MIND & BODY

Self Awareness and Stress Management

Hello Readers,

I’m circling back around to November things. I have been a bit off the grid lately due to the holiday season and trying to rework the site a little bit. (New layout! What do you think??) I shared my November Intentions on Instagram @myhomecookedlife at the beginning of the month. Writing down my Monthly Intentions is not something I do every single month, but when I saw The Balanced Blonde share her beautiful list it motivated me put pen to paper. For the 30 days of November, I wanted to work on starting and/or improving (to):

  1. Zap stress before it manifests.
  2. Read more.
  3. Don’t take things so personally.
  4. Improve my posture.
  5. Connect more with nature and enjoy the quiet moments.
  6. Get back in the rhythm with a night-time routine.
  7. Give love more freely.
  8. Use Sunday’s for as my ultimate plan day.

The main theme for my November was Self Awareness and Stress Management, which I believe go hand-and-hand with each other.  I must say that I totally nailed some of these habits(#1, 3 4, 5, 6), but other ones did not get as much attention and I will keep working on them. My experience with gaining more self awareness is that the more I can tune into my body, my emotions and my needs, the better I can take care of myself and give my body what it needs at that moment.

I’ll elaborate more on the stress portion in a minute, but until recently, I did not even realize that I was getting stressed out. It was usually over the littlest things, too! Usually over being late, having too much work on my to-do list and having too much dog hair on the couch. Let’s face it, these things are NOT going to make or break my day. Still, they brought about a sense of urgency or nagging that I was not doing enough (which is simply not the case). What I decided was this – Giving these simple things the power to stress me out, was essentially giving them the power to control me and reek havoc on my day. Also, gradually becoming more aware has helped me to better understand when I’m hungry versus just bored, when I’m not getting enough sleep or eating too much sugar, and even I’m procrastinating.

Now, let’s talk about Stress, shall we? I hear people say that you can really feel the effects of stress when you’re older. MY experience? I feel the effects of stress and I’m only TWENTY SEVEN. I am convinced that feeling the effects of anything is a matter of self awareness. Last night, I felt the effect of 1 glass of wine and how I was thirsty for water afterwards. Years ago, yeah, I could’ve drank a bottle and gotten away with it. But I’m not sure that I was aware of what dehydration and the side effect of poor sleep actually felt like for me. I think that the more in tune you become with your body, how you feel and how you respond to things, the better your awareness becomes.

So, here’s the fun stuff. We know that stress is inevitable. That’s why we have built in mechanisms to combat stress and even use stress to our advantage to overcome, but the body does want to return to a restful state at the end of the day. That understood, how can we improve our reaction to stress?

The first option is to Prevent stress: I am a planner and I like to set aside time on Sunday to preview my week – what I’m going to eat, my workouts, and what meetings/business commitments I have scheduled. By looking ahead, I can plan for making time for meeting my priorities. I, at least, feel like I am in control of my week and I am prepared for what I can prepare for. Ever show up to work in jeans when you have a big meeting? I don’t , because I look ahead at my schedule and make sure my laundry is tackled and ready for me when the time comes.

The second option is to Manage stress: When you can feel your anxiety level creeping up or you anticipate a stressful day is forthcoming, you can probably do things that will subside your anxiety or help to manage it when it occurs. Here is a list of simple tips I use to conquer stress and bring about a sense of calmness at various moments during the day:

  • Listen to calming music/white noise at work to mute other conversations and noises- I like spotify’s Ocean Waves playlist
  • Walk a few laps around the building.
  • Workout during my lunch-hour to get rid of the built up stress and regain focus to tackle the rest of the day.
  • I keep a resistance band and soft hand-therapy ball at my desk to use as a stress ball and roll out my muscles when I need to take a brief break. The simple act of movement and repetition can bring me to a meditative state.
  • Read my daily Moments of Happiness by Gretchen Rubin. I get these emails each morning and I will either read them first thing, or save them for when I need a little break and reflection in the middle for the day – Bonus: I also drop my favorites in a folder to come back to whenever I need a little mood booster.
  • Take a breathing break – either at my desk with my eyes closed, or go hide in the bathroom, literally #noshame
  • Make a social connection – having an unrelated conversation with a co-worker or reaching out to a friend via text or social media can provide a short break but also help to feel connected socially.
  • In the words of Nike, Just Do It. If it is a nagging task that has me stressed, I tell myself to face the truth that I will have to do it sooner or later. I actually have a post-it at my desk that reminds to me “eat the ugly frog first.” ;p
  • If I feel like I have a million thoughts swirling in my head and I actually need to retain some of these thoughts – I make a list! This creates a soft of disconnection and frees up brain space by placing the thoughts in a tangible form that I can come back to when I’m ready to address them.
  • Organizing – organizing can be prevent stress, but it can also be a way to tame stress. Does your cluttered email inbox bring an overwhelming sensation whenever you sign-in? Organize your inbox with folders, delete the spam and you’ll feel 20x better, I PROMISE.
  • Slowing down. Taking things 1 task at a time. “Act how you want to feel” I’m not sure where I read this first, but I fully believe it makes a difference. In the morning when I am running behind (aka everyday) I will be running around trying to find my belt, make my coffee, cagethe dogs in the kitchen, then run back to my room to put my shoes on – the act of rushing brings my anxiety level up. I can *feel* it immediately. By the time I get out the door, I feel bad, I feel late, I feel stressed. Note to self: stop rushing, slow down and the morning will be much more peaceful.
  • Work a task from start to finish to avoid interruption-induced stress.
  • Has stress zapped your energy? Instead of meditating, take a nap. Seriously, crawl into your backseat on lunch time and recharge your batteries with a 20 minute snooze. I don’t advocate regular napping, because your night-time sleep should be enough to get you through, but some days this may be just the thing you need.
  • Minimize electronic interruptions – I screen my phone calls at my desk and I flip my cellphone over after turning it on silent when I don’t want to be interrupted. I’ll also  wear headphones when I’m in the middle of an important job because people are less likely to interrupt me with meaningless convos when I put this barrier up. This works so beautifully.
  • If possible, leave. Take a break from your current environment. If I have errands to run, I can leave my desk and get away from the office. When I come back, I feel like I have hit the reset button just by changing my surroundings for a short period.
  • Have a cup of tea, I love Herbal blends – Yogi is my favorite brand and they have a Stress Relief blend that is absolutely yummy! Having a warm drink while I’m working, especially in the afternoon, really helps to calm me and keep me focused. It also keeps my sweet tooth at bay if my blend is sweet. Just try to forgo caffeine which can raise your stress level even more.

I’ll continue to add to this list when I find more tips and tricks to tame the stress demon! I hope this helps you. Feel free to share your stress hacks below!

 

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