It’s a word we are all too comfortable living. How often do you feel stressed? If you’re like most of the female population, probably 99% of the time.
Our minds are continually buzzing with what tasks we should do next, what errands we need to run, who we need to buy a gift for, what time we need to be somewhere, is there anything in my teeth, where did I put my lip balm, and the all too common: if only I were thinner.
Sound like any thoughts you’re accustomed to?
Over the last few months, I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce my stress levels. It’s ranged from things like preparing my bag for work on Sunday instead of Monday morning, all the way to deleting social media platforms from my phone. It’s taken me quite some time to find ways to eliminate unnecessary stress from my life, and I hope that in sharing them with you, you might find some ways to do the same.
Sounds like an obvious statement, but is it? How many of us prepare the night before? I’ve started packing my backpack on Sunday so that on Monday morning everything I need is already there. I’ll pack any food items, lip balm, notes, etc. that I need for the next day and then can rest easy, knowing that I’ve prepared it all.
I’ve also started working out in the mornings. One of my “hacks”, if you will, is to go to sleep in my workout clothes. This saves me time in the morning and gives me a little extra motivation to get up and out of the house. Consider the fact that doing this means: you won’t need to wake up and change out of pajamas, put them away, pick out workout clothes, change into them, etc. when you first wake up. The less brain power I need to use in the early morning, the more motivated I am to get up and do something. Can you tell I’m not a morning person?
Invest Energy Wisely.
This is a BIG one. Months ago I decided to stop investing energy into unnecessary things. No longer do I meditate on conversations and try to pick apart what I think someone really meant. I don’t play situations over and over in my head, trying to figure out what I could’ve done differently or what would’ve happened had I done or not done something. Even in my family or circle of friends, the moment someone starts to invest that unnecessary energy into assumptions, I can feel my heart begin to pound. Usually, I’ll shut the conversation down because that’s how much I value my own energy and peace. Making this decision was one of the best decisions I have made, and I can’t recommend enough how much this decision can benefit you. Don’t make up stories in your mind of what people intended when they did something or said something. Accept it for what it is until proven otherwise. Investing the energy into what you “think” is true doesn’t change a thing. Worse, we invest all this energy into something we may never even get the true answer to. So save yourself the time and energy, and invest it into things that will produce something beneficial.
Delete Social Media.
Okay, breathe. This is not something you need to do in one sitting, or even at all. This is your choice. For me, I deleted Snapchat and Instagram about two months ago to give myself a break, and I literally felt physically lighter. It’s like a weight has been lifted. The pressure and constant anxiety I’d feel about checking social media and the FOMO was ridiculous! Not to mention the disappointment or sadness I’d feel looking at certain pieces of social media.
That friend I care about? Yeah, they’re getting drunk and partying with friends. They’re worth more than that and I wish they’d see themselves how I see them.
That supermodel who I follow on Instagram? Yep, she’s the reason I don’t want to eat for the next year. She’s also the reason I’ll be eating Oreos to make myself feel better. What a vicious cycle.
Extreme? Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit. But I bet you can relate.
I don’t even want to know the number of hours I’ve wasted scrolling through feeds of people I don’t know, don’t like, or don’t talk to. Why do we set ourselves up for hurt? And worse, why do we keep inflicting this pain?
Social media does a great job at showing us what we’re “missing out on”, what we don’t have, or what we aren’t. It’s rare for me to walk away from social media feeling better about myself than when I began scrolling. Going back to investing energy wisely, removing social media was a way for me to reinvest my energy into things that matter, rather than waste time scrolling through feeds.
The first week, it actually felt weird. I realized how often I reach for my phone to mindlessly scroll when I have a moment that’s not busy. After a few days of reaching and realizing the app wasn’t there, I’d put the phone down and find something productive to do. It’s amazing what productive things you can fill your time with when you’re not spending it mindlessly.
Family time? Check! Investing in real life friendships face to face? Check! Spending time with the Lord? Check! Working out? Check!
That, my friend, is a much better pattern than continually hurting my heart and only giving my thumb a workout from scrolling through feeds of people I don’t even know, multiple times a day.
Say Goodbye To Toxic People.
This is such a difficult one. But, it’s also not. When relationships are toxic, we need to let them go. If you are constantly on the receiving end of depressing news from someone who clearly has no interest in doing what they need to do to fix things, let them go. If you have a friend who emotionally vomits all over you every time you get together, let them go.
I’ve also let friendships go that I just don’t find enjoyment in. It might sound selfish or rude, but I don’t mean it that way at all. Your time is valuable, and you should invest in the things and people that YOU want to invest in. Yes, there will be times we sacrifice our time because someone needs us, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m talking about the people we interact with on a regular basis. I’m talking about the people we consider our group.
If you don’t walk away from gatherings with these people feeling refreshed in some way, it might be time to reevaluate. Do you feel drained or revitalized? Do you feel depressed or inspired? These are some fundamental questions that deserve answers. Answering them may open your eyes to the people you should back away from and the people you should invest even more into.
How many times have we heard this and yet, do we do it? For years, I struggled with feeling guilty for saying no. And then I had a friend (looking at you Caroline!), who shared with me the power of saying no. All she did was tell me how she balances her nights out and nights at home. She told me that she’ll play things by ear and won’t commit to events right away. It was so empowering to me that since that conversation, about a year ago, my own mindset has started to change.
I’m learning that just because someone else thinks that underwater basket weaving is the BEST THING EVER and we should all go do it, doesn’t mean I need to be pressured into it. When it comes to group activities, I’ll say something like, “Go ahead and plan it on a date that works best for everyone. Once you have the date, let me know and I’ll let you know if I can make it.” This gives me the out if I want it. It also removes the pressure, since I wasn’t a part of selecting the date. If I decide to not go, there is no guilt.
It’s also been quite a learning season when it comes to volunteering and serving in ministry. I am an absolute believer in contributing time and service to the community and to causes you are passionate about. Sometimes though, it becomes too much. Maybe you’ve hit a busy season in your personal life, and you’re spread too thin. Or perhaps you recently received a promotion at work and need to invest more time than usual to get up to speed on new tasks. It’s okay to step back and ask for some time. Often though, we feel guilty for stepping back from something that is inherently good. And if the community service or volunteering is inherently good, we think that stepping back must be inherently bad.
But friend, it doesn’t need to be one or the other. It can be both good to serve and good to step back. You can’t help those around you if you are sick or exhausted. It’s important, and even necessary, to take time for you. Saying “no” to things is what helps you do that.
Now it’s your turn! What are some ways you have lowered your stress? I’d love to learn from you and hear of some of the things you’ve done in your own life. Feel free to share in the comments below. May we all learn and grow from each other.