The Basic Art of Stress-Relief

How can you create a more stress-free life?  By owning it, by controlling your behaviors, and practicing your own coping skills all the while worrying less about others.  Once we realize that controlling others is not a real thing, that we cannot, we can let go of the notion and feel a weight lift off of our shoulders.  No need to carry that burden or desire on your back!

The 4 As are a simple way to get really basic with your ability to create an environment where you thrive.  This concept is one that I talk about at nearly every workshop I deliver in some capacity.  Avoid, Alter, Accept, and Adapt.  These are the 4 As.  Let’s dive just a touch deeper so you can understand what they mean.

Avoid stress… means really just that.  In my opinion, the easiest way to avoid traditional stress that is imposed on us by having multiple priorities is planning ahead.  Of course, there will be tricky instances where plans change, we need to pivot, and that’s okay… if we have a plan, we can be aware of what we are able to manage or take on at work and home.  Additionally, if you prioritize work or home projects and tasks, you are better able to understand what you can take on, as well as ask for help when necessary or even say no to a new ask.  Lastly, avoid people that cause you stress unless you have to interact with them.  If you must, there are ways in the coming section that you can aid in relieving some of that stress. 

Alter the situation to change the outcome (hopefully).  Communication is a biggie here. If someone stresses us out, why can’t we tell them that we are stressed or frustrated by the interactions?  If we say, “I feel X when I have deadlines that I cannot meet, is there any way we can be more proactive in identifying project completion dates?”  Most of the time, we are scared of conflict or confrontation and we don’t have to be.  Sure, it is uncomfortable but taking a step to vocalize your feelings and encourage a change allows us to own an outcome.  Someone may not even know they are doing something that is challenging.  Why not give them the benefit of the doubt?  

Remember, we don’t know how someone will feel, think, or react.  We tend to place our own subjective views on that.  If we are unable to take on a project or only have a limited amount of time to devote to a task, we need to be clear and define our limits.  We are demonstrating to others that we value our time and want to respect theirs as well.  Not only through communication can you alter a situation, but back to scheduling… if you are able to work your schedule in a way that is more productive through time blocking or batching projects… do that!  You may be altering your working style, but you will find your flow again.  

Accepting stress is acknowledging that we may not have a choice in enduring the stressor.  I encourage you to develop really great self-care habits if there is a stress that is unavoidable.  You can start by talking to a friend or professional, you may feel better!  While forgiveness may be one of the hardest things to do, forgiving takes the power away from a person or event and gives you energy back.  Reframing how you hear things or talk to yourself is another way to have a good practice of changing and shifting mindset from negative to positive.  We should treat ourselves like our greatest gift.  And remember, we ALL make mistakes.  It is what we do with them that is the important lesson.  Life is hard, as Glennon Doyle says, “We can do hard things.”

Lastly, we can adapt our standards and expectations when it comes to our ability to cope with stress.  Thinking we can’t deal, can’t cope, can’t do this just contributes to our elevated stress levels.  Take the pressure off of yourself.  Do you really need to be wonder woman, or can you say no?  Do you really need to make that meal that may take you hours or have that party where you are going to have to do all of the things?  How you define success is what you will require of yourself.  Be careful with high expectations, they will burn you out.  

Adapting not only includes how we expect ourselves to measure up, but we can sometimes not avoid a thought spiral.  Our brains consume so much information and sometimes we get into a cycle where we can’t stop thinking or thinking the worst or waiting for the other shoe to drop.   This is where we can adapt our behavior and practice thought stopping.  Notice that you are spiraling and turning something small into something big and that is typically enough to calm oneself down.  You can also practice reframing a thought to be something that is more productive than destructive.  For example, “What the f*ck?!  I have to homeschool my kid now…” turns into, “I now get to spend more time with my kids now that they are being homeschooled.” (Wishful thinking, I know)

Don’t forget to encourage yourself, support yourself, and cheer yourself on.  We are all dealing with our own little experiences, and some big ones, that compound on each other every single day.  We got through yesterday and are getting through this day.  If we can’t be our biggest cheerleaders, how can we expect anyone else to be in our corner?  You got this.