Stress Management: Shifting the “All Pedal and No Brakes” Mentality

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I am going to share a secret. Sometimes when I get stressed out, I pull out my “adult coloring book.” Amazon sure does have everything, right? Well, after I masterfully complete one of the pictures (each that contains a “colorful” caption of its own), I magically feel much better! Who would have thought? What triggered my memory of these silly, yet effective coloring books is that April is Stress Awareness Month. Yayyy, this is a great month, y’all! We need this…and the bottom line is we’ve got this. We are undeniably resilient.

We all know firsthand what pain and stress is after having experienced, and continue to endure, a pandemic. Lives have been lost, health has been affected, jobs have changed (and have even been eliminated), parents have been navigating how to juggle work *and* their kids’ e-learning simultaneously, our routine social outlets from pre-pandemic have been altered, our emotions have transformed into a roller coaster state at times and the list could go on and on. 

Finding ways to manage stress is essential, as life can definitely be “go, go, go” and very demanding. The Mayo Clinic reports stress can negatively impact almost every aspect of our bodies; when we are experiencing chronic stress, we have an increased risk for afflictions such as anxiety, obesity, depression, sleep disruptions, digestive issues, and heart disease. Stress can negatively impact us, our family/loved ones, and our quality of life. Not good, not good at all.

Ultimately, it is quite normal if you have ever felt you were all pedal and no brakes with your emotions and stress levels. The bright side? You can find balance. Here are some tips!

1) Ask yourself, “Can I control this?”

If your answer is “no,” please empty your brain and release the pressure. It is critical to filter out the unnecessary and focus on what you can control. Make a list of what you can do to solve a problem…perhaps if you are looking at it with clarity, you will realize what is within your power to navigate. Knowing the difference between what you should worry about versus what is outside your hands is very liberating. If you can’t control it, visualize tossing it into a garbage can.

2) Get moving

I have said this before, and I will say it again with vigor because it will never be outdated: Movement is medicine! Going for a walk, being out in nature, doing a home workout, hitting the gym, doing a yoga class, punching the bag at a boxing class or any form of exercise is 1 million percent going to help alleviate your stress and improve your mood. Period. So, get moving and feel that stress melt away! When your body feels good, so does your mind. We want our mind and body in alignment, and exercise elevates us to that level.

3) Breathe

Close your door, turn off the lights and take 5 minutes to breathe deeply. Or, even if this must take place in your workplace parking lot, just do it. Feel your breath and mindfully recognize your emotions, take ownership of what you are feeling and choose to let the stress dissipate. Breathing is not going to necessarily solve problems, but it will empower you and enable you to regain control over your emotions. Remember: We don’t want to be all gas pedal and no brakes!

4) Journal

Both men and women can keep a journal! It is a safe, private platform for your thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Take time to write down what you are frustrated about, or contrarily what you are grateful for, and then witness the wave of relief or happiness rush over you. Even if you just write down one thing that is plaguing your mind or one thing you appreciate, you may find solace and feel validated. Embrace the failures, yet revel in your accomplishments! Often when we write down what we are feeling, whether good or bad or both, we feel the stress lifted from our shoulders. It is because by documenting, we feel heard, and we can experience a positive release of our emotions.

5) Don’t neglect self-care

Remember there is a whole world out there besides your job or e-learning for your kids or taxes or whatever stressor is currently plaguing your mind. Nurture your mind and your body so you are not trying to pour from an empty cup. You are not selfish to want to take care of yourself. You are not saying, “Me first” … you are saying, “Me, too.”

6) Manage your emotions

You alone possess the power to control your attitude, your effort, and your response to the obstacles thrown your way. Calm down before sending a text, e-mail, or any other form of communication. We can’t take back our words, and often in the heat of the moment, we are more revved up and prone to spewing out things we may not mean or have the clarity to filter. You are better than that and can do better than that…so do better than that. Maybe you need to write the text or e-mail, but not hit the “send” button…

7) Live a healthy lifestyle

Exercise, get enough sleep (7-8 hours), drink half of your body weight in ounces of water each day, eat at least 5 cups of fruits and veggies daily and make time for yourself, even if it is brief. Prioritize YOU. (And do a happy dance!)

8) Laugh

When we are overwhelmed with stress, the littlest things can improve our outlook and ultimately our mood. I love a good belly laugh! Release those feel-good endorphins through your body by sharing funny memes or pictures and memories with family and friends. Or maybe it’s a favorite comedy or romance flick that gives you a good laughing fit. Whatever it is, lean on it during stressful times. You won’t regret it! Say goodbye to negative energy.

In life, there are many things outside of our control. Let’s do everything in our power to remove roadblocks for our success and more importantly, our happiness. We can’t control what we can’t control, so let’s move onto something else and something better. Negativity drains us; we don’t want to waste precious energy. Instead, let’s invest in our wellness, mind, body, and spirit. This month let’s celebrate that we are imperfectly perfect and that stress isn’t going to get the best of us!

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