How I Defeated Stress

If you read my previous post, you know that I started my 2017 by resolving to go to the doctor and take care of myself. Three months later that led to a cancer scare and my first, but not last, surgery of the year. Needless to say, my 2017 was a bit stressful.

Quick breakdown:

  • March - cancer scare and surgery #1

  • June - cross country family trip

  • July - horrendous stomach issues start during an 8 HOUR CAR RIDE

  • August - my three-year-old broke his femur at a trampoline park, rode in an ambulance, had to stay overnight in the hospital, and spent 6 weeks in the biggest beast of a cast I’ve ever seen.

  • September - back to the doctor for stomach issues; surgery #2.

  • October - stomach issues never stopped; after months of unhappiness with my job, began a series of difficult conversations with my boss.

  • November - December - busiest, most stressful season for my job; more conversations; more stomach issues.

Long story short - both my personal and professional lives were probably the most stressful, and strained, that they’d ever been. I was caught in this vicious circle of stress, being sick, stressing about being sick, being sick because I was stressing… and I didn’t know what to do. I felt like I was LIVING the “fake it ‘till you make it” moto with every fiber of my being. And everyone around me was suffering for it.

I was literally making myself ill.

My physical and emotional connection with my husband wasn’t where I wanted it because I was sick so often.

I barely had energy (or desire) to play with my kid.

I wasn’t the type of co-worker I’d always tried to be.

Everything was just kind of… blah. But I was “too busy” to even recognize what the stress was doing to me. What I was allowing it to do.

Stress has some pretty nasty side-effects on our health. In addition to increased heart rate and breathing, muscles tightening, rising blood pressure, and the negative emotional symptoms you experience, stress can cause physical symptoms of low energy, headaches, upset stomach, insomnia, frequent sickness or infection, loss of sexual desire/ability, and so much more. Long-term stress can cause mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, obesity or eating disorders, menstrual problems, acne, hair loss, and severe gastrointestinal problems. (See here.) So why do we do this to ourselves?! Why do we let this happen?

Stress is a part of life. I know that it’s unrealistic to think otherwise. But I also know that we choose how we process and handle that stress. For years, I chose to stress and make myself sick trying to do my job perfectly. I chose to take on stress myself if it meant others wouldn’t be unhappy or disappointed. I chose to put stress over my physical and mental health.

Until I chose to act differently. To be intentional with what I added to my to-do list, how I managed my day, and what emotions I allowed to be the primary focus in my life.

I say all of this because it was just one of the many moving parts that inspired me to do what I’m doing. To step out of my comfort zone and connect with all of you who might be stuck, unhappy with their jobs, having health issues because they can’t manage their stress appropriately, struggling to connect with family or friends, or a whole other slew of issues we don’t have time to list. This led me to the realization that I need to change. And I’m going to bare my soul and imperfections with the world in the hopes that someone, somewhere will have the moxie to do the same. If you’re out there struggling, I hope you know:

  • Being “super busy” is not a badge of honor. - If your default answer when someone asks "how are you?" is "Busy", you need a new answer.

  • It's okay to ask for help. You have people in your corner ready to back you up and you might not even know it. If that to-do list is taking over your life, let’s fix it.

  • Your life is too damn short to be spent being stressed and unhappy.

  • Take care of yo self. Be intentional with the stress you let into your life. Take a good, long look at what in your life is causing your stress and figure out #1 - if it’s worth it and #2 - how you can overcome the stress. Don’t wait until it makes you physically sick to make a change.

Now, here are a 5 quick ways that have helped me beat the stress in my life:

  1. Exercise at least 30 minutes every day. No excuses! Yoga, running, walking, cycling, zumba... I don't care. Just start somewhere. If you can only do 5 minutes today, that's 5 more than you did yesterday. Just keep it up!

  2. Meditate - Don't you roll your eyes at me! I see you. But this helped me SO MUCH. I used a guided mediation app and was intentional with taking some time before bed to meditate. Once I got the hang of it, I started using the methods any time throughout the day I felt the stress coming on.

  3. Express gratitude - Start off every day by writing down 5 things you're thankful for.

  4. Dance it out - I'll recommend this one all day. Any time I'm stressed, I put on some music and dance it out. Some of my best planning and thinking is done with my hair in a messy bun, barefoot, dancing around to Prince.

  5. Brain dump & get organized - every feel like you have so much to do that you don't know here to start? Or that you're so stressed, you stress about how stressed you are? That has got to be one of the worst feelings in the world. Whenever I get to this point, I drop everything and just get it all OUT. I grab a piece of paper or a whiteboard and dry-erase marker, and make lists upon lists. Then, I focus on narrowing it down to 10 things at at time. Now I've made it a habit to do this every single day. I'm intentional with my organization and planning so that I can make the best use out of my time.

Stay tuned for more tips and tricks on managing stress and maintaining a good mental health level!

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