The holiday season might as well be dubbed “Stress Season”. With so much going on from holiday commitments, to unhealthy food at every turn, family drama and shopping madness, it’s a wonder any of us make it out alive.
Instead of walking you through a bunch of suggestions on how to reduce stress with things like meditation, yoga, etc., which I know you’ve heard a hundred times, I wanted to dedicate this post to sharing some more tangible examples of things we can do, right now, none of which require you to dedicate any extra time or energy to your routine.
For me, I’ve found that just shifting my focus around stress has made as much if not more of a difference as compared to stress reducing activities. Here are my top three tips for how you can easily reduce stress, starting right now.
Start Taking Stress Seriously
If I had a dollar for every time I used to tell someone I didn’t “feel” stressed, I’d be rich. The problem is, what I “thought” stress felt like was not totally realistic or accurate. Sure I might be working 10 hours a day for 3 weeks straight, but I felt relatively normal and wasn’t having a panic attack, so really, how stressed could I be? I used to think that stress manifested itself in very obvious and hard to ignore ways. Since I didn’t feel as if I was experiencing any of that, I would simply dismiss the idea that I could be truly stressed at all.
Unfortunately, the attitude that most of us have toward stress is incredibly dangerous. While stress does absolutely manifest itself physically, it’s not always the symptoms we commonly associate with stress. No, we may not be sweating or hyperventilating, but other bodily functions are being severely affected. The list of ways stress affects our body is overwhelming to say the least. Headaches, repressed immune and digestion function, infertility, reduced sex drive, and heart disease are just some of the many ways stress can negatively affect the body.
A turning point for me in learning more about why stress is so dangerous and why it affects the body in the way it does, was by reading Robert Sapolsky’s book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. Once I learned more about how common chronic stress is, how easy it is to misunderstand the symptoms and how dangerous it is to dismiss stress, I started to take it a lot more seriously and make adjustments accordingly.
Make Some Hard Choices
Normally we associate stress with activities we don’t like – work, money issues, family drama, etc. Unfortunately, there are some activities that we may think we’re enjoying, but that are actually causing and provoking stress. I am going to include a personal example of how this works, because I think it’s one of the easiest ways to describe this phenomenon.
Snapchat has quickly become one of my favorite social media networks. Not only do I love being able to interact with my audience in a truly personal and unique way, but it’s also super fun to follow others and see what their up to. Unfortunately, a few months ago I started to realize that Snapchat was in some ways causing more stress for me than it was providing enjoyment. It wasn’t that Snapchat as a whole was causing stress, but I realized that there were certain ways I was using the app that had become a bit overwhelming.
At first, I was only following a few of my close friends on Snapchat. It was relatively simple to watch all of the videos in my feed in under a minute or two. However, soon a ton of my favorite bloggers were using Snapchat too. Without thinking too much about it, I quickly started following them. Before I knew it, I was following a ton of people who were sometimes posting up to 30 minutes of content every day. While I was loving seeing what all my blogger friends were doing and what recipes they were creating, I started to realize it had become too much. Not only did I find myself turning to Snapchat to distract me from work, but I was also constantly comparing myself to other bloggers and feeling badly if I wasn’t as active as they were on any given day.
Instead of thinking about adding stress reducing activities to your daily life, think about what you might be able to eliminate certain things. Not only will this save you time, but it will help you better recognize how stress-invoking activities might manifest themselves in your life in ways you hadn’t considered before.
Although it was hard to do, I decided to unfollow the vast majority of bloggers I was following on Snapchat. Sure, I miss being constantly updated on their life, but overall I now feel that I have more time and no longer spend my time stressed about comparing myself to others.
PS – My Snapchat username is “anyakaats” if you want to follow me!
Stop Acting Like A Superhero
At no fault of your own, our culture and society expect us to do a lot more than any of us can really handle. We are expected to have a full time job, support our families, raise our kids, workout, get enough sleep, eat the right foods… the list is never-ending. Not only can all of these activities cause stress, but simply the expectation that we should be doing all of these things causes stress as well.
First and foremost, it’s important for us to stop thinking we’re superheroes. Just because society might be expecting us to do everything, it doesn’t mean we have to. No one but yourself is going to judge when you decide to skip something because you just can’t take it on.
For me, I always struggle with getting enough sleep and making time to work out. I often feel that given everything else I have going on that I am always choosing between whether or not I get an hour or two more sleep or hit the gym. For a while, I told myself it was imperative to do both. However, I quickly realized this wasn’t serving me. Although it’s always a personal choice, I’ve found that if I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t really execute any of the activities in my day to the extent that I want to. Instead of forcing myself to do both, I’ve recently decided to give myself grace about skipping my workout if it means I can squeeze in an extra hour of sleep. For you, it might be the inverse or perhaps you are struggling with something else. Either way, start thinking about the pressure you may be putting on yourself to accomplish everything and what ways you might be able to reduce activities, thereby reducing stress.
Want to learn more about stress and how it has affected me and my health journey? Click here to read more!