Like most people, I hate feeling stressed even though I work well under pressure. Yes, I am one of those people who often get things done last minute because set schedules do not work for me. I have had plenty of structure, but I need the flexibility to just do me. Though, I don't think I can continue to keep up this level of procrastination. But I promise you I am working on better time management habits. The minute I start to feel overwhelmed, I feel like I'm mentally drowning in my to-do list. Fear and doubt begin to slowly dominate my mind as I began to go down a rabbit hole of "what ifs". I'm sure many of you can relate to what I just described.
Parts of me feel like I should no longer feel stressed anymore, after walking away from a six-figure corporate career. I physically removed myself from an environment that no longer served me or my purpose. I finally reached a place of happiness and peace too. And the life I am creating now is completely under my control. At least, that's what I tell myself.
But now that I am self-employed, managing my personal life, family, friends, and my craft seemed to get a whole lot harder. If I don't pre-plan my week, the day will surely run away from me. Other times, I have to give myself grace because there are days where I just can't do it all. As much as I want to believe I am Wonder Woman – I am not.
Thankfully, we now live in a society that supports mental health and well-being. And there are so many different ways to manage your stress. For me, managing my stress looks like anything that I can do to get my mind off what tasks I still need to finish and how much time I have left. Typically, my go-to stress relievers are mindfulness and physical activity. Sometimes, this could also look like enjoying a hot cup of tea that I made. For whatever reason, a warm drink is very soothing to me. Hell, holding the warm cup by itself even makes me feel calm. But let's look at some simple things you can do during your day to minimize stress.
Manage Your Time
Time management sounds easier than it looks but learning to manage your time looks different for all of us. And for me, time management is currently my number one stressor. I have a bad habit of piling things on my plate and not knowing how to plan my day to succeed. Mainly, because I like my flexibility and I find block scheduling quite stifling. Over the years, I have also learned to prioritize deadlines. Apps like Trello, a daily planner, or calendar can help manage your time. The key is to figure out what time management looks like for you and commit to some form of a schedule. But also realize, it's OK if certain things didn't get done the way you would like. Think about how you can fit whatever that is on the next day. You are not a machine and you shouldn't treat yourself like one either.
When I say stay grounded, I am not only referring to breathwork and meditation. I mean connecting with nature. According to an article by Harvard Health, 20 minutes in nature helps lower stress hormone levels. Do you ever stop to notice how you feel when you are outside? Do you pay attention to the colors of the grass, leaves, and flowers? What about how the fresh air feels on your face? How about how the sun feels on your skin? And by all means, if deep breaths and meditation is what gets you through your day, try doing it outside. It's a game-changer. Next time you're feeling stressed, step outside for a few minutes, you'll notice the difference in your energy level.
Physical activity is my all-time favorite stress reliever. It allows me to refocus and clear my mind. Remember, your physical, mental, and emotional well-being are all interconnected and exercise helps all three. But for me, it just can't be any workout. It must be high-impact – boxing, running, plyometrics, jumping rope, or a boot camp style strength training workout. It's the high-intensity workouts for me that give me the out-of-breath feeling that I need to feel a sense of relaxation. Some prefer low-impact workouts like yoga or walking while others enjoy Pilates and Barre classes. But honestly, as long as you're moving your body, that's all that matters.
Take A Break
Put down your phone, shut down your laptop, and walk away from your workspace. Take a break. Do nothing for 15 to 20 minutes. Your body is good at telling you when you need a break too. The key is learning to listen to your body. The excessive yawns, stiff joints, dry eyes, and back pain? Those are all signs you need a break from whatever it is you are doing. So, next time you feel that pain in your neck while you are working, know that your body is telling you to take a break.
At the end of the day, you know yourself best. At least I hope you do. Self-care practices vary for everyone but do realize the way you choose to manage your stress is just as important as a healthy diet and setting boundaries.
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