Let me just hit you with the real—stress kills. That's not an exaggeration either. Headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even depression are all things that, not only are oftentimes brought on by stress but are also made worse when we don't get our stress levels down. That's why, the older (and prayerfully wiser) I get, the more I make sure that if there's one thing I won't let get to me, it's stress. That requires making sure that the people, places, things and even ideas that try and get me all shook up and frazzled are monitored closely. The stuff that I honestly don't have to deal with, I don't. The things that I do, I set boundaries and also monitor how much time I engage. Because nothing and/or no one is worth having a nervous breakdown over, simply because I didn't know how to manage my stress well.
In walks, the focus for this piece. If you know that you're someone who lets stress get to you, far more than it ever should, here are 10 practical ways to keep outside stresses from totally wrecking your insides. Because sis, it's really not worth it. Not at all.
There's a Scripture in the Bible that says, "Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah." (Psalm 4:4—NKJV) I like that a lot because some "super churchy folks" think that meditating isn't a "Christian" thing to do. The Bible actually shouts out meditating quite a bit (the word "meditate" is mentioned in the NKJV of the Good Book 20 times). I get why too when you factor in that mediating promotes emotional stability, reduces anxiety, lengthens your attention span, boosts your libido, helps you to breathe better and yes, reduces stress (and that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the good that meditation provides!). So, if you're someone who knows that you let outside stressors get to you, way more than you should, start off each day by meditating 15 minutes or so. Just getting calm and quiet as you deeply breathe in and out can center you in a way that nothing else can.
2. Keep a Stress Diary
OK, so where's your journal at? Today, we're gonna tackle how it can be used to combat stress. By using it to jot down the specific times and instances that caused you to feel stressed out, it can help you to better understand your triggers so that you can work towards deactivating them more effectively. Basically, what you do is, either at the beginning or end of your day, you recap the past 24 hours. Write down the date and instance that stressed you. Then rate on a scale of 1-10 how it made you feel. After that, on a scale of 1-10 again, also write down how you feel about the matter now and what you did in order to feel less upset/anxious/worried about it. If the number hasn't gone down any notches, express, on paper, why that is the case. Finally, write down some things that you think could help you to de-stress and handle the situation more effectively—both now and in the future.
If you do this consistently, not only will you probably start to see patterns that lead to your stress but you'll (hopefully) be able to come up with remedies that can help you to let go of your stress a lot quicker too. If you want to learn more about how to create a stress diary, there's a pretty thorough read about it here.
3. Honor Your Own Love Language
Over on this platform, we write about love languages quite a bit. Just as a quick review, there are (basically) five of 'em—words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, acts of service and gifts. All of these define different ways that we prefer to have love expressed to us best. But have you ever thought to ask yourself if you are fluent in speaking your own love language…to yourself? For instance, the two languages that basically run neck and neck for me are words of affirmation and physical touch. Because that is the case, something that I make a point and practice to do more is hype my own self up (one way to do that is by checking out the article, "Every Woman Should Write A Love Letter To Themselves"). I also find positive quotes, I focus on maintaining a healthy body image and I sometimes even audibly tell myself what I appreciate about my uniqueness and individuality. On the physical touch tip, the route I take is giving myself scalp massages and enjoy soaking in the tub (to some 90s R&B).
And what if your love languages are one of the other three? Quality time can be about getting off of social media and/or turning off your phone so that you can binge-watch a favorite show, read or zone out to one of your favorite throwback music playlists. Acts of service can be something like creating a to-do list so that you aren't always rushing to get things done. And gifts? I am a huge advocate of setting aside money, every payday, that goes to nothing but frivolous spending.
Love languages are dope, but they are most effective when you speak them to yourself before speaking them to others. I can most definitely promise you that.
4. State Your Boundaries (CLEARLY)
Think about the last time that you were stressed out to the point of being totally pissed off. I would be floored if it didn't have something to do with someone violating your boundaries on some level. After all, it can't be—pardon the pun—stressed enough that boundaries are limits and limits are oftentimes put into place so that you're not pushed past what you can handle at any given point and time. If you're like me and you grew up in an environment where your boundaries were constantly violated and/or dismissed, you might not really understand how to create them as an adult; this is how a lot of people can end up taking advantage of you. So, one day this weekend, take a moment to think about what your limits are vs. what they should be in order for you to maintain some level of inner peace. If that's spending less time with toxic family members, so be it. If that's releasing so-called friends who are proving to be more like foes, do that (check out "10 Signs You've Got A Close (TOXIC) Friend"). If that means moving on from your emotionally abusive boss, take that leap of faith.
In some ways, life is too short for drama. But in others, I also agree with Chris Rock when he said in the movie, I Think I Love My Wife, sometimes life can also seem really long. Yet, regardless of your personal take, who wants to spend all of their days stressed all of the time, no matter how short or long time seems to be? Personally, my life has improved, exponentially so, since I've drawn some limits on how I allow people to talk to me and/or treat me. And because of that, stress doesn't transpire nearly as much as it used to. (Hmph. Funny how that works, huh?)
5. Don’t Expect People to Be Like You
A personal lesson that has been oh so very freeing for me is getting to a point and place where I stopped expecting people to think or act like I do. Man, did I spend (and oftentimes waste) a lot of time trying to get over the shock that folks I knew wouldn't approach matters in the same way as I did. And when I wouldn't let that reality go, it really would make my blood boil and totally stress me out to no end. The thing about individuality is it means that all of us are different. That doesn't automatically mean that when someone is wired in another way that they are "bad" or "wrong"; they're just different.
