30 Minutes to Less Stress & Anxiety
Speaking for myself, I tend to spend a lot of time throughout the day focusing on everyone and everything else, but myself. Even over a short period of time, this type of lifestyle can lead to high levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout. Left untreated, symptoms of stress and anxiety manifest in mental, emotional, and physical ways. Irritation, mood swings, depression, indecisiveness, impairments in thinking or concentrating, high blood pressure, headaches, and insomnia are only a few of the most common symptoms of stress. The list goes on and on. This is why it is important to talk about stress reduction and self-care. Over time, higher levels of stress can begin to feel normal and, unfortunately, become part of our daily routine. Stop and take a good look at your level of anxiety, as well as how you manage day-to-day stress.
Below are some quick techniques I would like to share that I use to help de-stress and curb anxiety.
1. Try controlled breathing. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before and there’s a reason why. Deep breathing is a way to “trick” your brain into telling the rest of your mind and body that it is time to slow down and relax. Please read more about the body’s relaxation response and deep breathing in this article by the American Institute of Stress (AIS). To practice controlled breathing, I recommend starting with slow deep breaths. Try breathing in for 4 long breaths, holding it for 7 seconds, and slowly letting it out for 8 breaths. Practice initially for as long as you can without being interrupted and continue to build on from there. According to AIS, “the relaxation response is not lying on the couch or sleeping, but a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed, calm, and focused.”
2. Show yourself some love with self-talk. There is no such thing as too much positive self-talk. Talk to yourself like you would your best friend or closest relative. If you begin to feel anxiety swell up, tell yourself to not get anxious or do not panic. Be encouraging versus self-critical by telling yourself you can do this. A few examples of some short, but powerful positive self-statements (or affirmations) include:
“I am enough.”
“I am okay and I can get through this.”
“I am not perfect, but I am perfect the way I am.”
“Making mistakes does not make me a failure.”
Get creative and write your own list of positive self-statements that are meaningful to you.
3. Break things into small chunks. Minimizing procrastination will likely reduce the amount of stress you experience. In a world full of chaos, planning and not leaving things until the last minute can help you feel more in control. Break goals or items on your to-do list into manageable chunks that are more realistic for you to complete. As an added bonus, completing tasks will give you an extra boost to your self-esteem and help you feel more accomplished. Higher self-esteem is an effective tool for keeping your anxiety at a healthy level.
4. Remember, you are not alone. Don’t convince yourself that you are the only one struggling with anxiety, burnout, or chronic stress because that is a lie. Many people may look like they’re fine, but in reality, they are struggling too. Talk to people and don’t allow anxiety or burnout to push you into isolation.
5. Forgive yourself and “wait to worry.” Work on taking control of your perspective. If something happens that causes you immediate stress, tell yourself to keep going and you will worry about it later. Then, allow yourself a 10-minute window to think about and process the situation. Tell yourself that after 10-minutes you are moving forward and refuse to stay stuck in it. Have you ever had something embarrassing happen to you that seemed to consume your entire day? The “wait to worry” technique is a method to help use stress and anxiety in a constructive way with healthy boundaries. It allows you to process the source of your anxiety, but combats the unhealthy tendency of staying stuck in it for long periods of time.
6. Expect ups and downs. You may have “off days” and days where you just don’t have the energy to fight the burnout. Don’t be discouraged. This happens and it happens to even the most determined individuals. Pick yourself up the next morning, talk to a supportive friend, and start fresh. I challenge you to fight the urge to live in an “all or nothing” mind frame. Just because you struggle on one day, does not mean your entire week is a failure. You have the authority and control to restart your day at any time, any hour. All it takes is reminding yourself that you are human and you are a work in progress.
I will be practicing these today as a way to recharge before the start of a new week. If you have time to take a quick walk outside or sit in a comfortable spot in your home, then you have time to give these a try.
Please join me in some Sunday self-care!