Basically, stress sucks. Learning to manage stress is one of the essential parts of being a productive human being. It’s challenging to get any work done if the stress of life is weighing down so hard on you that it’s difficult to breathe or focus on any one subject. When I feel particularly stressed, I recognize all the privilege I have, but I also recognize that it’s hard to be me.
It’s hard to be anyone.
Can I be honest with you? This week has been the week from hell for no particular reason. There is nothing different about this week, and yet, my brain seems to want to single this week out as special. Instead of accepting how the week’s going, it’s finding ways to increase my stress and I’m definitely using more self-deprecating language.
What I hope you can get out of this post is a recognition that you aren’t alone and some coping strategies for when stress is so overwhelming you just can’t.
People are trying to help by recognizing my involvement in activities at school. Instead of accepting what should be a compliment, I try to play it off. Currently I take minutes for the student council, I’m the communications VP for a literary society, I’m an active member of one of the sororities on campus, and I recently joined the debate team.
To me, this seems like minimal commitment. I still want to join Model UN, I want to to do a lot of things that I don’t actually have time for. But I know that if I really wanted to I could manage my time more efficiently and have time for more commitments. I can, and should, be doing more with my school and community. Isn’t that ridiculous? As someone who fully commits themselves to the activities they’re part of, the more I commit to, the less time I have to do things like take care of myself (which is just as important).
I’ve set myself up to live in a mindset that tells me I’m never doing enough.
The other night I was scrolling through twitter and I found a vlog by Kayla Rivoli. I didn’t realize how much I just needed someone to acknowledge that being perfect wasn’t attainable until I saw the video.
Here’s the thing I need to remember and maybe you do too: I’m only human. Yeah, humans are great but we have our limits.
On top of my commitments I’m taking five courses, one of which is Arabic (I underestimated how difficult it would be to learn the new alphabet). I’m also trying to create better content for my blog because it’s something I do for my self-care and it’s important to me.
But this post isn’t all about me, it’s about you too. So if you’ve made it this far, congrats! I’m now going to give you, not the secrets of the universe, but some coping mechanism I use when I find myself becoming a bucket of stress. These don’t always help, but when you aren’t sure what to do it’s good to have somewhere to start.
ONE – exercise
I used to hate exercise. I never enjoyed going to the gym and I would give up the second it felt hard. Until last year. When I first started to notice a slip in my mood I started attending pole fitness classes and they just made me feel so empowered. Over Christmas break, Ingrid Nilsen and Blogilates teamed up and made a video for people (me) who hate working out. That’s how I found Blogilates and I really love doing her quick five minute work outs or her monthly calendars (although I’ve never finished one).
Currently, I do a lot of stretching and pilates because it’s something I can do at home and it’s easier to fit into my schedule.
TWO – remember to breathe
The worst side effect of my stress is my complaints that I don’t have time to slow down. People will recommend I take a breather or take a day to just relax and treat my self but I won’t. If you’re ever in that mindset (because you will almost always have time to take half an hour to do something you love), take some deep breathes. If you can’t commit to half an hour, commit to four minutes. It’s so important to remember to slow down.
As you take a deep breath in count to four, hold it, and then breathe out. When you breathe out try to let yourself take at least a count of four to exhale. Close your eyes or leave them open, just slow yourself down for a second. It’s easy to get wrapped up in how much you have to do.
THREE – ground yourself
Sometimes when I’m stressed it can be like an out of body experience. It’s weird because I’ll know I’m stressed but I just feel so stressed I don’t feel it anymore or I feel like the room is so small and I am so large. That’s when grounding myself comes in handy.
Start by putting your feet on the floor and your hands on your knees. Either in your head or out loud start saying things that you notice around you like “I see a red mug”, “my feet are touching the ground”, “There is a table”. I start to off small and then work my way onto bigger things like “I am in a library,” “I am at school,” “I am in Canada,” and so on until I no longer feel like a body just floating in space, but I feel like I am occupying a space.
FOUR – let yourself be stressed
This might sound silly, but it’s something I need to remind myself constantly. You are not less of a person because you’re stressed out or because you didn’t accomplish something. You are just as much of a human being and just as much of a good human being. Sometimes when I’m stressed I think about how I don’t have time to be stressed and then I make myself more stressed because I’m stressed and angry that I’m stressed and how stupid is that?
Don’t stop yourself from feeling emotions. Let yourself be stressed. Take a second and go for a walk or watch a funny cat video (this one is a favourite, warning it’s not a cat) or think about something that makes you happy but getting angry at yourself for feeling stressed out is so counterproductive (I also love this video with pugs, the instagram it’s associated with is worth a follow too).
I like to think about my tattoo because it reminds me of my best friend and it reminds me that I’m totally capable of handling anything because I pushed past the fear of getting a tattoo.
Please don’t think this is me telling you how to properly live your life. Think of all this as advice a friend might share with another friend who’s also dealing with anxiety because we’re not all perfect. We don’t have it all together despite whatever we decide to show as reality. People all have flaws and hardships and anxieties and not talking about them doesn’t make it go away. It just creates another weird unattainable ideal for people to strive to and then makes people who are stressed and unorganized feel all alone and like they’re doing something wrong because they aren’t perfect.
If you’re ever having a stressful week, reach out to me even if it’s just to vent. I check this, twitter, and my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) daily so I’ll get back to you asap.