Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Surefire Ways To Conquer Stress


Right now, I'm vibrating. My hands are shaking, my breaths are shaking. My legs are shaking. My feet are sweaty, my hands are clammy. My skin is itchy. My upper back is a knot of fire - burning, burning. I need to scream, I need a quiet place to cry. I need to get away, to take a break.

To process what I learned about myself in therapy this week.

But I'm a single mom, raising two kids with very little help. There's no escaping for a moment to rest, to cry, to unload. My kids have inherited my anxiety disorder, and they are high maintenance kids with issues of their own. There's no quiet hotel room, no mommy getaway, no helpmate to take the kids off my hands so that I can refuel and re-energize. In the meantime, I'm writing a book. I'm building a brand - I blog every other day no matter what, and I promote my blog daily. I work hard, every single day. My life is stressful.

Today (Monday, the 20th) I went to therapy. It's President's Day so I had both kids in tow, and I always take Chance with me because my therapist is a Godsend and my dog is a miracle. But it was one of those days where we got up, and I just knew from the beginning that it was gonna be a MONDAY of most Monday caliber. Eden was hyper, Joey was grouchy. Therapy always makes me anxious, and I felt guilty because this week has been busy and I didn't get done with the homework I needed to bring back in - not because it has a due date, but because I feel compelled to keep moving, always - to keep striving, to keep working, to keep pushing. I feel shame over what I haven't accomplished, and pressure to keep going, always. Nothing relieves it - but days like this, it just feels like the WHOLE WORLD is strapped to my back, and I'm crumbling.

This is the dark corner of the world I live in, the world of overstress, the world of constant anxiousness, the perfectionism, the lingering impact of what I've lived through in my lifetime - more than most can fathom.

We loaded up in the van ten minutes late, two hyper and anxious kids in tow, and me feeling the pressure already. Gotta get there in time, gotta be working hard, gotta be able to show I'm trying, gotta be ON as the mom, I sure hope the kids behave while they're waiting and don't trouble the receptionist. The gas light came on, so we stopped for gas and the small gas station coffee that I almost always bring in to drink while I'm crying my way through my sessions. I don't know why - it comforts me.

After therapy, we drove home, where I dropped Joey and Chance off to hang out while Eden and I ran to the grocery store. Joey's got a huge project due tomorrow, and since it had to be completely edible, we waited until the last minute to do it, knowing that it was going to be eaten by her class. We made a rice crispy animal cell, upon which we had to represent all the parts of the cell - in 3D, all edible and clearly marked. I spent $40 dollars on cereal, marshmallows, and candy, none of which I can get back. It's half a week's grocery budget - but I couldn't NOT do it, because it's for a major grade.

Back home by around three, the pressure to get to my own work was piling on, but I can't just drop $40 worth of high blood sugar on the counter and tell my kid to figure it out herself - so we spent the afternoon making rice crispy treats and putting the project together. We had fun, but the time was ticking away in my head, and as their excitement grew, so did my sense of overwhelm.

When my kids get excited about something, they suddenly speak faster than Eminem's best rap song, and with more energy than a tweeked-out Meth-head. It's extremely overwhelming.

By dinnertime, I was a mess.

It's eight o'clock at night now, Eden's in bed, Joey's reading quietly, and I'm just now writing this post. Still shaking, still unable to breathe, still feeling the pressure of everything I didn't do today. Still aching.

And I know that some of you go through this kind of thing too ... so here are my Top Ten Surefire Ways To Conquer Stress. Without pretty graphics, because I didn't have time to make any.

01. Recognize Success - However Small.
Today, I made it to therapy, and made it through therapy. I was able to enjoy the time I spent with my children today - most of it. We got the project done, and it turned out GREAT! I'm writing this post. It's going to go up.

"Take time to recognize the things you accomplish each day - even on the days that didn't go according to plan." Tweet this.

02. Listen To Music.
There's something about music that soothes me, that eases my burdens. Maybe it's because I can choose the flow of words and rhythm that best fits me - maybe it's because I can plug it into both ears and block out the overwhelming aspects of my world for a while.

03. Engage Your Sense of Humor.
There are very few things that ease stress and relieve tension like laughing. So read a joke. Look at funny memes. Google autocorrect fails. Listen to a comedy show, watch a movie. Or laugh at nothing. Just laugh, and let it work it's magic.

