It always amazes me when I find myself stressed. I have many useful tools in my toolbox for avoiding stress, but I sometimes forget to implement practical steps for handling stress.
I am strong. I cope well. I have a positive attitude, I’m flexible when faced with change, and I know how to problem-solve.
Yet, there are times when the piling up of life’s trials becomes a weight that turns into difficulty sleeping, body tension, or a weakened immune system. In my mind, it’s all okay but my body tells a different story. Sometimes, coming to a point where I am face-to-face with my negative feelings needs to happen to make me aware of something I tried to brush under the rug or something I did not realize I cared so much about. But does it always have to affect my body? No, only if I allow it.
I’ve been reflecting on the last year. It’s been full of great things – time with family and friends, vacations and short trips, and playful times. But there have also been difficult experiences that I had no ability to change. In the midst of all these times—good and bad—I just kept going and going.
So what did I miss this last go around? I did not implement practical steps for handling stress and so I was blindsided by it.
We’ve all heard it before…eat right, exercise, get good sleep. I know these things, but I fall into the trap of turning to food for comfort and just digging into “tasks” and allowing them to take over my time. So here are the practical steps for handling stress that I’m working back into my daily life.
8 Practical Steps for Handling Stress
1. Maintain a healthy routine. I’ve often talked about my love of coffee and my morning routine. That quiet time in the morning gives me time to sort out my thoughts and feelings so I can start each new day with a fresh mind. The hope is that I’m not dragging yesterday’s stress into today.
2. Keep up the exercise. This seemingly cliché mantra is too true. Exercise helps relieve stress.
3. Get good sleep, which frequently means, go to sleep at a good time. The argument could also be made for going to bed at the same time each night, but I know that is easier said than done.
4. Take time daily to be still, relax the body, and breathe. If this is not happening in the morning, find a pocket of time during the day. This may be an excellent practice to work into a lunch break, which people too often forgo.
5. Talk with trusted listeners about thoughts and feelings. And do the same for them. The point is to not take on all of their burdens in addition to your own, but to be in community with people and to share one another’s burdens and joys.
6. Journal nightly, ending with thankfulness. I talk about creating a habit of journaling in my blog, “Make Journaling a Daily Routine with These 4 Steps.”
7. Play, laugh, and have fun. Schedule at least one fun activity into your week.
8. Take time away. Go on an adventure. The key to this practical step is having time away from your job and daily responsibilities. Even if you love your job and station in life, your productivity, focus, and creativity will benefit from taking a vacation.
All of these things should be part of my regular routine to maintain balance in my life. Once the routine is established and habits are formed, I just have to keep it up.
So today I make the decision to make this change. I will work out my routine and protect that routine regardless of what the day ahead looks like. I will set my intent by writing on a 3×5 card the following words:
“I am able to manage each day by maintaining healthy eating, daily exercise, and keeping to a routine.”
I will put this on my bathroom mirror to start each day by remembering the practical steps for handling stress that I am using.
Won’t you join me?