My Top 10 Ways to Manage Stress
Stress has played a major role in my life for as long as I can remember. Allowing it to take over my life has affected my personal relationships, my productivity at work and most importantly my health. There was a time that I was not being the friend, girlfriend, family member or coworker that I knew I could be. I was distant and always had a reason for cancelling plans or not calling. When I did see my friends, I was not able to just relax and have fun because I was always stressed out about something. Eventually the people in my life took a step back from me, tired of me being a flake or bringing them down with me. Negativity breeds negativity and I was throwing a lot out at them. I didn’t blame them. I needed a good stress management plan.
At the time, I didn’t like the person I was turning into. I threw myself into work because I thought that was the only thing I could control in my life. I put so much pressure on myself to be the star employee that I would find myself doing too much at once. I would then get so overwhelmed that I couldn’t concentrate and focus, resulting in work that was not my best quality. Over time, the constant stress started to take a toll on my health. I would have trouble falling and staying asleep so I was always feeling sluggish and tired. I also was eating and drinking very poorly while not making time for exercise. Due to the stress, I ended up gaining 20 pounds. The weight gain lowered my self-confidence and I thought so poorly of myself. I knew something had to change, but I didn’t know where to start.
My doctor suggested that I come up with a list of ten things I can do to help manage my stress. Having this list has been a lifesaver for me. I keep my list taped to my mirror in my bathroom and I also keep a copy in my purse for the times stress hits when I am not at home. Some of these things I do daily as part of a morning routine, while others I do when I feel like I really need it.
Here are my Top Ten things in my stress management plan:
- Write it Down –When I am stressed out because I have so much going on at work or too many things to do at home, I make a list of everything I must do and prioritize it. When I do this, it helps me visualize what it is on my plate and have a plan to get it all done. When it isn’t my to-do list that is causing my stress, I will turn to journalin. Journaling not only provides me a release, but it also helps me understand my emotions. I personally like to physically write in a journal, but you can also use a document on your computer or a journaling app if you prefer. Day One Journal and Notebook Free are two great apps that will make it easy for you to journal anytime you feel the need.
- Meditate – Meditation has been scientifically proven to do wonders for your mind and body. Meditation helps me release the tension that has built up in my body and clears my mind to help me refocus. Meditating can be awkward when you first start and it is normal to feel like “you are not doing it right”. With mediation, there is no right or wrong way or even a certain length of time you should devote to it. When you are first starting out, try to meditate for at least five minutes and build up from there. Headspace is a great app to help you in the beginning of your meditation journey. The free version of this app provides you with 10 ten minute guided meditations. I used this app when I first started to meditate and it really helped!
- Exercise – The endorphins that are released when you exercise help boost your mood and clear your head. It also helps you stay physically fit, giving you more confidence in yourself. My go to exercises are going for a walk, a run or doing yoga.
- Get fresh air – Getting outside for 15 minutes helps rejuvenate me. I will often sit outside to meditate or go for a run or walk, being able to utilize two of my stress management techniques at once!
- Call a friend or family member – Talking out my stressors with someone close to me not only helps me get it off my chest, but often they will help me see things in a different perspective and give me great advice.
- Cuddle with my animals – As an avid animal lover, nothing makes me happier than when one of my cats curl up into my lap and falls asleep. Pets can provide you loyal companionship… how could you not be happy when you have that?
- Take a bath– Soaking in a warm bath can be the ultimate stress reliever. When I focus on my breathing while taking a bath, I have found myself even more calm and relaxed. Adding a calming essential oil like lavender or eucalyptus or mineral salts can also help.
- Listen to music– When you blast upbeat music, you can’t help but be happy. It is one of my favorite stress relievers that immediately changes my mood. I create specific playlists for different moods; that way if I want to listen to music that is going to perk me up, I can go right to that playlist and not have to spend time trying to find the perfect song!
- Color– I will admit, when adult coloring books first came to market, I snickered at the idea. However, after trying it once, I was hooked. It really helps calm my mind down; when I color, I don’t think about anything else except what color I am going to use next. This gives me the opportunity to refocus. Here are a couple of fun ones you can try for yourself.
- Unwind with TV or a funny movie– Sometimes being able to turn off my brain and turn on HGTV or a movie that always makes me laugh can be the best medicine for a stressful day.
I strongly encourage you to make a list of your own to be prepared when stress creeps into your life. You may also find it helpful to start a morning routine that helps you start your day off on the right foot. I make time for at least 10 minutes of mediation and 30 minutes of working out every morning. I am so energized all day and can notice a difference if I skip a morning on my routine. Small changes will have the biggest reward!
Jen Mastroianni is a thirty-something cat mom of two with a passion for helping others be the best version of themselves. Maintaining mental, emotional and physical health through a healthy lifestyle is incredibly important to her. When not working, you can find her out for a run, in a yoga class or curled up on the couch with a good book. Follow her on Instagram at @jenn_mastroianni.