As uncomfortable as it is, stress serves an important purpose in our lives. It's there to keep us safe and enables us to respond quickly to threats and avoid danger. All good things! However, lengthy exposure can potentially lead to mental health struggles (anxiety and depression, just to name the big ones) or increased physical health problems from the built-up cortisol and unreleased emotion within the body. While no one can avoid all stress in life, you can do your best to handle it in healthy ways that increase your recovery potential. It all starts from within. Let's look at some stress relief tips that focus primarily on your state of mind, and that you may not have considered, below.
Look at your values and live by them. The more your actions reflect your beliefs, the better you will feel, no matter how busy your life is. Try and use your values when choosing your activities as much as possible. This is a big one. Living in a way that doesn't align with your values, such as working long hours at a busy retail store when your soul dislikes consumerism, will lead to an overall feeling of stress. Maybe there is a job opening at an organic/sustainable clothing store instead, or one that only sells consignment, helping the environment by recycling fashion. If there's a way to set up your life in a way where everything you do feels aligned to what you believe in, the better you will feel.
- Reduce stress triggers. I know this seems easier said than done, and if you are like most people, your life may be filled with lots of demands and too little time. However, you can make an effort to free up time by practicing time-management skills like asking for help when it’s appropriate, setting priorities, pacing yourself, and reserving time to take care of yourself. Reduce stressors where you can. For example, if you’re rushing out the door every morning to get your kids to school or to get yourself to work, try getting up just 30 minutes to an hour earlier in the morning to start your day on the right foot. Any opportunity to reduce stress in your life, take it!
- Assert yourself. Or, in other words, learn to get comfortable saying "No.” It’s okay to say “No” to demands on your time and energy that will place too much stress on you. You don’t have always have to meet the expectations of others. I know that disappointing people, especially people such as friends and family, is really hard. But if you have too much going on during the week, you are not a bad person for putting yourself first and saying no. It’s essential to take things off your plate when you can and stand up for yourself! Say NO when necessary, and nurture the relationship that you have with yourself.
- Set realistic goals and expectations. This one is all about self-love. You have to be your own cheerleader. Of course, it's important to push yourself to reach deadlines and goals, but make sure you're taking the time to celebrate the small steps you've taken as well. It's completely okay (and healthy!) to realize you can't be 100% successful at everything all at once. So be mindful of the things you can control and accept the things you can’t.
- Sell yourself, to yourself. You know what you bring to the table. You are awesome! When you’re feeling overwhelmed, remind yourself of what you do well. Have a healthy sense of self-esteem. We are all our own worst critics at the end of the day, but it’s imperative when times are tough to advocate for yourself, especially to your inner-critic who might come out only to make you feel worse. When you feel those negative thoughts start coming up, just notice them for what they are, thank your brain for doing its job by thinking, and go along with your day. It can be helpful to remember that you are not your thoughts. You are you! And that person is unique and beautiful.