04. Pray Or Meditate.
I'm not Catholic, but I LOVE my custom-written rosary prayer pattern. The rosary combines prayer and meditation in a beautiful way, keeping your focus on God and the relationship you want to have with him - while allowing you to keep praying. The repetitive nature of the rosary is akin to meditation's "focus on the breath," while the words themselves have deeper meaning. My personal pattern allows for free prayer as well, to keep my prayer time from becoming rote and monotonous. I think of God as a friend - and I wouldn't want my relationship with him to stagnate, so including space for plain old regular prayer was important to me when I wrote my rosary, and remains just as valuable as the focus I receive from the repetition. (If you'd like me to write in more detail about my rosary pattern specifically, including the prayers I use and the rosary products I like to keep handy, let me know by commenting or hitting the little Google +1 button at the bottom of this post.)

The rosary combines prayer & meditation beautifully, keeping your focus on God & the relationship you want with him. Tweet this.

05. Batch Work.
If you stress over work or business things the same way I do, the look at your work load in another way. Don't try to call Susan back and then check an email and then browse Facebook and then ...

You'll drive yourself crazy.

Instead, make a list of all the people you need to call. It can be returning calls, confirming appointments or plans, asking a question or favor. Write it down, do it ALL, then move to the next thing. This makes a huge difference for me, and I find myself feeling much less overwhelmed. I also like to snowball my work. If I've got one call to make, one post to write, three blogs to catch up on, 50 Facebook notification, and 84 emails to deal with, then I'll do them in that order. I can make that one call, and be DONE with calling. Write that post, and be proud to know that the day's writing is DONE. Catch up on blogs because they aren't rotating/renewing tasks in quite the same way as Facebook and email. Then I'll catch up Facebook to zero, catch up emails to zero. Then I'll reassess. See what needs done, and move through it.

Sitting down to really figure out and prioritize what must be done helps me destress because it makes what must be done feel much more doable. Beyond that, batching my work helps me spend my time more efficiently.

06. Have. Sex.
Because ... well, there's nothing like getting off to let off some steam, amirite?? Sometimes you just gotta do what you just gotta do. 

07. Unplug.
Take a short break from things if you're able to, and escape for a while. For some people, this means avoiding social media for a few hours or even days (or longer). For others (like me) this means disengaging from daily life in general. For me, unplugging usually means taking a shower because that's one of the few times when I am truly alone with just myself and my thoughts - and chaotic as they may be, it's just nice to be able to hear them without interruption. In the shower, I do all the usual things - might as well be productive while I'm in there, right? - but I also use that time to just breathe. I feel the water, the heat, the weight of the steam, the expansion of my lungs as I'm breathing. I smell whatever soap I'm using, the shampoo, etc. I enjoy the smooth slipperiness of freshly shaven legs. I wrap up in a warm towel, and sit on the edge of the bathtub to read for a bit sometimes, prolonging the peace of my aloneness. It never lasts long - but it is treasured.

08. Clean The House.
Sometimes what's needed to release the tension you're holding onto is to just get up and do something. Maybe your tension is on a subconscious level, built up in response to the breakfast dishes still lying in the sink or the laundry that's been waiting much too long to be washed. So get yourself up and get proactive - clean the house and don't forget to spray EVERYWHERE with Febreze One in the Orchid scent too, because ahhh, it smells SO GOOD (seriously, you can get it for just $5.99 at Target.com!). I promise, you'll feel better when you've finished and you can look around at a job well done. Which brings me to ...

09. Exercise.
If cleaning the house isn't really your bag, try another way to get moving. Take a walk, do some pushups. Situps. Burpees. Go for a swim. Go window shopping at the local mall. Hula hoop, dance, jump rope. Hell, if you still have a Skip-It, put it out and give it a whirl. (If you don't have one, get yourself an Empower SkipFit in Purple, because these things are SO MUCH FUN.)

10. WRITE!
For me, writing is the be-all and end-all for destressing. It's funny to say that, since I started this post in the midst of an all out, tear-filled anxiety attack ... but it remains my biggest and best tool against the stress and anxiety that are so much a part of my daily life. Writing is a versatile tool too, that can be applied in any number of ways. Here are some of my favorites:

