Stress, whether it’s work-related or school-related or just general crappy-life-stuff-related, is the worst. I’m the kind of person who hates, more than anything, a hassle. I want things to run smoothly, the first time. I want people to do what they say they’ll do, when they say they’ll do it. I realize this won’t always happen, but it doesn’t make me want it any less. Hassles lead to stress, which leads to sleepless nights and anxious stomachs and a total lack of productivity for me. Actually, that’s not exactly true. I can be very productive while stressed out, just not in a healthy way. The stress leads to worrying, which causes even more stress. I know you guys know what I’m talking about. Say it with me here: I’m a worrier.
So, because of this condition, I’ve developed some ways to deal with stress and take what I like to call a little “mind vacation.” There’s no travel required; no plane ticket or full gas tank needed, no hotel reservation or over-packed bag required for this get-away. Just back away from the desk…close your eyes…and take a deep breath.
The first thing to do is physically step away. No matter how dire your current stress-level is, you can afford to remove yourself for five or ten minutes. Leave the cubicle, dorm room or family room and get away by yourself. Walk around the building, or better yet get outside if you can. Putting yourself in a different space physically can affect how you’re feeling emotionally. You need some literal breathing room where you can step back and take a look at the big picture.
The next step is different for some people. After I’ve gotten away from my “stress space,” I like to take some deep breaths and think about what is really stressing me out. Am I stressed about the big assignment that just got dumped in my lap because I don’t know how to do it, or am I stressing myself out because I just don’t want to do it? Once I’m able to figure out why I’m stressing, I can start to determine a plan of attack.
But some people might want to use this time to daydream or go to their happy place, and that’s fine, too. Whatever will bring your blood pressure down and help you relax and focus is a good thing. So walk outside and reminisce about that trip a few years ago to your favorite beach, or think about an amusement park you love or that little corner of the library where you go to escape with a great book.
Once you’re calmed down (however you get there), the next thing to do is figure out your plan. I heart lists and plans of all kinds (I never knew a decision that couldn’t be helped by a pros/cons list. Seriously.). Also, knowing exactly how I’m going to attack my stressors helps me feel in control. So I go through my list of things that I have to do/things that are making me feel anxious, and I figure out one-by-one how to solve for them. Sometimes it means planning a schedule of due dates and blocking off time each day to meet them. Sometimes it’s as simple as deciding to set up a meeting with a boss or a friend to talk about things. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, whether it’s a friend’s feedback on a situation or a boss’s tips for time-management, people (usually) love to help.
After you’ve got a plan, take another few minutes for yourself. Stroll through a park or go grab some coffee and sit quietly. This is the time when I let my mind wander, as I gather my strength and focus for the task ahead. And as I revisit (in my head) favorite spots from past travels, I find myself remembering what all this stress is for: so I can afford to take more of those trips I love, for real.
How do you cope with stress?
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