Where in your body do you carry stress? Do you feel tension in the shoulders? Does pressure build up in the form of a headache? Twisted stomach? Stiff neck? All of the above?
There is a lot going on right now. You may be feeling added stress due to anxiety or anger over the election. The length of time that Covid-19 has dragged on is continuing to add stress to the normal life. Being a student in a virtual classroom, or in a new career is especially challenging right now. It really doesn’t matter whether you live in Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Portland, or anywhere else in the world. There is no hiding from the extra stress everyone is feeling.
That, of course, was before Election Day 2020. We are all waiting for a definitive answer about the future leader of the United States.
No matter the reason, here are some tips to help you manage the extra stress:
Tip #1 — Breath Deep
This cannot be said too much. When a decent amount of stress comes on, our body has a physical reaction. One way our body reacts is to take short, shallow breathes. Shallow breathing sends signals to the brain, informing it that something is wrong. Your brain then releases more stress hormones. Before you know it, stress and anxiety increases.
It is difficult to do this in the moment, as stress can often cause a cloudy mind. Instead of falling into this trap of short, shallow breathes, you want to take deep, full breathes. It will make a world of difference.
Tip #2 — Practice Meditation:
Morning meditations can do wonders to set you up for a more relaxed state of being. You can wake up and do a quick five-minute mediation before you get out of bed. Or close your eyes and meditate while taking that morning shower. Or while you are eating. Be creative. You can lighten the level of stress you feel, but you’ll have to set aside at least five minutes a day to help clear your mind.
This can also be done before important meetings, too. I have often blocked off ten minutes before important phone calls, meetings, or job interviews for meditation. This helps to ground myself in the present and rid myself of the stress that weighs on my shoulders.
Tip #3 — Exercise:
Exercise is a great way to rid excess stress hormones. It also tells your brain to release some “feel good” chemicals into the body. A little cardio in the morning can go a long way to dropping some stress. Basketball, soccer, jogging, lifting weights, tennis, a brisk walk. All of these things count. Do something that is going to get a little blood pumping.
Tip #4 — Avoid Social Media:
It’s not that social media is inherently evil. It’s that there is very little restorative characteristics to social media. Even if social media does not induce stress for you, it is not restful for the mind and has some addictive qualities to it. You can end up spending 30 minutes looking at cat memes when you meant to be on for two minutes messaging a friend.
Unless you are doing some very specific communication with friends or work, I’d avoid social media when experiencing stress. It’s more likely to leave you feeling more worse if you've wasted a lot of time than help you to relax.
Tip #5 — Art:
I am not an artist, but I discovered how relaxing my children’s coloring books are. Seriously. Try it.
If you’ve got a creative bent to you, then be sure to lean into it. Scrapbooking, playing music, painting, drawing, sewing, creative writing, origami…it all counts! And it is a great way to reduce stress. If you are experiencing extra pressure in your life, spend a little time practicing art.
Tip #6 — Journaling:
While writing can be an art, journaling is a little different. In journaling, you want to be intentional in what you write. Don't only focus on writing about the stressful challenges you may be experiencing. Also write about the things that you are grateful for. Expressions of gratitude can help to increase mood and decrease stress.
Tip #7 — Take a “One Thing at a Time” Approach:
You can only control so much. If you are trying to tackle everything at the same time, or consumed thinking about all the things that have to get done, you might begin to feel overwhelmed. By focusing in on accomplishing one thing at a time, you will feel a greater sense of control over your life. And by not looking too far into an unpredictable future, you’re likely to save yourself some anxiety, as well.
Tip #8 — Celebrate Your Accomplishments:
If you passed a big test or completed an important presentation at work, you’ve got to celebrate that accomplishment. It’s not bragging to recognize the hard work and accomplishments you’ve achieved. Go do something to mark the occasion. It doesn’t have to be huge. An ice cream cone. An afternoon off. Add a little extra cream to your coffee. Whatever it may be, just take a little moment to say to yourself “I did something today…and I did it well.”
Celebrate yourself. You are worth it!
Life is moving fast and filled with stress. Whether it is circumstances largely out of your control (election 2020), or something within your immediate control (work presentation, test at school), there are steps you can take to lessen the experiences of stress.
The biggest thing is that you will have to do something about it. Reducing stress often requires active and intentional engagement. If you want to lower your experience with stress, you may need to cut out what is causing the stress. And then develop some good self-care techniques that will help you reach that goal!
Wellspace Counseling is located in Tualatin, Oregon and serves Tualatin, Lake Oswego, Tigard, and the Greater Portland Metro Area. To find more information about Wellspace Counseling, visit the at www.wellspacepdx.com.