Life has gotten quite stressful in the last few weeks with a few fairly seriously events taking place back to back. Out of respect for the individuals involved I won't go into detail but I will say that it has taken a toll on me and my ability to feel grounded. I'm working through it and I believe things will turn around soon but its been challenging to say the least.
I did quite a bit of thinking on my long run today and realised that some degree of stress is inevitable in life. Things just don't always work out the way we want or need them to. The key then, is not to completely rid ourselves of stress but to find constructive ways of coping with it. In other words, while you can't control everything that happens you can control how you choose to deal with it.
Seems simple enough. Except that its not, at least not for me. I have never been particularly good at dealing with a loss of control and dealing with anxiety hinders my ability to maintain a positive and healthy perspective at times. Unfortunately I am no stranger to feeling overwhelmed.
The run and a long chat with The Boyfriend drove the point home that the past is not a guarantee for the future; I don't need to be overtaken by stress just because I always have been. I have the power to change that. I want to change that. I need to change that.
The first step is learning to differentiate between the things I can and cannot control. Accepting and dealing with the things I have no influence over will greatly improve my ability to better manage the things I can alter. This step is crucial.
Next I need to identify some key stressors that I can effect and make positive changes to help alleviate some of the pressure.
Stressor: Feeling spread too thin
Positive change: Say "no". Don't take on every project, challenge and task thrown my way. Accept that you can't help everyone, every time. Ask for help. Politely decline invites. Take more time to do nothing. Realise its perfectly okay not to be busy all the time.
Stressor: Chaotic physical space and misplaced items.
Positive change: Take time everyday to de-clutter my home and workspace. Learn to throw things away because not everything needs to be saved "just in case". Put things like keys, debit card and other items in a safe and logical place and be consistent with what place you choose. Don't leave all major house cleaning until the weekend..do a little every day.
Stressor: Weight gain and binge eating habit.
Positive Change: Eat for health not emotion. Plan healthy meals ahead of time. Keep my home stocked with nutritious foods. Don't bring "binge triggering" foods (ie chips, crackers) into my home. Find positive ways to deal with emotion like exercise, yoga, deep breathing, reading, talking to a friend. Eliminate late night snacking. View food as fuel for my marathon training and other fitness goals.
Positive Change: Follow a budget. Stop using credit cards. Accept that I can't afford to do certain things and that's not something to be ashamed of. Shop smarter (sales, buying what I need, less impulse buying), plan for miscellaneous purchases ahead of time by saving.
Stressor: Feeling Frenzied
Positive Change: Make time to truly relax (reading, taking a bath). Less multi-tasking. Practice yoga. Get an adequate amount of sleep every night. Read for 15 minutes everyday.
Stressor: Feeling negative
Positive Change: Purposely seek out the positive in situations. Remind myself of the good things in my life daily. Stop pre-judging a situation or person. Be open to trying new things and seeing new perspectives.
A shift towards optimism is going to be another key element in stress reduction for me. If you follow me on Twitter expect to see more tweets with the hashtag #thinkpostive which will be my daily reminders of the good things (big and small) that I can focus on.
This starts right now. Wish me luck!
So tell me, how do you deal with stress? What's your favorite way to relax and unwind?