has never failed to drop my stress levels like a stone. Thanks to the feel-good endorphins that flood your body during and just after physical activity, I consistently experience an enhanced sense of well-being following a good run. For those times when the weather isn’t cooperating, jumping on the exercise bike for a few minutes or putting on some upbeat tunes and dancing around the living room like no one’s watching work too.

Working with my hands

Knitting is hands-down one of my favorite ways to de-stress. There’s just something hypnotic and meditative about the quiet repetition of knitting and purling stitches even if it’s just for a quick 15-minute knit break. Studies have shown that activities like knitting can lower your blood pressure and reduce production of the stress hormone cortisol. The best part? Knitting is not only meditative–it’s also productive since I’m making a practical item at the same time that I’m lowering stress.

Clearing it out

Are you surrounded by unnecessary clutter? That might be a big part of why you’re feeling so overwhelmed. It makes sense, right? A cluttered home or desk are a physical, visual reminder of all of the stuff you have to do that isn’t done, and doesn’t exactly promote restfulness. So I’ll be spending the next few days cleaning up to help keep my mind clear and focused for the priority tasks I need to handle.

You’d better believe I’ll be referencing and re-referencing this post in the immediate and distant future when everything starts to feel like it’s just too much. Hope you found it helpful, too.

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The Marvel of “Me Time”

I mentioned last week that I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed and tired lately. It’s little wonder–my job can be stressful in early summer and I’m still feeling the effects.  Body aches, tension headaches, and a feeling of malaise have been plaguing me for the past six weeks.

This weekend, I started taking steps toward taking better care of myself. I made time to go to the grocery to prepare meals that were both (sorta) healthful and delicious. I put on some music and danced around my apartment while completing my chores. I binge-watched a few shows I’d been putting off for months. But what I enjoyed most of all were the few hours I spent taking a leisurely walk in and around my neighborhood on Sunday.

After a cool and cloudy start to July, Sunday’s weather was everything I love: sunshine and just enough warmth to make it feel like summer. I went down to the waterfront–as I tend to do when I need to clear my head– and made a nearly-four mile circuit of a favorite nearby spot. With no real destination in mind, I threw my planned schedule for the day out the window and simply embraced the moment.

I took photographs and explored hidden spots I hadn’t noticed before. And, upon arriving at what would become my turnaround point in a beachfront park, I just sat and listened to the small, rolling waves break upon the shore. It was glorious.

I won’t say that after my weekend escapades that all is right in my world, but taking some time for myself made a definite improvement. I’ve been so motivated by the brief respite, that I’m planning some longer escapes for the end of summer.

Note to self: Work hard, but make time for rest. Lesson learned.

If you’re interested in taking a walk around my neighborhood, I uploaded the Snapchat story to my YouTube channel so I could share with family and friends. Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy it too.

Finding Friendship in Your 30s: A Guide for Introverts

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Even though I might be introverted and spent most of my childhood and my twenties shunning contact with others, I’ve come to value friendship. Someone to laugh with over the ridiculousness of life, someone to keep me accountable when I’m ready give up on my dreams, and someone to kick my ass when it needs kicking is pretty much what everyone needs. No man is an island, so they say. Continue reading →