  • blog - this allows me to reach out into the world, seeking the kind of support that I need but don't always have in my real life.
  • journal - this give me a safe place to say whatever I want, in whatever way I need. I can speak in anger here without hurting anyone, or out of the depths of my depression without bringing anyone else down. I can voice my problems without feeling like a burden, I can celebrate my successes, too.
  • unsent letters - these are exactly what I call them, letters that I write but never send. Some of them I burn, but most I just shred and throw away. They are like my journaling - a safe place to say whatever I want. The chief difference is that these are targeted, written to one specific person or group of people. In them, over the years I've expressed pain and hurt, anger and rage, unrequited love, frustration, need. Sadness. I can say, "You hurt me when you ____" without giving someone who has hurt me another way to do it again (look up toxic narcissistic abuse - it's real, and it's extremely damaging. It's your own vulnerability used purposely to hurt you.) I can say, "I miss you" to people who have left my life for one reason or another. I can say "I love you" without expecting anything to change or happen. And in anger, I can say things I would never allow myself to voice aloud, to release the poison that would eat me alive if I kept it bottled up. To release in a safe way things that might be detrimental to my life and the people I care about if I spoke them out loud.

It's ten o'clock now and I'm off to bed, to rest up and prepare myself for another day ahead. In the meantime, I hope you'll bookmark this page, that you'll keep it for a later date, that you'll share it with a friend in need. I hope these tactics help you ... because they've sure helped me.




Questions for the Comments Section:

  • What's your favorite way to beat stress?


*Note: This post contains affiliate links. This means that if you click the links and choose to purchase the products promoted here, I will earn a small commission at no cost to you. However, all opinions expressed herein are 100% honest and 100% my own. Thanks for your support!

60 comments:

  1. I have a "Dammit" doll that I can throw at the wall or just hit the table with it really hard. I try to relax my breathing. Unfortunately when I'm really stressed I've been know to pickup a cigarette and smoke which I know is so bad for me so I really trying other ways to unstressed. I love the rosary idea as I was raised catholic so I actually have rosary that I could use for this. I'm gonna try this one for sure. I also if I can will just find a quiet place and read an old favorite book that relaxes me.
    PS I think your doing an awesome job

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    1. I've never heard of a dammit doll before - I'm gonna have to look into that!

      Thank you. It's always such a pleasure to see you here - you're a blessing!

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    2. They have them at Books A Million! I saw them there last week. :-)

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    3. I'm definitely gonna have to find one. I did google them and they look neat.

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  2. Stress is such a huge part of life unfortunately. These are great ways you have shared to conquer stress and I'm bookmarking this for later,.

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  3. My personal method of relieving stress is by writing.

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    1. That works for me too, obviously. It's my best release.

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  4. This post just resonated with me so much, I really do understand the world of anxiousness, perfectionism and stress. It is exhausting and overwhelming. I love your list of ways to deal with the stress..my usual way is to escape into a hot bath with a book but I'm going to try a few of your suggestions as well.

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    1. Oh yes! There is nothing quite as amazing as a nice hot bath. Music, a candle, a book ... Mmmhm.

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  5. My best stress relief go to is a nice tub of hot water and a bath bomb. Lower the lights and just stew for a while.

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    1. Would you believe I've never actually used a bath bomb before?

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  6. i agree with all of your steps to reduce stress. there will be no stress left in our lives if we follow all of them. i am impressed.

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  7. For me exercising and having a hobby helps. Also to take some me time!

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  8. Number 10 is what I do... Write! But Number 5 is what I should do MORE. Distractions are efficiency killers and stress producers!

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  9. I am ones of those people who had a very hard time managing my stress. I need to put your tips into practice, especially exercise!

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    1. Just go one thing at a time, creating habits one at a time. It can change your life.

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  10. Writing helps me out a lot when I'm stressed. I've always said that writing helps keep me sane. Listening to music also cheers me up. I also love to read!

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  11. Good tips, but a little hard to read, it'd be easier with a larger font for the headings. I like to go for a walk myself.

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  12. I agree the most with unplugging and writing. Both are great ways to distress and are great to catch your creative side as well!

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  13. so many great tips but for me writing is a stress buster :)

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    1. Haha, I definitely agree with that! Writing is probably the one most effective thing that keeps me functional.

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  14. Sorry youve had a stressful day. On thr brightside you got this amazing post out of it. I find when I am stressed a hot cup of tea and some relaxing yoga does the trick. Writing is always a good destresser as well.

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    1. Agreed! I love hot tea, too - I really love mint teas, or green tea with honey. What do you drink?

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  15. It is a struggle to combat stress. Blogging is definitely one of the ways I destress : )

    xo, www.lovekimber.com

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  16. I know how it feels when you are boggled down by your kids and you have nowhere to hide. For me, I now find writing is really good therapy and I can be in my world and just write, write, and write some more.

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    1. Yes! That's it, exactly. And you can be totally honest, unleash and release everything! It makes such a difference.

