My New Years Resolution for 2014 is to be less stressed, which I briefly touched on in my last post and also mentioned in a recent YouTube video. I have suffered with anxiety and panic attacks for many years, and while I feel like I have a better handle on it all now, during the latter half of 2013 I really found myself struggling with stress. It seeped its way into pretty much all areas of my life; my work, my hobby, my relationship with Ben, and most of all, my health.
I worried over silly little things to the point that I was mentally exhausted and would spend my evenings staring blankly at my computer watching YouTube videos I felt I had to catch up on. I procrastinated on the things I needed to get done because I just didn’t have the mental energy to deal with them, and that led me to stress more because I wasn’t getting things done. I didn’t know how to cope with stress and found myself thinking on a daily basis “What’s wrong with me?! Why can’t I just be normal?!?”
Well anyways, things have calmed down somewhat since having a lovely almost two week break from work and I have gained better perspective on certain aspects of my life – mainly my YouTube channel and the pressure I was putting on myself to get videos out. So with all of that said I thought I would share with you my Top 5 Tips for Less Stress. I am by no means an expert (in case you couldn’t tell from what I have said above!), these are just the things that I am trying to incorporate into my life as I feel they will have a positive effect on my mental well being. Please feel free to leave your tips in the comments below as I’m sure there are many of us who would find them helpful!
1. Be (and keep) Organised
I mentioned above that I would procrastinate on getting things done. For this year I have created a schedule of sorts to keep me on track. As long as I can stick to it as best I can then I should have plenty of time to do the things I need and want to do and still have plenty of free time. I have made sure to allow enough time for each activity so that I don’t become stressed if a task takes a bit longer. But at the same time I am telling myself that this is just a guide. If something crops up, if I oversleep and miss my meditation “timeslot” it’s no big deal. As my “schedule” becomes habit I’m hoping things will gradually sort themselves out. For example, my body will gradually adapt to the times I have set to go to bed and wake up and I will hopefully start feeling tired around my new “bedtime” and feel more refreshed when I wake up. I find writing to do lists also very helpful. When I’m feeling overwhelmed it’s usually because I’m trying to remember everything and feel like I have more that I have to get done than I actually do. By writing everything down it takes away the stress of trying to not forget anything and it is clear in front of you what you need to do. You could even go so far as to prioritise your to do list if needs be. Plus there’s something so satisfying about crossing something off your list!
2. Get Enough Sleep
This is something I definitely struggled with through November and December. I would have so many thoughts running through my mind each night. Trying to remember things that needed to be done, thinking back over things that had been said or done that day, ideas that I had, things I wanted to look up, research, check, pictures I wanted to post on Instagram. I would end up staying up late into the night on my phone jotting down notes, or mostly, looking things up online. The next day I would wake up feeling tired as hell, sluggish and lethargic. I struggled to get through my day at work only to go home and veg out on the sofa in the evening, mindlessly watching YouTube videos then go to bed and repeat the whole process again. With my new schedule in place I have an evening routine where I take a shower or bath early enough so that I can then read in bed for up to an hour before turning off the light and going to bed. Like I said above, once I get into the habit of doing this regularly my body will instinctively know that I am unwinding and preparing for bed and will start to feel tired at the appropriate time. Try to establish an evening routine and, I know it’s hard – trust me! – but no electronics an hour before bed. You will wake up feeling refreshed, more alert and be able to accomplish more the following day. I also like to remind myself that if I don’t have the time spare to check Twitter or post that Instagram picture nothing bad is going to happen!
Exercise has long been extolled for reducing stress. In basic terms, it releases hormones that make you feel happy and relaxed, it releases tension and in turn makes you feel less stressed. It’s good for you in so many ways and can take on a variety of forms. You don’t have to hit the gym for an hour or run 5k every day. Find something you enjoy and that you have time for. An hours’ workout is only 4% of your day. Just 4%! And I don’t even do that!! Currently I am trying to workout for 30 minutes every Tuesday and Friday, plus an hour of more relaxed activity with Ben on Sundays – something like going for a long walk or going swimming together. You could take an exercise class (there are so many fun classes to take these days from spinning or yoga to pole dancing or boxing). You could go dancing, clean your house or do gardening. Even going for a 10 minute walk each day is better than nothing and you can gradually build up from there once you feel ready.
4. Me Time
I think a lot of people forget the importance of “me time”. We’ve got so much going on in our lives and are always trying to help others and make sure everything’s getting done. With everything going on it can feel selfish to take time out to just do what you want to do, especially if what you want to do is not very much! But it’s so important to give yourself time to reflect and recharge. If you run yourself into the ground you’re not going to be a lot of help to anyone else anyway! I’m working this one into my schedule by making Sunday evenings my pamper evenings. I plan on taking maybe a couple of hours each Sunday to have a bubble bath, maybe do a face or hair mask, relax, listen to relaxing music and then afterwards slather myself in body lotion and paint my nails. I’m not saying this is what everyone should do but for me these are the things that I don’t make the time to do for myself often enough. When I do take the time I feel so much more relaxed and in a way it affirms to me that I am worth taking that time over. Maybe you never have time to read, but perhaps you could take 15-30 minutes of your lunch break to go sit at a nearby park (or even your car if you have to) and read a book. It doesn’t even have to be something that you do every day or even every week. Maybe you can spare a day or an afternoon once a month to go to the beach, to bake cakes for the fun of it or to watch movies. Whatever it is you enjoy that you don’t seem to find time for. Something that makes you feel good. Something that is for you, not someone else.
5. Nothing is Permanent
One last thing – there’s also meditation….. I had to sneak this one in at the end. Meditation has so many benefits, too many to list, but one of them is stress reduction. As part of my schedule I am getting up a little earlier each day to meditate first thing. I know if I leave it til later I will end up feeling too tired to do it. I use the Headspace App which gives you a guided meditation each day and makes it very easy to follow along with. Headspace has a Take 10 series which you can sign up to for free. This is a program that gives you a 10 minute guided meditation for 10 days to give you a taster for meditation. I highly recommend it if it’s something you are interested in as you will see how easy it is to fit meditation into your life. If you have struggled to meditate before because you find your mind keeps wandering off then this guided approach is great. It tells you what you need to be focusing on at each point in the meditation and also gives you lots of helpful tips as well. I heard about it on Twitter, tried it out and was so hooked after Take 10 that I purchased a years’ subscription. There are lots of different subscriptions available and the series goes on from Take 10 and builds on your practise from there. P.S. I’m not being paid or sponsored in any way to talk about Headspace, I just love it that much!!
So they are my top tips for reducing stress. As I have been typing this I have thought of many more things that will help in stress reduction but I didn’t want this post to be mega long! Maybe I’ll save those tips for another day.