2016 was my has been my craziest and most stressful to date – and if all the “I’m so over you 2016” memes on Instagram are any indication, I am not alone. One of my biggest goals this year was to reduce stress.
I would never wish my particularly hellish year on my worst enemy, if I actually had any enemies (If you are out there, I love you. Let’s be friends <3). Stress & heartbreak appears to each of us a different form, but the mental & physical backlash can leave even the strongest people in dire straits.
Over the past six months, I have received countless emails from beautiful souls who said even though they weren’t going through my particular form of heartbreak, they heard their thoughts & emotions echoed through my words. We really are in this together.
So, whether it is your high intensity job, that coworker who eats your yogurt every damn day, your adorable partner who leaves the sink piled with filthy dishes, or something heavy like heartbreak and grief, there are steps you can take starting now to ease your emotional load and reduce stress that is causing it. And the strategy may be more painless than you think.
No matter how your particular battle against stress materializes, following these straight forward practices is guaranteed to lighten your mental load.
Have you ever noticed that everyone seems to be in an intense, passionate love affair with their cell phone? Holy Moly. Talk about steamy.
We just can’t get enough. We snuggle up with this tiny little computer until the moment we flip out the lights in bed…followed by an intense make out/catch up session first thing in the morning…before even brushing our teeth!
All while completely disregarding the real live human laying next to us.
Thing is, your bedroom is the most personal, private, and intimate space in your entire life. And this tiny device that connects you to the world has the potential to destroy real intimacy. Not only can it wreck havoc on your love life, research shows that being tuned into the outside world constantly raises your body’s cortisol levels. Cortisol sounds familiar? It is that sneaky little hormone tied to stress. So before you start to battle the aforementioned stressors, you are kickstarting your day with a fresh dose of cortisol!
The solution is easier than it seems. For one week, leave your cellphone charging in your kitchen or living room.Consider it an experiment. If after one week your stress seems to have eased up, turn the experiment into a ritual. It will only take 21 days for this to be your new normal.
If, like the majority of the world, your iPhone doubles as your alarm – go out and buy yourself an actual alarm clock. Hate the ticking fluorescent light? Those are a thing of the past. Treat yourself a beautiful alarm reflective of your style and personality – set a favorite song or soothing tone to greet you in the morning.
This way, you will have to actually think about going to pick up your phone for a snuggle sesh.
The emphasis of morning ritual is the most valuable advice handed down through generations of women in my family. For the record, this is a family quite serious about their Lady Bosses. The lineage highlights lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs, teachers, professionals with big families, even bigger hearts, and an uncanny ability to perfectly shape a mile high meringue. Great-grandmother was the first female mayor of Kentucky, and she was convinced her ability to do it all and enjoy life could be explained by her mornings in solitude.
She passed this insight down to my Grandmother Ruschell who, for her entire life, would wake up at 4:30 every morning. Before the sun crossed the horizon, she would savor a cup of coffee (Folgers, bien sûr), finish grading papers, and bask in the glorious beauty of silence. By the time her house bustled to life with the sounds of children hunting for breakfast and a husband looking for coffee, she was completely blissed out, in a total state of contentment.
She was one of the happiest, most productive women I’ve ever known – and, like her mother, she swore her early morning rituals made her gentle demeanor possible.
Whether your morning launches before 5:00am or after 8:00am, the precious moments after waking set the tone for your entire day. You’ve already decided to step back from your cell phone, so take it a step further and make it a priority to spend 30 minutes in the morning engaging in activities you absolutely love. Things that light you up, that feel life-enhancing.
It can be as simple as listening to your favorite album, writing a gratitude list, sneaking a few pages of your book, or sipping a cup of coffee on the porch.
All too often, the habit is to ferociously attack the to-do list while turning our back on the things that make us feel good. Prioritize self care first so the rest of your day feels less like an attack and more like a dance.
Its simple. Don’t start with stress and stress won’t come as easy. Seems like a simple way to reduce stress, right?
The human body is brilliant. I am constantly astounded by its abilities. Think about it, your body accomplishes an endless list of tasks without you giving it a single thought.
Your body is regulated by a complex set of internal systems that monitor every tiny thing you do throughout the day. Many of these systems work in cycles. You’ve heard of a few – a circadian cycle (for sleep, elimination, energy), the menstrual cycle (for the man hating, ice cream loving monster to come out & play), etc.
There is also another, lesser known cycle. This cycle regulates your ability to focus and work efficiently. It is an ultradian cycle, or rhythm. Here is how it works:
Most people are only capable of being productive for 90mins to 2 hours max. Allow me to Repeat: Two Hours Max. Yet, in the mania of a 9-5 world, people constantly deny their natural limitations and end up burnt out, exhausted, and unproductive. The average American drinks 3.5 9oz. cups of coffee per day in a drastic effort to combat this limitation.
Instead of powering through the day like a freight train, take small 10min breaks throughout the day – not including an hour for lunch. During this time, refrain from doing anything productive! No quick texts, no email, no side projects. Fellow entrepreneurs? Put down the damn laundry basket.
Give yourself 10mins to just breathe. Do a little yoga, have a glass of water, take a brisk walk. I promise you will go back to your desk feeling refreshed, which will allow to you accomplish more in less time…which gives you more time to play later. Who doesn’t crave a longer recess?
Try out all of the simple tricks for a week. Keep it simple, easy, light!
Even though life can be tough – it really is meant to be enjoyed and trying to reduce stress with help. And it is completely up to you.
At any given moment, you can find me handstanding on a foreign beach, running down the rabbit hole of some new subject of study, discussing philosophy over a bottle of red, or laughing out loud at a table full of friends.