Managing stress has been an ongoing conversation amongst hard-working people.
Stress can be defined as: moments of time and feelings that come up when we feel an immense amount of pressure in our lives.
Stress, in its essence, is a typical and quite natural response to life’s events and transitions. We even have experiences of “good stress”, like when we are trying something exciting for the first time or when we are meeting someone new.
When learning how to manage this part of our self-care, it’s important to recognize that it takes time to understand our patterns of experiencing stress and anxiety. One key to managing stress is understanding what stress looks like for you and what practice(s) you can do to help you release that pressure on a regular basis.
So let’s talk about that pressure — we can often feel stressed and pressured with what life hands us. The pressure we feel can often feel like air in a balloon. Many of us are feeling stressed on a regular basis, often times balancing life transitions and multiple challenges at once. The stress from handling these problems can show up, show out and take up a lot of space in our minds and bodies.
When we feel stressed, again and again on a regular basis, the pressure builds and builds. This pressure has weight and it fills us up — and like air to a balloon, if there is too much pressure, our chances of “bursting” significantly increase.
We look at this example to say that stress is not always a negative thing. It is when the natural, good stress that motivates us to live productively becomes overwhelming that we need to check-in and manage it.
To begin better managing the overwhelming stress that you may be experiencing, try to reflect on these self-care practices:
Become a student of your own stress levels.
What does it look like when you feel stressed? Are you easily irritable? Forgetful? Clumsy? Distant?
A key to managing your own stress is learning what stress looks like for you. Stress can look different for each person, but a generalized way to begin noticing when you are feeling stress is by recognizing when you are having a “bad day”. Ask yourself:
- What makes this day different than my usual good days?
- What’s going on in my body? What hurts, what’s in pain? What feels tense?
- How am I feeling? Have I ever felt like this before?
- What pressure is building up for me? Am I feeling stressed by one incident, are there a few things building up for me, or both?
Discover ways to release the pressure that is building up.
When you have a better idea of what stress looks like for you, the next step is to do something about it. And that something includes finding ways to “release” the pressure you’re feeling.
In the self-care practice of regularly releasing the pressure that’s building up, you are routinely unloading the heavy, emotional and burdensome weight that high stress can bring.
When you are releasing stress, think about:
- What is one thing/practice that will help me feel less: tense, overwhelmed, anxious and/or exhausted?
- What is one thing/practice that will help me feel more: calm, relaxed, balanced, and/or recharged?
And there are several practices that you can try to release the pressure you’re feeling:
- Getting physical: cardio, strength-training, rowing, swimming . . .
- Writing down what’s causing you to feel stressed
- Talking to a loved one
- Expressing yourself creatively
The key is to find practices that work for you and practice them when you are AND when you are not feeling stressed on a regular basis.
Why should you practice managing your stress techniques when you’re not feeling stressed? Because this, is in itself, what well-rounded self-care practice is.
Practicing stress management when you are not feeling stressed builds your skills and develops your resiliency to better bounce back from those heavy, overwhelming feelings.
Just as its important to recognize when you’re feeling stressed, it’s also important to learn:
- What does it look like when you are having a good day?
- How do you know when you are feeling balanced, calm and happy?
- What does the best version of yourself look like? What helps you maintain this version of yourself?
Self-care is a dance of understanding what depletes you AND what fills you up. Self awareness, mindfulness and putting energy into yourself can help you better manage your stress and live a life that’s more meaningful to you.
What is your key to managing stress?