Updated: Dec 17, 2019
Today is Stress Awareness Day. I was trying to write this blog yesterday and just couldn't. I was in a state of sleep deprivation - which is my standard, burned out for the day, and ready to give up. I asked Rachel if I could promote a blog for Stress Awareness Day and when it opened, this was what you found:
I am stressed. I am aware of it. To reduce stress, I am NOT writing this blog that I planned on my content calendar. The end. Peace out!
She told me that I could, but I probably wouldn't be happy with myself, even if it made me laugh. I was also trying to research some posts for clients regarding stress awareness day, and my reading comprehension level sucked because of all of the above things I listed. So I got in bed at 10:30 (this is a new goal of mine) and decided after a night of sleep I'd do better. I was right! I am looking at the screen with clearer eyes this morning. So here it goes.
Stress has a lot of definitions according to my Google search this morning, but for the purpose of this day and this blog, let's go with this one: A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Something that causes mental strain.
Over the summer, I off-hand mentioned being stressed out when someone asked why I was a bit frazzled. They asked what I had to be stressed about? I laughed. Oh, the list I could've given them. Running your own business is hard enough on its own. As I've mentioned before, I suffer from some chronic health conditions, all of which are exacerbated by stress. I am the human "chicken or the egg scenario." Which came first, Annie's stress or Annie's multi-day migraine? Did the stress cause a panic attack, or did a panic attack cause the stress? The truth is, I will never know.
Over the years, I've developed a lot of habits that help me reduce stress, and I wanted to share some of my favorites with you. I will preface this by saying I am NOT a doctor or healthcare professional. If you are experiencing abnormal levels of stress or anxiety, please see your doctor. There could be an underlying cause that requires more than just a bubble bath.
• Baking: As the title implies, I like desserts. I prefer them to stress. Baking is a very soothing activity for me. Not only do a get something delicious in the end, but it's also a form of self-care. Baking is regimented in comparison to cooking. When my anxiety is high, I bake. Whether it's cookies, cake, cupcakes or scones the instruction following of baking calms my anxious, stressed mind. It also means I get to give the baked goods to those I love. Sharing scones with my step-mom, Shari, has become a favorite activity of mine. I've even tried some 'out of my comfort zone' ideas because I knew the flavor combinations were something she'd love. My next baking goal is bread! I'm sure this will end up being a little more stressful than the rest but I'm ready for the challenge.
• Regular Self-Care: Self-care can take SO many forms. My personal favorite is getting regular massages; I have one scheduled for Saturday afternoon. I also enjoy quiet alone time. I am an ambivert, so while I can go out and be a super extraverted business owner, I also can be a very introverted individual who requires quiet, alone time. This morning I woke up earlier than usual and laid in bed in the dark for a while. I spent time going over my priorities for the day, checking my email, and allowing myself time to wake up slowly before facing my day. A relaxing bubble bath can be great for some, I am probably not that person, but I get why others love it. Whatever your go-to self-care method, do it often, you'll feel better because of it.
• Writing: Not everyone enjoys this, but it's a favorite of mine. I love sitting down to a blank word processing document or a new notebook and writing. Whether it's a story filling my mind, a blog, or just a journal entry for my day, it helps to settle my mind. Creativity is essential to my sanity. So if writing is not your thing, maybe you love crafting, sewing, painting, photography, gardening or something else. Find a creative pursuit to fill your time and relieve your busy mind.
• Pilates: Yes, I know this sounds crazy for me. But I'm saying it. And not just to make Rachel smile. Pilates has a unique approach to fitness and health. It is about your ENTIRE self, not just a muscle. It's about breathing (which Rachel will tell you I forget to do...often), it's about connecting your body and mind, so they work in harmony. As Joseph Pilates said, "Pilates is the complete coordination of mind, body, and spirit." THAT is the kind of exercise I can get behind. I hadn't been in a while, and after a session with last week, I felt so much better! It was after a long day of back-to-back meetings that I had planned to avoid the emotion of what that particular day was. Pilates was the perfect end to that day.
