You might say that this month has been stressful. And I don’t mean the normal everyday flavor of stress… oh no! I’m referring to that extra-special, keep-you-up-at-night brand of stress that makes you want to crawl underneath your desk and curl up in the fetal position. (And yes, I know you know exactly what I’m talking about, because we’ve all been there at one time or the other.)
But here’s the thing: yes, I have been stressed, but despite that, I haven’t been overwhelmed by stress (well, at least not most days). Why is that, you ask? Two words: SELF CARE.
What is self care, you ask? It’s all those little ways we can take care of ourselves … activities that improve our mental, emotional, physical well being… things that help us combat stress. So, the next time the stress monsters come circling your camp, here are some “keep yourself sane tactics” (aka, self care strategies) that have worked for me:
+ Breathe. Yes, I know, obviously you’re breathing right now or you would be dead. But I don’t just mean unconsciously take in oxygen, I mean to slow down and B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Inhale slowly, exhale just as slowly (if not slower). Repeat as necessary.
+ Do one thing at a time. I love to multi-task too! And when I’m not tired and/or stressed, it’s a method that works splendidly for me. However, the more tired and stressed I get, the more I have a tendency to jump from one project to the next to the next to the next… and 8 hours later all I’ve got are 2 dozen piles of half-finished things and a to-do list that never gets shorter. And piles + always-getting-longer to-do list = um, MORE STRESS! Stop the vicious cycle and tackle one thing at a time.
+ When you feel like you couldn’t possibly take a break because you just must get x, y, z, and a, b, c done — it’s time to TAKE A BREAK. Counterintuitive advice, maybe. But it’s true. You are not a robot. You will be more productive (and less likely to be found crying underneath your desk) if you take breaks. Maybe you sit quietly. Maybe you listen to music. Maybe you go for a walk around the block. Maybe you do yoga. Maybe you read a book (I’m LOVING this one right now.) Maybe you go to an impromptu brunch with a good friend. Heck, maybe it’s all of the above.
+ Go easy on yourself. Sometimes the best self-care is letting yourself off the hook about keeping up your usual self-care routine. Usually practice yoga 3 times a week? Maybe this week it’s 1 time. Usually cook dinner from scratch? Maybe this week you spring for already-prepared food from the Co-Op so that you don’t have to worry about cooking, but you still get your veggies/avoid fast food. Repeat after me: I’m doing the best I can.
+ Let go of getting it all done. There must be something on your to-do list that could wait. No really, it might not seem obvious at first glance, but consider what would happen if you didn’t get items 1, 2, and 3 done … Would the world end? Would someone die? … No? Okay, then consider letting yourself off the hook. I mean, is getting it all done worth your sanity?
+ Let go of perfection. Listen up all you type A perfectionists (like me) out there: good enough is the new perfect. Let’s try saying it together: GOOD ENOUGH IS THE NEW PERFECT. No seriously, I mean it. And while this mantra always holds true, when the stress monsters are strutting their stuff, it’s especially important to cut yourself some extra slack and let some things simply be good enough.
+ Laugh. Sometimes all you can do is laugh. And the funny (ha ha) thing is that, laughter really is the best medicine.
Your turn! How do you manage stress? What self-care strategies do you employ during stressful times? How do you keep your stress monsters at bay when they are threatening to attack?