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  17. Meditation, exercise and listening to music works best for me! It is great that you have these tips as reference points to get you out of that rut whenever you're feeling overwhelmed with daily tasks and life on a whole. I also wrote a post about coping with Monday blues on my blog lol. Some of the things you listed here are exactly what I spoke about.

    www.travelbeautyblog.com

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  18. Great list and great reminder to control of stress and not let it eat you up. One thing to add - yelling. We attend lots of sporting events and screaming at the top of our lungs is so therapeutic - especially in a socially acceptable way where you can just let loose.

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    1. Haha! I'll have to try it and see how it goes. I think I'd feel like I need to find something to yell ABOUT though. Like, I couldn't just scream into a pillow.

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  19. Stress is such a hassle and it would be nice to be able to beat as soon as you can. I love your suggestions, nothing like a good playlist to dedicate for beating stress!

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    1. It definitely helps me! Music is a such a strong emotional driver, which makes it a GREAT tool!

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  20. Writing has always been like therapy for me and it's a great way to de-stress and let all those ill feelings out! I love these ideas!

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  21. Exercise, clean the house and sex... maybe not in that order are great stress relievers. Sex and the single gal... now thats gotta be an interesting challenge with two little ones. lol

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    1. Well, you know. Maybe I don't use that particular strategy often myself ... but I've heard it works wonders. *wink*

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  22. Ohh, I feel bad that you are stressed that much. But its a good thing that you are going on therapies with your doctor. Do remember that you have readers that you can air your grievances to. I hope that will make you feel better. Hang in there.

    http://pengandpaper.com/

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    1. You don't have to feel bad - stress is part of life. Maybe I don't have the easiest life, but that's okay - it's my job just to make the best of it, you know? But if I can use what I've been through or what I'm going through to help someone else who's going through it too? Then maybe it's all worth it.

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  23. These are all fantastic. I too, suffer from anxiety and it can be easier said than done to "de-stress". Although I am not a single parent anymore, I have had to be one and with hyper children it's hard to get much accomplished. Kudos to you. I journal a lot. It helps me vent even when I feel like no one wants to hear me. It helps to get things out of my head so I can move on to more important things!

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    1. Oh my gosh, yes! The thing about "when I feel like no one wants to hear me."

      Literally, sometimes I feel like I'm just talking to the wall - sometimes I feel like if I talked to the wall, it would listen better! I know my kids are just kids and that kids are self-centered sometimes, but when your kids are the biggest part of your life and they aren't making you feel heard, that's rough. Being able to write things down and get myself out of my feelings helps me SO MUCH.

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  24. Stress, I think this is something ever person can relate to in some way shape or form. It's so important to find ways to de-stress, even if it is just the smallest thing to help let go of that tension. It is insane how many illness are directly related to how much stress someone has in their life. I am a huge fan of essential oils and Lavendar. Sometimes just the smell of it alone and a few deep breaths are enough for me to let it go. Other days it takes much much more. This is a great list. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked it! I've used Lavender now and then myself - but I really love the invigorating oils and secents. I like mint, citrus, patchouli. Sweet scents like berries.

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  25. Contributing to honeynfox.com is our escape to be honest. Playing off one another's sweetness and sass is comforting so we get how writing can be an outlet for de-stressing. Fox recommends yoga, not for the exercise portion, but the solitude it offers is rewarding. Best of luck on reducing stress!

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    1. That's actually one of the things I like about yoga myself. I like that it's good exercise too, but I really love it for the meditative aspect.

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  26. The list is awesome, all points are helpful (except the cleaning maybe haha). I generally listen very loud to metal music and jump around :D

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    1. I can't listen to much metal (just not my type of music) but you ought to see me jamming to some gangta rap! I've got the hand motions, the attitude, all of it. Then I turn it off when I've wound down, switch over to some country, and belt out some hillbilly jams.

      I'm a mix.

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  27. This is such an inspiring post! You sounds to have a positive outlook of life. For me, changing perspective of how one see life helps reduce my stress level. I agree that writing helps to de-stress.

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  28. I really love this list!!! Mediation is one of the things that help me. And running/walking for a few miles. I really appreciate you going into details for each thing listed. Great post!!

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    1. Thanks, I'm glad you liked the post! I find that walking is helpful, too, especially if I'm somewhere pretty.

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  29. Wow! Loved your post Brandi.Each and every person would have gone through such stresses in life.Neatly said about stress relieving ways.

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