How To Relax… A Guide for the Overly Stressed
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Stress is a normal part of life that ebbs and it flows each day. If you have an excessive amount of stress and anxiety, this guide is meant for you. I am talking about the kind of stressed out that just seems to stick around ALL. THE. TIME. If you are always stressed out & feel like you never get anything done or you can never relax, then you may find this guide helpful. And I am going to preface this with: seek help from professionals/doctors when you need it!
I have personally dealt with what feels like unending days of stress, anxiety, depression, & lack of motivation. I have a better handle on it and have less of it these days though, so I want to share with you some helpful hints to help you bring down your stress levels, too. We must remember that life is short & we all deserve to enjoy and make the most of it.
I hope this checklist helps you find ways to reduce your stress and find some more relaxation in your life.
1. Basic Needs
Are your basic needs being met?
This means are you getting enough sleep, are you eating well, & are you drinking enough water. This is your starting point of being able to relax.
If you are only getting a few hours of sleep for weeks on end, your brain and body cannot function to their fullest. Look at your diet to make sure it’s well rounded with protein, veggies, & vitamins. If you are you only consuming caffeinated and/or sugary beverages then it’s time to add some more water!
Your body, especially the brain, needs to have the basic needs met in order to perform at their best, which means YOUR BEST! Remember that the brain is a powerful thing & can warp or distort your perspective of the world, so treat it kindly.
How does your environment make you feel?
Do you feel calmer & more motivated with a clean, tidy space but are surrounded by clutter & trash? Then it’s time to clean. Making even small moves to bring your environment to a good place can work wonders. If you feel too busy or stressed to clean the whole house, start with a section like the sink in the kitchen or a single room. Sitting down in the living room or laying down in bed should bring you some peace, not stress, so if you find that you are looking at blank walls that don’t make you feel relaxed, get some inviting home decor or put up photos of people and memories that make you happy.
Find a way to make your environment a comfortable & inviting place for yourself.
Is money causing your stress?
They say money can’t buy happiness, but I disagree (to a point). When you have enough money to cover bills, utilities, food, & housing then you can start taking steps to security & happiness. We don’t have to be “rich” to relax a bit, though. We just have to take a closer look at our expenses & possibly our income (see #5).
Is there a way to lower some of your bills if money is tight? Some companies will lower your bill just by calling them; think about your cable or internet bill – I’ve called several times to see what promotion or offers are available to lower the bill. Sometimes getting rid of a subscription or service that you don’t really need can save you some money each month. Look at your expenses closely to see where you may be spending too much so you can make changes to keep more money in your pocket, & thus a little less stress.
Do you have meaningful people in your life?
Having real, fulfilling, & supportive relationships are important to human life. Yes, even if you’re an introvert like me! Examine your closest relationships & make sure you have at least one person in your life that really “gets” you.
Having someone to talk to, have adventures with, or laugh over silly things is a great way to reduce stress. On the flip side of this conversation, while you are examining the people in your life, if you find a relationship that does a whole lot of harm &/or causes a lot of stress to you, it may be time to consider changing the terms or ending it. Harsh, I know, but sometimes necessary.
Is your job bringing you misery?
When it comes to your work, your job, your career, there will be stress just like in life. However, if your job is not fulfilling or enriching more days than not, it may be time to make a change.
Here are some scenarios to consider… If you cry at work everyday (been there), if you come home and constantly “vent” about work for hours everyday (done that), if you have turned to bad habits to deal with your work day (got the t-shirt)… then it is time to make a change. You cannot relax and enjoy life if your mind is always stuck in a negative space because of your job.
Sometimes it’s not as easy as polishing up the resume & applying for other jobs (although if it is this easy for you, get to polishing!). If you are stuck in a workplace for whatever reason then work on related goals until you can get out of it. This gives you a chance focus on something more positive. Take classes or courses, gain new skills, network with others, do things that will get you closer to where you want to be. Or if all else fails, find a way to leave the job at the job or limit the time you talk about it at home.
Do you have hobbies that help you relax?
Having hobbies or interests that help you relax or bring you joy are important to have. Make time for them whenever you can. Do you enjoy reading? Take time to read a chapter every day so you have those few minutes where your brain is not thinking of everything that you should be stressed about. If you enjoy challenging yourself with puzzles, take time to engage your brain & relax your body with one.
It’s so easy for us over-stressed people to make excuses when it comes to things that aren’t “necessary”. But I am here to tell you from personal experience, these ARE necessities. You need something to focus on besides your life-stressors, especially if they are things out of your control. You need something that you enjoy & brings a smile to your face.
Are you the biggest cause of your stress?
Finally, this one is going to be the hardest one for people to overcome.
It’s going to make you angry or you are going to be in denial.
But, are you the main reason for being overly stressed out all the time? Take a minute to think about it… now, be honest.
Some of you may not be over thinkers (lucky!), but I feel the majority of you will be in the ‘definite over thinker’ column. So, the real question is how do you quit being an over thinker?
First up, take care of items one through six of this list as these are things that are relatively in your control. Maintain taking care of these items, not just one and done.
Next, it will take time, training, & constant self-assessment to quieten the voice in your head coming up with all those negative and ultimately stressful scenarios. (If you know, you know). Many times this part of stressing out can cause you to just STOP DOING ANYTHING. Which in turn becomes even more stress! It can become this cycle that just feeds upon itself if you let it. DON’T LET IT.
To quieten the overthinking, plan where you can and make sure to keep moving forward. What I mean by this is – plan for mess ups, plan for downturns, plan for things to not go according to plan. Then, keep going. Don’t let your mind take over where you only think of stressful outcomes to the point that you can’t even see or participate in the good or the joyful parts of your life. This is so important. Take care of what you can take care of, check off those items on the to-do list that you’re able to, & remember that to be “too busy” & “too stressed” all the time is not a badge of honor.
To conclude, I realized this is very close to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. My psychology degree makes itself known in random ways, huh? Speaking of psychology, if you need more help with stress, anxiety, depression, or just need someone to talk to, please reach out to your local professional.
A lot of this list feels very obvious, but I’ve found that I have a hard time seeing the ‘obvious’ in my own life, so take the time to really look to see what your stressors are & be honest with yourself. Once you’ve identified what’s really bothering or upsetting you, you can address it head on!
Here’s to learning how to put in the work so we can all relax and enjoy our lives while we’re here. If you have any helpful hints on how to keep stress levels down, please share them in the comments below!