For a long time I have struggled with controlling my stress. I've always been one to take on a lot. Like, a lot. I hate wasting time and when I sleep too much I feel unproductive. I like to have a plan, with goals and lists; needless to say, I kind of overwhelm myself. You're probably sitting there thinking one of two things, "You're crazy sister, cool it!" or "I know exactly what you mean!!". Well, if you're the fist then consider yourself blessed. My sister is very much like you, a 'go with the flow, take it easy, while still getting what needs to get done' kind of gal. The kind of person that can say, "it's okay, I'll do it tomorrow" is my hero! However, if you're like me, the word stress is one that has changed your life. Today I'm going to share a few tips on how I have managed to battle stress over the last five years.
When I started college, stress was no longer my issue, it was my lifestyle. Everything had a deadline, every hour was planned, and I was doing WAY too much. I was trying to graduate a semester early (as a personal goal) so I did everything I could to get it done (and I did!) I was taking 18-19 credit hour semesters, taking piano lessons, voice lessons, on a worship team at my school, involved in ministry, with a part time job, launching my blog/shop, in a long distance relationship and still trying to "enjoy the college experience". Yeah, welcome stress.
Stress was always present, but there were moments where it just about killed me. Often, it would affect my mood, weight, but several times it was affecting my health. I've dealt with migraines since the sixth grade, but when stress was at it's peak, I was getting a migraine a day. And not like the, "oh man my head really hurts" kind of headache, but I would lose my vision, be totally nauseous and basically useless for a good five hours. Another time I got hives for a week (bluh). And of course there's always that cursed acne. Stress was changing me.
The things I needed to accomplish were getting done, but at the cost of my health. It was a price I wasn't willing to pay, so I had to change the way I was living before it killed me.
sidenote: in my psychology class, we had to take a stress test, to determine our chances towards certain health issues and stuff. Based on certain things going on in your life you would give yourself x amount of points. At the end we all revealed our scores. I had well over fifty points beyond what anyone else in the class had. My professors eyes got big when I told her my score and said she was afraid I'd have a heart attack. Kind of silly, but before that I never really thought I was abnormal. I thought everyone dealt with as much stress as I did; that a life with a lot on their plate was totally normal. I was wrong. It's not normal.
So, here are some really practical and easy steps that I took to no longer be ruled by stress and I can honestly say that I live my life by these rules. Granted sometimes I have to remind myself of some more than others; I'm a work in progress, but they have changed my life.
Relax :: It's okay to not constantly be going, and it's not considered a waste of time to take a breath. If you begin to value rest as much as you do work, then you will have balance. Rest is crucial. This is kind of obvious, but sometimes we run ourselves to the ground and don't really honor that principle.
+ take a bubble bath
+ go to bed an hour early!
+ buy a groupon and treat yourself to a massage
Balance :: This one was hard for me, because I want to do it all. It's hard for me to not do something when I know I'm capable of doing it. Does that make sense? I think, "oh what's one more project", or "If I don't help them, then they'll have to do it alone". It's not your job to do everything, just somethings. For me, I had to make a list of priorities. Though I loved being a part of some things, it wasn't fair to give 25% to four things that I sort of enjoyed doing, when I could give 50% to two things I really enjoy or even a full 100% to one thing that I loved! Choose wisely and put your whole heart into whatever you do.
+ make a list of your activities/projects in list of priority
+ get an accountability partner, someone who will tell you if you're taking on too much
+ say no, once in a while; because it's okay
+ say no, once in a while; because it's okay
Schedule :: It's so important to know when it's time to work and when it's time to rest, when it's time to be with loved ones and when it's time to think of new ideas. Sure, our minds are constantly going, but some times it's healthy to shift your mindset and not get stuck thinking and worrying on things, when it won't even make a difference. Sometimes when I get home from work I give myself five minutes in the car to just let my mind rest and shift into blog mode, or hangout with friends mode, or whatever. Otherwise, I know I'll go inside the house and be thinking about something I forgot to do, or who I need to call, or what I need to get done tomorrow. Then I've skimped out on whatever project I should've been able to give 100% to, because my head wasn't in it. Set a schedule and follow it. Work time is work time, home time is home time.
+ buy/make a planner to carry with you so you always have your schedule in front of you
+ give yourself a few minutes between each new project to take a deep breath
Meaning :: What are you living for? Whatever it is you find meaning in, let it constantly be at the forefront of your mind. I have to ask myself the question daily... for me, I find meaning in Christ; I want to be the woman He has called me to be. So when I'm feeling stressed, I ask myself, "Is this helping me to grow, to be who God wants me to be?" If the answer is no, then I take a step back and say, it's not worth getting this worked up over, it can wait. If the answer is yes, then I take a step back and make a plan; I know that God's will is not that I be anxious so I try and see how to simplify the task in my head so I don't make too much of it. Everything you do should be for a greater purpose; if it's to become a better person, to become successful, or to be the first woman president, have the goal in mind whenever you set out to accomplish anything.
+ find a quiet space and just write about your passions, this can help you see what really matters most and
the things you should be working towards
+ write out your purpose and stick it on your mirror, let it be a constant reminder
Let Go :: Learning that some things are just out of our control is maybe one of the hardest truths I've had to deal with. I like control. The thought of being "out of control" makes me sick. And yet, there is a certain peace and comfort that comes in knowing that some things just are, and are meant to be, whether we will them or not. Get out of the mindset that life is a race and everything is resting on your shoulders; give some of that weight up.
+ make a worry jar. write out a worry anytime you have one and when you put it into the jar you're no longer
allowed to think on it. it's fun to go back through them at the end of the month to see how they all got
+ take up journaling. sometimes you just need to get everything out, but you don't necessarily want to share
it with your friend or blog world. a private journal can be so helpful.
Distract Yourself :: I don't know about you, but when I know I have things to get done, it's hard for me to enjoy doing anything else I hate leaving anything unfinished. So, I realized pretty early on that I was going to have to find ways to distract myself so I could get a break. Blogging and crafting has been such a huge blessing to me. Though often times it can become work in itself, it's also something I can use to relax and get my mind off of other things.
+ Take up a new hobby, or dive back into something you used to love.
+ Learn to do something you've always wanted to do! (this year I'm resolving to learn the guitar!)
The key is finding your limit. We're all wired differently, so for some having only 5 things on your plate is all you can handle, and that's okay! For others, you can handle ten, but no more. Whatever it is, find it and stick with it. You are worth so much more than any amount of work. Take care of yourself.
I'm happy to say that I haven't had a migraine in probably over six months. My skin has cleared up, no crazy weight shifts, I'm healthy and it's thanks to controlling stress and not allowing it to control me. Good luck friends! You can do anything you set your heart to.