How to Stop Stress From Taking Over Your Life
One-third of Americans say they’re under extreme stress. What’s even more concerning? You probably read that statistic and thought, “Eh. I’m not surprised.”
Being stressed has become the norm for just about everyone today. People climbing the corporate ladder wear it as a badge of honor. Students are expected to live with it. And it’s become a running joke to describe everyone’s collective misery during this pandemic.
The fact we all function off the notion that stress is normal is a deep societal concern. Because stress isn’t this experience we all go through that makes for great breakroom talk, it ruins people’s lives.
People experience stress in all sorts of ways. Personally, I most feel it as a tense balled-up presence just below my neck and a looming dread. For others, they might feel tired, irritable, sad, a decreased sex-drive or all of the above.
I realized this year, while managing the new normal of pandemic life, that if I’m not proactive about stress in my life, it can easily consume me.
Because, while feeling like a heavy pressure is constantly pushing down on my body sounds great, I’d rather live a happier life. I’m sure it goes without saying that you feel the same.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we need to prioritize our mental health. The hustle culture might’ve sold books and online courses before, but it’s about time we stop thinking stress is normal.
It’s not. It’s quite literally killing us.
Instead, you can live a healthier, more present life by managing your current stress and getting ahead of any new stress. You don’t need to feel overwhelmed anymore, and this is how you can do it:
Talk to someone about what’s going on.
I’m a firm believer that once you say something out loud, it automatically has less power over you. Sure, talking about your stress won’t make it magically disappear, but it’ll no longer live as this secret pressure inside your mind.
Reach out to the people who you feel most comfortable talking to. Let them know how you’ve been feeling and allow them to talk to you about the same. Sometimes, a bit of venting does the mind a whole lot of good.
But if you feel the stress extends far beyond what your friends or family can help with, it’s time for professional help. Therapists and counselors are trained to help people with managing and alleviating stress.
Stop saying yes to things that aren’t important.
I started 2020 with the notion that I’d say yes to everything. I figured that one opportunity could lead to another and so on. While that ended up being the case for some opportunities, I quickly found myself with too many projects.
Instead of giving my best to everything, I was giving my mediocre to too much. I started resenting the work I did and dreading waking up each morning—the exact opposite of why I started freelance writing in the first place.
At that moment I realized I couldn’t do everything. Maybe one day I’d be in a better place mentally, but I couldn’t be a yes woman and manage my stress at the same time.
Make a list of everything essential in your life. Perhaps that’s work, your family, and getting up and eating each day. Beyond that, I want you to cut off whatever else you say yes to. You don’t need to live like this forever, just until you’ve gotten to a better mental state.
Ask yourself if what you’re chasing is worth it.
You’d be surprised how many people are chasing a life that doesn’t make them happy. Many people are driven by a desire to prove their worth. For many years, I was one of those people.
I thought a high-paying job would make people proud of me. I figured a fancy job cause the people from my high school to feel jealous.
But at the end of the day, none of that mattered. Even if those people did feel those emotions, it was fleeting. What’s not fleeting would’ve been the time I wasted building a life I didn’t even like.
So I ask you this: is what you’re chasing worth it? Are you pursuing the things in your life because they’re what you want, or are they to prove you’re worth?
Because I promise you, fighting your whole life for someone’s acceptance isn’t worth it. You’ll only continue to live a stressed, unfulfilled existence.
Start prioritizing things you love.
Make a list of all the things that make you happy. Your list must be at least ten items long. Now look at that list and ask yourself, “How often do I do these things?”
If your answer is anything but every single day, that needs to change. By doing things you love, you’re not only enjoying the one life you have to live, but you’re also actively reducing your stress levels too.
Stress increases your cortisol levels, and once they’re high, they affect everything from your mood to your sleep. But several studies have shown that having a hobby and being outside helps lower your body’s cortisol.
So start thinking of doing activities you love as part of your daily wellness routine. Just like you’d prioritize exercise or eating vegetables, put these activities at the top of your to-do list.
Don’t feel bad about feeling bad.
My most stressful days usually played out like the following: I’d wake up, start to do work, feel an overwhelming sense of dread, look at social media for a bit, feel worse (no surprise there), feel bad about getting nothing done, and then repeat that cycle.
I’d have a crappy day and not even use the day to make myself feel better because I felt guilty about being stressed.
But beating yourself up for feeling stressed is going to get you nowhere. It’s a natural human emotion that helps us know when something’s wrong. Making yourself feel bad for simply being a person isn’t fair to do to yourself.
Instead, be kind to yourself. Notice when that voice inside your head is being critical or mean and tell it to shut up. You’re allowed to feel bad. You’re allowed to be human.
Create a routine.
I’m far from the kind of person who naturally organizes their day. In fact, having a schedule used to freak me out. I didn’t want to feel like I was on a set plan that couldn't be deviated from.
Now, I realize the secure feeling in a routine. Instead of waking up and wondering what’s the most important thing to accomplish that day, I have a routine: articles in the morning, social media around lunch, and everything else after that.
Having a routine can help you feel less stressed and in more control during a time that’s overwhelming. People see amazing results from having a simple, 30-minute morning, or bedtime routine.
Whatever works best for you, simply having a routine will reduce your stress levels. Plus, you’ll take out the guesswork of how to spend parts of your day.
Sure, some stress is good, but not if it’s interfering with your life. If you’re wondering what to make your 2021 resolution, make it live a less stressful life.
To sum up what you can do to lower your stress:
- Get your stress off your chest by talking to someone.
- Sto saying yes to everything.
- Ask yourself if what you’re chasing is worth it.
- Don’t beat yourself up about being stressed.
- Create routines for a happier life.
Or, at the very least, take a deep breath and remember that your stress won’t last forever.
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