For years, maybe even a decade now, I've made the choice to be stressed out (I think most of us have, for different reasons of course). For me, so much of my self worth was based on the job that I had, that I've conditioned my mind to work overtime. I wanted so desperately to be successful in my career, that I made an overachiever look lazy. I pushed and I climbed and I did whatever it took to prove myself worthy in the workplace. I've been the ideal employee, a bosses dream. Bravo for me right? Wrong! The "conditioning" I put myself though may have gotten me raises and promotions in the short term, and if I'm being honest, it definitely helped me get out of a really bad situation, but in the end, where it matters most, it's left me a stressed out mess.
One of the many reasons I'm now in weekly therapy sessions, yep weekly, you read that right, is because at 34 I need to retrain my brain. In layman's terms, I'm learning to slow my brain down. I'm teaching myself how to live a stressful life without being stressed out. I've made a conscious decision that 2014 is going to be the year I learn to lose the weight of the world, and for me a big part of that means losing a mind that runs overtime trying to achieve. In just a few short weeks, I've seen an incredible shift in my attitude and in my stress level. In no way has the stress I'm under gone away, I'm just learning to reduce the impact it has on my mind and body. I'm not an expert but I've picked up some super, simple tips over the last month that I'd like to share. Full disclosure, the exercises themselves are incredibly easy, it's implementing them into your daily life that takes work.
Tip #1 Self Regulation
Ever heard of it? Me neither until a few weeks ago. Man, what a positive impact this exercise has had on me though. To get started you'll need to pinpoint your first signs of stress. It didn't take me long to realize that in stressful situations my breathing instantly gets shallow and then the speed of my movements increases. Once I knew what to look for, I put myself on alert. The moment I'd notice my breathing get shallow, I'd take three deep breaths. As soon as I noticed my typing speed increase, I'd stop typing. If I'd start to walk fast, I'd immediately slow my pace. By consciously looking for and then correcting these behaviors, I'm regulating my level of stress and ultimately stopping what could be a slippery slope.
Tip #2 Unplug
This is huge. I think a big part of the reason so many of us are as stressed out as we are is because were over stimulated. I know I am. I'm not gonna go off and get all crazy about how bad technology is because I love my ipad as much as the next person, but what I will say is that when you're feeling stressed, the added stimulation isn't helpful. If I'm feeling stressed out and my cell phone rings or a text comes in, I don't answer it. In the past few weeks I've changed a lot of little behaviors centering around technology that have really seemed to help, I've stopped listening to music in the car on my way to and from work. I've also stopped watching tv or surfing the internet at least 30 minutes before I go to bed. I don't need the extra chatter. I've stopped using my lunch break to blog as well. I mean how can I expect my brain to slow down when I'm constantly stimulating it???
Tip #3 Go Outside
It's amazing what some fresh air and a 10 minute walk can do for you. I use to say I was too busy to step away from my desk and if I did go outside, I'd use that time to make calls or return personal e-mails. I guess something is better than nothing, but what I mean here when I say go outside, is really go be outside. Let the sunshine warm your face or the breeze blow your hair. Nature has a great impact on our moods.
Tip #4 Just Breathe
Tip #5 Visualize
If you guys follow me on Instagram (which you should) you've already seen my new little friend. She is a reminder to be still and to be at peace. I've had her on my nightstand for the last week and every time I look at her I visualize myself as calm and at peace as she appears to be. There's a reason they sell this shit you guys. I mean we all love our mantras, maybe you have your favorite saying or a reminder to yourself on your desktop or pinned up on your bathroom mirror. Visual reminders help to keep us moving down the right path, they work. There may be a third tattoo on the horizon...
Well that's it for my tips and tricks for now. Like I said, these are super simple concepts. The hard part is making them habit. The good news though is that it really only takes a few weeks before these practices stop feeling forced and start feeling a bit more natural. Again, I'm not an expert and I still have a long road ahead of me but for now these things really seem to be helping me manage my stress. I hope they help you too and I'd love to hear what you guys do to keep yourself calm and at peace in this stressful world.