Earlier this week I wrote a part one post on managing stress and shared a daily checklist. Today I’m sharing the ways I like to manage stress. I’ve noticed that we all deal with stress differently – some quietly internalize while others pop like a firecracker then regroup quickly. Some of us talk it out, while others need to go run 5 miles, jump on a bike, or take a kick boxing class. Some of us drive straight to Krispy Kreme donuts and never look back (ahem). We all process stress differently. I even see this with my kids – each one of them has a different tolerance level for stress and different set of coping skills (which are still developing). No matter your age, lifestyle, or responsibilities, dealing with stress is a part of day to day life. Below are 7 helpful tactics I’ve developed in managing stress – in no particular order. I’m not counting the donuts. Here we go!
7 Ways I Manage Stress
1. Step outside and breathe in nature. When I’m feeling anxious, worried, or stressed about something, one thing I love to do is step outside for an instant “reset” button. I make sure to leave electronics behind and just take a few minutes to breathe and watch nature. I inhale the outdoor air and exhale, while imagining that stress, control, anxiety, etc. is escaping my body on every breath out. Many times I’ll look for birds and watch them fluttering about – you can always find a busy bird anywhere outside. I find that 20 minutes of breathing in nature does wonders. A glassy moment on the bay a few weeks ago.
2. Laugh! You may think I’m kidding (ha), but laughter is one of the best stress relievers out there. Laughter boosts our immune system and decreases stress hormones. Did you know that when you laugh your body actually releases a youth hormone? And every time you laugh, that youth hormone increases by 87%. As we grow up and our life and responsibilities get progressively more serious, somehow we forget to laugh as freely and easily as a child. Kids laugh up to 400 times a day, while adults laugh on average up to 15 times a day. Studies show that patients who are recovering from a long term illness heal faster and experience less pain when they laugh regularly. Bottom line: laughing is fun and important for our mental and physical health, plus one of the keys to looking youthful.
If I need a good laugh, I’ll click on one of the Gayle Waters-Waters episodes and laugh until it hurts. The series revolves around Gayle, a cous cous hoarding, driveway vacuuming, power-walking, deranged New England stay-at-home mom who gets herself into all kinds of crazy situations. Gayle is one of my all time favorite characters!! I was hooked at Episode One. If you’ve never seen her, you’re missing out!
Also love to watch Impractical Jokers (Peter and I record their episodes and watch after the kids go to bed – Joe is my favorite because he’s completely unfiltered). Another way I like to quickly infuse laughter: my peeps and I sometimes call each other for a mutual “vent session” where we each share something stressing us out. While the idea is to discuss or analyze a challenge, half the time we end up laughing at the crazy things we say.
I also think laughter is so good to have in a family. Whenever we have movie night at home, everyone always requests a comedy. We’ve raised our kids on 80’s/90’s comedies, which I really love because now they share our sense of humor. One of our all time favorite movies is The Money Pit. Gets me every time!
3. Exercise. We all know that exercise increases our happy hormones and releases endorphins. Our lifestyle is now so centered around computers, it’s scary. Exercise is one thing I cannot live without. Whenever I slow down on my exercising, I immediately feel it in my attitude and tolerance for stress. Even if all I can manage is a simple two minute plank and walk around the block in between all of the events of my day, I do it. I try to do something active every day.
4. Pray or Meditate. I try to aim for some quiet time each day to pray or meditate – it’s not always easy to find that time, but it’s important. When struggling with a stressful situation, I like to read one page from my daily devotional and remind myself that God is in control and my job is to trust in Him and simply express goodness every day. I may not have the answer “right now” but I have the peace of knowing He will provide what I need in the right time.
If prayer isn’t your thing, meditating and practicing slow breathing in a quiet place is really helpful to regroup and center yourself. I have one friend who starts her day reading positive quotes and takes 10 minutes to have uninterrupted meditation before she does anything else. She is one of the most calm, “together” people I know.
When all four of our kids were ages six and under, getting ANY alone time was nearly impossible (my youngest was nursing, my second youngest was just walking, and my toddler wouldn’t nap). I felt like my mind and body belonged exclusively to my kids. Not easy for my personality type. I have never been one of those earth-mother types where everything comes naturally – I have always had to work on it. I can remember sometimes sneaking off to my nearby bathroom (which was thankfully connected to my closet) to hang out alone for half an hour while the baby slept and my littles watched a Berenstain Bears episode. My first child wouldn’t watch TV or nap, plus woke up at the crack of dawn, so those were challenging years. Even though I love my kids more than life and cherished those baby/tot years together, there were occasional moments when I truly thought I might lose my mind. I think it was having to give, give, give so much of myself and not really get my cup filled back up. I was missing that important quiet time. These days it’s a little easier to do while they’re in school, but nights are busier because they’re all up later than when they were little. My point? Make sure to find that part of your day where you can have quiet time to pray or meditate.
5. Sip hot tea or a cup of coffee. I find it very comforting to pause and enjoy a cup of hot tea or coffee. Maybe it’s comforting because you have to physically s-l-o-w down to drink a cup of something hot. I usually sneak in something small and sweet along with it – and try to keep it to under 10 grams of sugar. There’s something so nice about taking a small break to enjoy a treat while regrouping your mind and body.
6. Write a gratitude list. I know, you’ve heard me say this a thousand times. But I promise it really works! I usually do this when I’m in a pity party mode about something. As soon as I see my list, I’m jolted back into the reality that there are more gifts/blessings in my life than the one little (or not so little) annoyance I’m dealing with. If you don’t have the time to write your list, mentally list some of your blessings aloud or quietly to yourself. It’s very eye opening!
7. Plan something you look forward to doing. This doesn’t have to be a mega trip to the Amalfi coast or anything, it can be as simple as carving out coffee and alone time at a bookstore (there’s that coffee again). If you’re dealing with a stressful situation, it’s easy to feel somewhat trapped or stuck, which can take away your daily joy. Planning an event you look forward to can not only redirect your thoughts away from the stressful situation, but also help snap you out of that temporary funk. I love to do this for myself if a stressful issue pops up. It works wonders!
If you have any other stress-managing strategies or ideas, I’d love to hear! Hope you found this helpful.