A good example of this is, the last boyfriend I will ever have in this lifetime, he wasn't big on commemorating special days. Meanwhile, I'm a Gemini. If you don't get what that means, many of us tend to be on-10 about celebrating things like birthdays and anniversaries. So, while I typically took it over the top on his birthday and our anniversary, for pretty much our entire relationship, as far as how he approached my days, I was very much so less than impressed. To be fair, he was pretty good when it came to speaking my love languages, yet I still resented him for not thinking like I did on the celebratory tip. It's a part of what caused our disagreements and ultimately, what ended our relationship.
In hindsight, I get that if I had spent more time deciding if I wanted to be with someone who thought like he did rather than trying to turn him into another me, we both would've been much happier. Definitely, a huge cause of outside stress is trying to make people be you when that isn't realistic or fair. And honestly, it can lean towards the arrogant side too. Either accept folks as they are or shift the dynamic. Accepting this as being your two choices will make your life flow so much smoother.
6. Manage Your Time Wisely
If humans are getting on your very last nerve, one way to balance all of that stress out is to prioritize your time. Have a time set aside for your priorities, a time set aside to spend quality time with your family and friends, and time set aside for social media. While some people frown on creating weekly schedules, you might be surprised by how helpful it can be to wake up every day, knowing exactly what you plan to do, and what can/should be put on hold until another day. That way, if people, places, things or even ideas that aren't on your schedule try and shake your peace, you can remind yourself that if they were pertinent, they would've been on your list. Since they're not, they can wait until later. And the really great thing about the word "later" is getting to it is totally up to you.
7. Control ONLY What YOU Can Control
I'm pretty sure you've heard the phrase, "Don't sweat the small stuff". A good example of not doing that is making the choice to not try and be a control freak or worry wart out here. As someone who is a recovered control freak (for the most part, anyway), I can't tell you how freeing it has been to really accept the fact that, at the end of the day, all that I can really control is myself. No matter what or who has the potential to bother ("Gaslighting, Love Bombing & 5 Other Triggers To Call Out In Your Relationships") or trigger me (check out "How To Handle Folks Who 'Trigger' You"), they can only affect—or infect—me as much as I allow them to. Not only that but, when I've done the absolute best that I can (not based on anyone's standards but the Most High's and my own), then…what else can be done? On my end? Nothing.
If a lot of us were really real with ourselves, we'd admit that a lot of the outside stress that bothers us comes from us trying to take on what is either none of our business or is out of our hands. If you don't get anything else out of this, get that controlling self only is a superpower when it comes to no longer stressing yourself out.
One of the main reasons why a lot of people find themselves stressed out to the point where they almost feel like they're about to lose it is because they internalize their feelings and frustrations rather than vent them. Believe it or not, venting is actually really good for you because it helps you to release negativity, bring balance back to your mental and emotional state and, when you're doing it in a safe space (like in the presence of a friend who you fully trust), sometimes you can hear another perspective that can help to bring about clarity. The problem is, a lot of people hold stuff in so long that, when they do let everything out, it can be at the wrong place and at the wrong time.
I will admit that it requires quite a bit of self-awareness to know when you're almost at your breaking point. But try and make it a practice of getting to a place where you are totally alone to scream out your angst or hitting up a friend before snapping at work, on your kids or you're at a place that is totally inappropriate. Otherwise, all you'll be doing is adding to your stress rather than taking it away.
From a biblical perspective, the Bible is quite clear. If you want God to forgive you, you must forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). I know that can be hard for a lot of people to accept but, as I continue to learn more about this forgiveness thing, I get that accepting what the Word says on it is a humbling experience. None of us are perfect and all of us need forgiveness. And beyond that, a quote on forgiveness that comes to mind is, "Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness. Forgive them just because you deserve peace." (I think a man by the name of Jonathan Lockwood Huie said it.) And you know what? This statement is 1000 percent true.
It's been my personal experience that people who don't know how to forgive (or feel like someone doesn't deserve forgiveness) seem to struggle a lot more with true inner peace than those who do forgive others. I think it's because a lot of folks who don't, they think that forgiveness means excusing bad behavior or giving the person who hurt or harmed them a pass. No, forgiveness means that you get that humanity can disappoint, but nothing is worth holding onto pain for so long that it shakes your own mental stability and emotional space. Unforgivingness typically breeds all kinds of anger and/or sadness and/or stress and anxiety. So, release who and what has offended you so that you can get back to feeling totally tranquil and calm, within yourself, again.
Get No Less Than Six Hours of Sleep
One more. I've got a friend who is the most pleasant person you'd ever wanna know. They will give you their left thumb if you really need it. I'm not playing. But man, if they go a good three days without at least six hours of sleep, they suddenly turn into Grendel's mother (you know, from Beowulf). I'm. Not. Kidding. We're not created to be sleep deprived yet, unfortunately, reportedly, 1 in 3 of us do not get enough rest. And since sleep deprivation leads to things like irritability, lack of focus and concentration, mood swings, anxiety, weak immunity, accidents and a sucky sex life—how could you not think that poor sleeping habits wouldn't lead to you being completely stressed out?
Words can't express what a night of uninterrupted sleep can do for a person. So, if you know that stress is something that you struggle with, make getting more sleep a top priority. It's one of the most effective ways to woosah your way through life—no matter who or what has the potential to stress you…on the outside of your own mind, heart and home's walls.
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