• Road Trips: Whether there is a destination in mind or I am just getting in a car and making the decision on which way to go on a whim, I love a road trip. In the summer you can have the windows down, good music turned on and enjoy the scenery. It's also a huge stress reliever for me. When my anxiety level spikes, my Mom, Joy, will look at me and say, "Let's go!" We will stop at a gas station on the way out of town for drinks and snacks and go wherever the wind takes us. It always helps me feel better. The way that a field looks in the summer, their crops in orderly rows, is incredibly calming to me. We sing along to some music and enjoy time together, usually in a place we never dreamed of finding.
• Meditation: This is a thing I learned in both high school and college. My World Religions class in High School taught us about meditation, and it's importance to various religions. We had a week where we explored meditation in class; it was awesome. In college, I took a course entirely devoted to stress awareness and prevention. It was something I think every Freshman should be required to take. I took it my sophomore year and wished I'd been able to take it my first semester there. The meditation portion of the class was my favorite. I've found apps and podcasts that have guided meditations that have been helpful for the casual way I've meditated in my 20s and 30s. Next week I am going to be attending an introduction session about Transcendental Meditation. I am really excited to learn more and possibly be able to take the course where you are taught TM. My therapist highly recommends it and told me she thought it would be an excellent option for me as I often struggle to clear my mind to be able to meditate properly.
• Speaking of a Therapist...THERAPY!: I have seen therapists off and on throughout my life, dating back to age 7. I always fought the idea when I was younger. In my mid-20s, my anxiety and depression reached a peak where I knew I couldn't avoid therapy anymore and that it was necessary for my success. It wasn't what I'd hoped. My therapist's practice was part of a hospital system that was connected with the church I was raised in. It wasn't the right option for me. Giving me bible verses or telling me to read a book about how God isn't ashamed of me for struggling with mental illness was not at all what I needed. I no longer considered myself part of that faith or honestly, any other. I also believed that if what I'd been taught in school was true, that God made me who I am, mental illness and all. I understand that can people believe that this isn't true and struggle with accepting help or even a diagnosis, but since I did, the help that was being provided often left me more frustrated than relieved. I saw an eccentric neurologist for my migraines that was willing to try anything, and he made a recommendation for a therapist he thought I'd like. He was absolutely right. I've been seeing her for probably eight years now. She is my lifesaver. She has been there with me every step of the way in my continued healing and growth. She lets me vent, cry, laugh, and feel what I'm feeling without making me feel like I'm doing something wrong and all without imparting too much religion into my care, knowing that it's not something to which I subscribe. She is encouraging but also often brutally honest. If I am doing something wrong or unhealthy, she calls me on it. I am lucky to have her.
• Organization: You clearly all know why this is important to me. I wrote an ENTIRE blog about it. So if you haven't read that, click here (when you're done with this one) and read about my favorite ways of staying organized. Organization brings calm to my brain. Without all of the things, I need to stay organized. I'd live under with more stress than necessary.
• A Sound Support System: Whether that support system is made up of friends, colleagues, mentors, family, or medical professionals, it's of the utmost importance. Mine consists of my three amazing parents, my older brother (Tony), his wife (Megan), their two tiny humans (Ricky and Gigi), a few close friends, my FuseDSM family, and, as I said above, my therapist. Without the network of people in my life who know the real me, I'd be lost. They don't always know how to help with a situation, but knowing that they don't judge and are willing to support me is all I need.
• A Great Playlist: Music. I can't live without music. It is my energy source, along with coffee. Whether it's something curated by Apple Music, Tony, our Dad (Rick), or me, music is the thing that gets me through every single moment of every single day. Yes, I love a good podcast and am even starting one in 2020, but music is my constant. This morning I was listening to some upbeat pop to motivate the start of my day and help my coffee kick-in. This afternoon it might be some classic rock, punk, or indie music. There is a song, artist, or genre for every mood.
How do you relieve stress in your daily life? I hope that whatever your method is that you take some time today to focus on that. A few minutes away from your busy day to relax and refocus can make a world of difference in your mood and productivity levels. I'd love to hear from you on your stress relief methods. I just might add a few of them to my list.
✌🏻 💜 & ☕️