“I used to blame everyone else for my stress. Then I took responsibility. I now know, I can not only create stress in my life, I can also create balance.” – Mia
In this world where busy is a badge of honor and FOMO (fear of missing out) is so real, I wanted to dive into a topic that comes up for a lot of us in the transition from summer to fall — stress.
It is hard to avoid with pressures at work, home and school. It is easy to let stress take over our body and minds. But I have also found whether or not I “feel stressed” is more of a choice than I once thought.
Here are 10 behaviors that have helped me eliminate stress in my very full life — most of the time!
Say No. I do not have to volunteer for everything at school even though I am constantly told I should. I don’t have to say yes to a moms night out even though I really want to go. I don’t have to say yes to a second (or third) soccer league. I don’t even have to say yes to the travel team. I don’t have to say yes to a work project that will keep me up late at night. The things that really need to get done, will get done—but there is a lot that doesn't have to get done at all (or at least not by me—or you).
Take care of yourself first. Right now, every morning when I wake up, I go on a walk, write 3 pages and meditate for 5 minutes. It takes a tiny fraction of my day. On days when I forget, (because I sometimes I do), I feel the difference. I have had other seasons when I am focused on my sleep, my food or my relationships. Here are some things I have played with:
- Green smoothies
- Water with lemon
- Reading a book
- Making my lunch
- Oil pulling
- Dry brushing
- Food supplements
- A shower!
- Brushing teeth
- Blow drying hair
- Salt scrub
- Hugging a child
- Prepping food
- Jumping rope
- Hula hooping
- Planning my day
- Emailing a friend
- Finding a new recipe
- Shopping alone
- Organizing a drawer
- Warm tea
- Waking up early to be alone
- Green juice.
I love Nina Manolson’s Teaching of 10-10-10 — which is simply to spend 10 minutes 3 times a day to take care of yourself.
Notice if certain foods make you feel more on edge. Hello, gluten and dairy! Literally these foods made me sick. I’ve been gluten- and dairy-free for years now, and it’s made a difference. Still, I definitely indulge from time to time in not so healthy gluten-free stuff. This summer it was potato chips—and they made me stressed. What foods put you on edge? Maybe gluten or dairy don’t make you feel great either. Or maybe it’s sugar or coffee … start noticing. A simple food diary might help you pair emotions with food. We are all different, so this is your exploration.
Say yes to help others. This is not meant to counter saying “no.” This is not signing up for room parent or raising your hand to work on Saturdays. This is meant to say yes to little things that make someone else feel really good. Say yes to extra snuggles with your kids. Help a neighbor clear the sidewalk of snow or rake leaves. Hold a door open for a mama with a stroller. Say thank you to a teacher. (Listen above to hear the story about the dog my daughter and I rescued at Trader Joes!)
Learn that it is not all about you, and you cannot control everything. Last week, I was supposed to record several podcasts … and my guests all had emergencies. These were literally real life big things, and my initial reaction was to be stressed out that no one wanted to be on the show. It had nothing to do with me whatsoever. In my initial stress at a missed episode, I did not have compassion that I wanted to have for their situations, and I could not access one creative idea for a solo show. And then I remembered their emergencies literally had nothing to do with me. I took three deep breaths. I chose not to worry about a show. I sent heartfelt letters to each guest. I took an hour to myself and was flooded with podcast ideas (that will soon be tested).
My daughter and I had so much fun rescuing the Trader Joe’s dog (mentioned above) that neither of us anticipated and exasperated and stressed owner grabbing the dog, knocking over the water we had found, and running to her car without a thank you. My daughter’s first response was stress — stress that the dog was going home to “a mean lady.” We talked it through and realized that the woman was so saddened by possibly losing her dog that her actions were from her own stress and had nothing to do with us. We can model how to show up even when things aren’t going the way we would like and empower our kids to do the same.
Embrace the idea that there is no “way it is supposed to be.” I found it really hard that there was no parenting blueprint. In the early years I constantly added to the list of things that a “good parent” would do: sign their kids up for classes, feed them “kids food,” always have them dressed well, put them in the best schools, do art with them, go to museums regularly... Literally there was not enough time or money in a day. As they got older, they have more ideas about what they want to do or join, which may or may not agree with what I think is right (see saying no to 3 teams at once). And there is still no blueprint. There is no one way. You have to do what is right for YOU, your child and your family. Sometimes doing “nothing” after school is a blessing, and most likely will not impact your child’s future success. Sometimes saying no to social media, soda, or gluten is your family’s best choice — even though everyone else is “doing it.” (BTW, This is one I re-learn daily!)
Reframe things that stress you out. In have had moments when cooking stresses me out. I have had moments when all the driving has given me extra grays. Saying no and asking for help have helped in both cases, but there are still 21 meals a week (but who’s counting) and some driving. This is where the reframe comes in…. With meals, every time I am in the kitchen, I know that food is our medicine. It is one thing I can do to make us not get sick. With driving, I have made my time in the car time to learn or connect. When I am alone, I listen to my favorite podcasts or my current book. When I am with kids, I use it as time to connect with my kids. (When they are not chatty, I always have a book that we are all listening to… so we all learn!)
Plan in advance. I used to get stressed out by the idea of planning, but once I found my stride, I found it gave me the framework I needed to know that the things that matter most to me will get done. I now find extreme freedom in my plans. The three things I write down in advance of each day are: what is for dinner, 3 things that I need to get done for work or house that day, and 1 thing I will do for myself.
Clear your space. Clutter can cause stress – clutter in your home and clutter in your brain. That said, the idea that I have to clean out my whole house is stressful, so I have a few tricks. I have a corner that is always clear. I make a practice of spending 10 minutes each day decluttering something. And I let go of the rest (until I plan for it). I also regularly declutter my brain, which basically means I write down lots of lists and get stuff out of my head and onto paper.
Find people to connect with. There is a lot of stress in loneliness. If you are an introvert like me, you may constantly feel like you just want to have an hour for yourself by 6pm, but I have found that finding a group of women who holds me accountable for different goals has taken away a lot of the stress around big changes. Different ideas are masterminds, yoga or exercise classes, moms groups, 12 step programs, book clubs, your child’s school.
Stress is real. There is actually an American Institute for Stress. What!? They made an amazing graphic that I wanted to share on what stress can do. Hopefully, this will motivate you to change one behavior that leads you to stress this week. I cannot wait to here what you do! Head over to Instagram and tell me on the post, or DM me @plansimplemeals!