While the holidays are a really exciting time of year, I've also found that they are sometimes the most stressful time of year. After a month of being on overload, I decided to poll some of my readers about what they do to manage stress. The question was the following:
"Running and yoga are my absolute fav physical remedies, but I also try to use positive thinking. I think as we try to achieve our goals professionally and socially, we can over extend ourselves. No matter what we make it to the other side of the tunnel, and learn something because of the challenges we've been through. When I have a moment of feeling overwhelmed I try to reality check and count my blessings. I am so lucky to have the insanely crazy job I have that keeps me busy and feeling useful, so lucky to have AMAZING friends near and far ( miss you!), and a close knit cuckoo family...heres one more idea, call a friend - me - and dish with me to help releave stress!!!"
Olivia (Los Angeles, CA)
"Yoga!!! It's all about how to weather a challenge while keeping your feet on the ground (or in the air or on your head or wherever). It helps teach me that even the most unexpected, painful or stressful moments are not as important as the attitude with which they're met. I try to deal by noticing my own feelings, forgiving myself for them, then trying to be aware that my power as a human far surpases the threshold of my emotions. Most of the time I fail at really grasping this :)."
Sarah (Seattle, WA)
"I call a friend or my parents to vent, then I make a list of EVERYTHING."
Katrina (Naches, WA)
"Running, walking or getting outside to do just about anything is a good one. Somehow that always helps my mind get perspective. Plus, it just feels good! But -- this is not something I do in response to stress, rather it's something I try to do everyday because it makes dealing with stress, when it hits, much easier. It's a breather I can look forward to, even when there's a really full plate.
Make a list of everything I think that I "must" do. Getting it out of my head and onto paper often helps me to let go, so I am not using valuable brain space mulling over the same things, such as "must remember to do X!"
When lists are already made, and things are still overwhelming -- triage and delegate. Relentlessly. And give people realistic assessments of when things can be expected to be completed -- even if this means I have to say, "I'm sorry, but that will take me long than I anticipated at first." Sometimes delegating is challenging, especially when I know I could do something quickly and well, but for me it's part of letting go and being realistic.
When lists are made, tasks have been triaged and delegated and I'm STILL waking up in the middle of the night stressed, just getting up and doing SOMETHING for 30 minutes often helps to relieve my stress enough that I can go back to bed for the rest of the night.
Finally, I have to say that having a child, and really being into who she is and raising her well, has been the best thing for helping me keep priorities straight and not take too much stress home. Even when I do, I forget about it quickly because of the immediacy of everything going on at home!"
Andrea (Eugene, OR)
"Regular exercise is important to keep my stress down. When I'm really stressed I often feel that I don't "have time" to exercise and will skip it, which makes the situation even worse. Enrolling in workout classes encourages me to stick with exercise even when life gets really busy. When I'm really stressed, I also have to specifically take some time out to write down some positive thoughts. I get consumed with the idea that "there's not enough time" or "I can't do it" so I need to take a few minutes to say "If I work efficiently this week, it will get done" or "I know it's possible, if I don't give up now."
Emily (Seattle, WA)
Clean my house!
Go into work early and tackle stuff before people get to the office.
Megan (San Jose, CA)
"When I'm feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do, I simply break the to-do's down. I tend to create both a work and personal life to-do list. The work list involves items I need to do for each client, and the personal list includes daily household things, such as laundry, clean room, errands, etc. Once the lists are complete, I prioritize them. I embrace each item with a "Just power through it!" attitude and work my way through the list item by item. Making a list and prioritizing your to-do's is a great way to help you focus solely on one item at a time. I also tend to not have a little reward waiting for me, because simply crossing off a "to-do" is reward enough!
When I'm feeling stressed, I find it's so helpful to truly step away from whatever is causing the stress. I tend to stare at my computer for HOURS nonstop, so I find going on a run or just getting out of the office is a great stress reliever. I think just being outside and getting fresh air is a great way to bring new life and energy into your day. Once you feel a little more calm or at peace with whatever is stressing you out, you can then go back to it with a more rejuvenated, peaceful attitude."Anna (Washington, D.C.)
It took me a very long time to learn how to deal with stress and I’m still not perfect at it. But this is what I’ve learned:
I ask for help. Sometimes I make myself take a step back and say “is it more important to have perfectly folded clothes, or is the laundry something I can ask Seth to do?” Letting go of controlling each bullet point on my to-do list is rewarding and it helps me get things done.
I forgive myself. I fall off the wagon all the time and stress out about the length of my to-do list (or other trivial things). When that happens I let myself, but the next morning, I don’t let myself harp on what I did or did not do yesterday, I challenge myself “to-do” just today. By the next day, I’m back on track.
I do the things I love. The other day our kitchen was a disaster (Seth’s brother is living with us in a one-bedroom… by nature of the living situation, this has been happening a lot). The kitchen is my zen-zone. I cook because it relaxes me and because feeding people makes me happy. I quickly spiraled into stress, then anger, then anxiety. By now I can recognize this in myself, so I stopped, I asked myself “what do you REALLY WANT to do RIGHT NOW?” and then I did it. I grabbed the empty plant-pots and started planting seeds that I’d been putting off. I made the kitchen even messier. But when I was done, I was happy, and while I cleaned the kitchen (calmly), I kept looking over at the plants and wondering when they would start sprouting. I was totally calm and happy cleaning the kitchen that an hour earlier was giving me anxiety. At the end, I had a clean kitchen AND I had done something that I’ve been WANTING to do for so long....
Thank you, friends, for providing such fantastic advice! I know I will try to apply a few of these tricks during the holiday season.