Dealing with Stress

reading time: 5 min

Stress Awareness Month takes place every April, and since I myself am under a lot of pressure lately, I want to take this opportunity and remind us all to ease up a bit. 

Stress isn't only a joy killer, it can also lead to a number of major health problems, from bad skin to life-threatening heart attacks. Stress-induced symptoms also include a low immune function, moodiness, weight gain or weight loss, insomnia, low libido, hair loss, digestive issues, stomachache, headache, anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.

Here are some strategies I use for coping with stress:

1. Create a Routine

In times of emotional instability I find it very helpful to have a routine that will provide a sense of steadiness and security. It doesn't have to be a super impressive routine (because that will again cause stress), but make sure to add at least one self care element to your morning routine, and one to your night routine. 

In my case, I like to do yoga in the morning, or at least some stretching if I don't have much time, and make myself a nourishing breakfast like oatmeal with nuts and berries, or a smoothie with some superfoods like spirulina, maca and turmeric added to it. In the evening, I always write in my gratitude journal, and I also take the time to either lotion my face, massage my hair roots with rosemary essential oil, or rub in some coconut oil. That way I feel like I'm taking care of myself every day, and that gives me a sense of peace.

2. Inner Peace through Outer Order

Similar to having a set routine, you can create a calm (and calming) environment by decluttering a messy closet, an untidy desk, or crowded countertops. That way you will feel more in control, more comfortable and self-composed in times of turmoil and stress. 

Another way to achieve inner peace from without is by getting back in touch with your body. What ever it is for you: yoga, meditation, going for a run, or simply taking a walk outside. Do it! But be gentle about it. You don't want to cause any more physical stress to your body.

3. Balance your Hormones

To respond to stress, your body is built to release the hormone cortisol aka the aging hormone. As you can imagine, hormonal imbalances (and premature aging) have become increasingly common with today's fast-paced modern lifestyle. To naturally balance your hormones with your diet, opt for healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, almonds and chia seeds (omega-3s), use adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha, holy basil (tulsi) and ginseng, and add as many leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, spinach and collard greens to your meals as possible. Food is medicine! 

Sleep is also a very simple but powerful way to balance your hormones! Use essential oils such as clary sage, lavender and rosemary to fall asleep more easily. 

4. Be Present

One key aspect to reduce stress is to focus on the now. There's really no need to worry about the future or about all the things that are still on your to do list that will overwhelm you if you think of them too long. Instead, be in the moment. Take a break, breath. What do you have to do NOW? Do that, then do the next thing. One step at a time. 

To make being in the now easier, place one hand on your tummy and slowly breathe against your hand. Focus solely on your breathing for a couple of breath cycles. Then go on with your day. Repeat this a couple of times a day.

5. Better Time Management

The most common reason for mental stress is time. Or rather: a lack of time. To manage your tasks, learn to prioritize them. Then, according to your priority list, do one task at a time. Don't try to multi-task! Here are some tips on "decluttering" your to do list.

Peg a time limit to each task. E.g. finish task A by 10am, task B by 3pm, and task C by 5:30pm. Also schedule time for breaks. Have the discipline to stick to your set time frames. Don't even answer any e-mails outside of your set time slot for answering e-mails unless it requires an immediate response. 

Also, learn to say "No"! Don't take on more than you can handle - be honest with yourself and with your colleagues, clients or whoever you feel obliged to.

6. Use a Reminder

If you are like me, you will forget all about your intentions and will get caught up in the tricky trap of physical, mental or emotional stress anyway. In that case, having a reminder to bring all the great techniques to mind can help. This can be a set alarm that will remind you every other hour or so to take a one minute break, drink some water and do your breathing exercise. Or it can be an actual app like Big Stretch Reminder or Breaker.

7. Keep Perspective

Believe me when I say that the world won't stop turning once you allow yourself to be less stressed out. Ask yourself: "What is the worst thing that could happen if I didn't manage to do/finish this?" Even if it's a huge project with a deadline, try to keep perspective - because let's be honest, nobody will die if you don't hand in this or that project in time. Obviously, do your best! But don't drive yourself frantic.

8. Have Something to Look Forward to

To make a nerve-wrecking situation or phase more endurable, plan some future fun: the light at the end of the tunnel! Whether it's ordering a book you've been wanting to read, a relaxing spa weekend at the end of your project, booking a weekend trip, scheduling a hair appointment - whatever keeps you going :)

9. Make the Best of It

Last but certainly not least: Make the best of it! As encouraging as it is to have a reward awaiting you at the end of your stressful time, don't just live for these ups. Also "appreciate" the downs and live them to their full potential. Making lemonade from life's lemons, you know? Happiness is not a goal, it's a decision you can make - every single day! Even in shitty moments.

This was featured at the Thursday Favorite Things link party! :)

You may also enjoy:
5 Ways to De-Stress and Relax
Dealing with Anxiety