Hey you, had any stress lately? Say in the last five years? Yes, say it out loud. LIFE IS STRESSFULL!!!!
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your stress level? I’d say mine was at about a 13.
Although to be fair, I do have a privileged life. I’ve not struggled with employment. I have a loving family. I have plenty of food and access to nature, healthcare, wonderful resources like the local library and the internet.
And yet, life has been s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l. I have unrealistic expectations for myself. As a mom. As a teacher. As a housekeeper and wife. And like so many people out there, when I couldn’t live up to the unrealistic expectations, I would despise myself a little for my failure. I desperately wanted peace in my home- no fighting, no anger, no resentment. I wanted my students to love my class and follow my classroom rules simply by being asked to.
Well, that’s a dream. Life is messy. And others respond to how we’re feeling. So bringing a calmer, more joyful mom and teacher to the situation is key. Yet how to qualm the anxiety and fear is the question.
So here are some ways I’ve coped:
- Look for a meaningful quote to come back to. Hang it up near your desk or on the bathroom mirror. Read it daily for inspiration. My meaningful quote hanging by my desk for the first 15 years or so was gifted to me by a professor I had in college- who was also principal of Albany High School. “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is sort of a splendid torch which I have a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it over to future generations.”― George Bernard Shaw
- Pick someone to make smile and do something kind for them. Something as simple as a compliment can make a huge difference. Picking other people up gives purpose and focus when times are tough.
- Be as prepared as you can- without going too crazy. Work smarter rather than harder. Be efficient with your energy and get the most important thing done. Give yourself permission to let go of the others.
- Be present with the people in front of you. Be relaxed. Don’t take on their behaviors as a coat to be worn. Be kind to them in spite of themselves if they are unkind to you.
- Take yourself outside for a walk. Fresh air, sunshine, and the sights and sounds of the outdoors are cheerful. They also help heal.
- Call someone you love. Venting can help or sometimes backfire. But hearing the voice of someone you love is healing. It also serves to distract or give you perspective as well.
- Bake something yummy. Hmmm- comfort food or health food. Brownies, stir fry, home made mac and cheese. Veggie stew. Creation is therapy and cooking is often a confidence booster.
- Clean something. Clear off the piles on your desk and discard what you don’t need. Pick one shelf to straighten. Wipe down your kitchen sink and counters. Clean a bathroom. The time put in comes back tenfold with feeling good about the results. And of course it is a great distraction.
- Art of your choice. Sewing, watercolor painting, sketching, doodling. The more stressed I feel, the more I realize I need to sit down and paint or do some artwork. My mind is telling me it needs balance. When you do artwork all your energy is removed from your problems and put into creating beauty. It feels great.
- Cry. Watch a sad movie. Read a heartfelt note. Feel really sorry for yourself. Take the time to let it out. Hug your pillow. Cry yourself to sleep. Then get up the next morning and keep moving.
- Write notes. Leave little messages for your kids. Send cards to your friends or family. Write cheerful notes to students. Write upbeat morning greetings. Focus on keeping your head up and resort to love when all else fails.
- Join an activity outside of work and home. For me it was indoor soccer and outdoor pick up soccer. Once a week is time for mom to do her thing. It shows my kids that I also value myself and that it is great for mom to get out and have fun.
- Morning me time. My morning routine consists of getting up, making lunches and snacks, then doing yoga. I shower and make myself some tea. I also read to my kids if we have extra time. This is a gift to myself. The peace of sitting with my girls, sharing a story together is the best morning pick me up. The yoga is my gift to my body and mind- helping to help me avoid body aches and poor posture.
- Endorphin highs. Getting out for 20 minute jogs (or longer) gets me a natural high. I feel great the rest of the day and have those wonderful moments of euphoria when the jog is over. And a hot shower feels delectable after a run.
- Breathing techniques. I feel anxiety in the mornings on the way to work. It is stressful having to get the kids on the bus and then hustle to work. Especially when success in my job means having five different power points pulled up as well as the perfect music, the LED lights on the right setting, the directions ready for the activity in advisory and all papers for four different classes accessible. So when I am stressed in the car thinking of all of things- I do some deep breathing techniques. And they always work.
- Meditate. Sit in a peaceful spot, sit tall, hands rest on the knees. Sit with eyes closed and just be. Thoughts bubble up and can be let go. Sit as long as is comfortable. You will find peace.
- Pick a project to do. Lately I’ve been sewing mini felt animals with my daughters. It is hard. And time consuming. And delightful. But it is productive and worth it.
- Find moments of calm to do work- and make sure it’s productive. I get work done when my daughters are at gymnastics. I work early on the weekends when they are rested and playing. I wait to do work until after they are in bed. I stay later at work to get work done. But if I am doing work and they are needing me, I stop. Work can wait. If I am not productive because I am too tired, I stop work to rest.
- Drink a warm cup of tea. Making a tea is a ritual. You put the water on the stove, you prep the mug, and tear the paper off the tea bag. You click off the stove and pour the hot water over the tea bag to steep. You watch the steam curl upwards and hold the mug in two hands. Tea is a comfort. It is a gift to yourself. It is taking the time for self-love.
- Focus on what you can control. If you need a change of direction, research that and explore what you are interested in. Develop skills, a side hustle, your own career change. Take hold of your future and focus on goals that pertain to you.
- Reach out to others. If you are stressed, chances are others are too. Ask others how they are. Listen to their answers. Identify with their emotions. Be empathetic. Don’t compare pain, just accept that you can be a light to help comfort others. Being understood is a huge help during a difficult time.
- Give yourself permission. Let go of guilt. Give yourself permission to eat the wrong thing or make an online purchase. Let yourself set boundaries or snap or make mistakes. Apologize when you need to but forgive yourself. Stress is a mountain that can bury if you let it. If you want to get out of it, be kind to yourself and seek the path out- it starts by showing yourself respect and honoring where things are at.
- Talk to your doctor about concerns. If you are struggling with depression or anxiety as a result of unrealistic expectations, talk to your doctor. They may be able to recommend next steps. Any help can be a step in the right direction. Don’t be ashamed to ask for it.
Thanks for taking the time to read this far. If you have tips for alleviating stress, please add them to the comments. I hope you are well and surrounded by love.