When did stress become an acceptable constant state of being? Oh, you’re a student/mother/father/employee/human being? Of course you’re stressed out. Of course you have high anxiety. What do you expect?
What do I expect? I expect to be able to breathe. I expect to be able to live a life that allows for more calm than chaotic. So I fight for it. I fight to give myself the permission to take a moment, an hour, a day – to find my calm. To remind myself that I need to take care of my mental health.
I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.~Audre Lorde
Audre Lorde was not talking about taking a bubble bath or getting a massage (not to say that either of those is a bad thing), she was talking about self-care as an act of political warfare, as a MUST for activists fighting against racism in our society. Now I could go on and on about the complex issues that minorities in this country face, and why Black women are stressed at a level that the rest of us will likely never experience. But I’ll let you go down that rabbit hole on your own. This is a good article to get started:
I’m going to take a step back. Inhale deeply. And exhale.
Ok. Let’s talk about managing stress instead. As a full-time student, with a full-time career (plus a husband and dogs), finding a way to relax is difficult. Not impossible, but difficult. I struggled for years to balance school, work, and a personal life (there’s a reason I’ve been in college off and on for 16 years). I wouldn’t say that I’ve figured it all out, but I’ve found a recipe that works for me today. So what do I do to decrease my stress levels?
- I meditate
- I let go
- I embrace
- I take care of my health
Meditation for me was an easy addition, I sort of cheated in this category. As a fortune baby (a child born into a family that practices Buddhism) I already knew one form of meditation. But meditation is not strictly religious. There are tons of tips , videos and apps out there to help you get started on your meditation practice.
Letting go. Easier said than done.
I had to start allowing myself to let go of my stress and to relax. I’m not saying to ignore your responsibilities or to pretend that nothing in the world is going wrong. Instead, I allow myself to take a break from things. Even when there’s another paper to write, another load of laundry that needs to be washed, another client project to do – I give myself the permission to put it away for a while. Sometimes I can let go completely. Does it seem like an indulgence to pay someone to shovel my sidewalk or buy those veggies pre-cut? Maybe, but it takes something off my plate so it’s worth it to me. If I can’t remove the stress completely, I take step away for a bit. I allow myself to watch a tv show, sit on my deck with a glass of wine, play with my dogs. Which leads me to…
Embracing the moment.
My brain is constantly going a mile a minute (which you can probably tell from this rambling post). That’s great at work when I’m trying to juggle a dozen different tasks at one time. But when my head is filled with everything that stresses me out, it’s important that I find a way to “stay out of my mind” from time to time. If I can focus on the present moment, and actually enjoy it, I’m calmer when I need to face my anxiety again. I take a walk with my dogs. If I’m thinking about everything that causes me anxiety I’m likely to grow frustrated when they stop to sniff for 5 min at the same spot. When I embrace the moment, I can laugh and share their enjoyment of our journey.
Finally, I take care of my health. Since this is a large topic all together I’ll share it in another post.
What do you do to cope with stress?