If you’ve been following along with me, I’ve looked into what’s REALLY stressing me out, I’ve considered how I react when stressful situations pop up unannounced and I’ve started my stress less action plan. Now I’m going to talk about things I try and do every day to help me manage stress.
If you’re anything like me, you sometimes feel you’re stuck in an eternal juggling act trying to keep all the balls in the air, all the while racing around between work, kindy/school pickups, appointments … the list, depending on the week, feels never ending. It was a few years into my motherhood journey, feeling completely burnt out, that I realised I really wasn’t taking very good care of me. While eternally juggling, the ball that fell quietly and rolled under the couch was an important one – self care.
I rattle on a bit about self care here, but I really believe taking good care of yourself is the key to managing stress. It doesn’t have to be the celebrity treatment like regular trips to the spa, endless massages and mani/pedis – but, hey if you can afford it, go for it! Self care is looking after your needs, desires and interests in a way you can afford and a way that makes your soul sing just a little bit. It helps you forget your worries, even just for a moment, and look more positively towards the future.
This is such an individual thing, but there’s some key things to consider when you think about managing stress and bringing some self care into your life:
1. Exercise: There have been endless studies into the effects of exercise on wellbeing and the reduction of stress is almost a universal finding. The key here, I think, is to find the exercise you love to do or make it into a social occasion by walking, or go to a class or gym, with a friend. After many years of trying different forms of exercise, I realise the introvert in me craves some solo time to recharge, so I’ve found yoga and walking are what works for my body and stress levels. I get to combine exercise with thinking and unwinding, going within and emerge all shiny and stretched out. If you haven’t found your exercise happy place, go and try something new or something you’ve always wanted to try – it may just be the right thing for you.
2. Take time out: I find taking a few little snippets of the day to just relax, helps me to stay calm. For me that looks like a cup of tea and a magazine, some writing or journaling time or a short meditation. I try and stay off social media during those times and just breathe, reflect and recharge. Of course, these time outs are sometimes interrupted by small children demanding things, so flexibility is the key here.
3. Catch up with friends: I had a moment two weeks ago when I invited a few of my close girlfriends and their little ones over for a catch up and a play. After issuing the invite I’d had a stressful week and my house wasn’t as tidy as I’d like it and I just didn’t have the time nor energy to get it to the guest level of tidiness … so, it crossed my mind to cancel. I knew they wouldn’t judge me, but I was judging me and it was stressing me out. But the only way I could get over it was to keep it real, have them over anyway and be honest about how things were. Afterwards I felt refreshed and realised all the stress about projecting a certain ‘togetherness’ wasn’t worth it. I hope now that they feel comfortable inviting me over when their house is less than perfect as the reality is I wouldn’t even notice. So invite a friend over to your less than perfect house and enjoy their company!
4. Be in the now: It’s the central premise to nearly all new age, self help inspiration and you’ve probably seen an inspirational quote on Facebook already this morning telling you to do it. When we’re stressed, we’re almost always worrying about the future or regretting something in the past, but if we sit in the now and notice what’s around us it’s usually pretty good (if you overlook the piles of washing and crumb-strewn floors). It’s not always easy. The main thing that helps me stay in the now during my day is to notice the little moments of joy … they’re always there, even amongst despair and overwhelm, I just have to stay tuned in enough to notice … a smile from my boys, a little hand in mind and a voice that demands ‘come’, a certain kind of light in the afternoon, ducks in the pond up the street, a coffee and moment of softening. I tell myself that the ‘to do’ list can wait and I follow the boy with the small hand and loud voice and I get lost in the game he wants to play. I slow down for the boy who picks up treasures in the street, who can see gold in a bottle top and magic in a plastic cup. My children take me into the now if I let them, so I throw off those responsibilities for a little while and I let them.
Do these resonate with you? I’d love to hear your stress management tips!