Stress and anxiety

Attacking Anxiety: 5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself When You Feel Like Shutting Down

Before I turn this into the poor poor pitiful me show… Just kidding. I’m not going to do that.  I want to acknowledge everyone is stressed.  At some point, we all feel like shutting down. The truth is, we live in a frazzled word. There is a level of stress placed on our lives even when things seem great. It doesn’t matter if it comes from work, kids, spouse, parents, in-laws or friends.  Then the real killer, finances! Makes my brain hurt just thinking about it.

The truth is, we all need to relax. The problem, when? I go to bed every night with a list of uncompleted tasks.  Last night I drug myself around the house determined to get a couple of things crossed off my dreaded list. I did.  Much to the detriment of my sleep.

I’m a list maker. I always have been. If I don’t write it down, I forget. When I finish a task I feel accomplished. When I don’t, defeated. Ever feel that way? Like what you’ve completed isn’t good enough?

Unfortunately, it results in more stress.  Ask me right now what the biggest stressor in my life is, I’d say that stupid list. Why can’t I give it up? Simply put. I don’t trust my memory. Here is the paradox, the more we write down, the less capable we are of remembering. We let ourselves off the hook to even try.

Regardless what our personal quirks are, we all experience stress. Managing the stress comes easier to some than others. There is no one size fits all for relaxation. It’s a matter of what works for you. 

Here is a list of five techniques I found to reduce the stress in my own life.

1.       Listen to music

a.       Every day on my way home I blast the stereo. Normally I listen to some big hair band from the 80s.  Best 10 minutes of my day. The key, find music you relate to. I listen to 80s because it reminds me of when I was young. The music isn’t relaxing in and of itself, but the place I go in my mind is. Back when all I had to do was keep my room clean.

2.       Call a friend

a.       Personally I don’t share a lot with friends. Which, admittedly is bad. My husband is my best friend. At times it adds undue stress on him. I really struggle with seeing his stress vs. what I want to share. I would caution, if your significant other suffers from anxiety, TBI, PTSD or any other mental illness be cautious. I’ve gotten better. Find another outlet. Someone to dump your junk on. Someone who will listen and that’s all. Just don’t exclude your spouse. Save the positive stuff to share.

b.      Call a friend because it’s therapeutic. Someone with anxiety is encouraged to talk with others, why not you to? It is hard at first, but helps over time.  Usually we want to be heard. Someone to say, “I hear ya!” Which, by the way, is what Breezy always says to me. That small phrase is like hearing, “I validate your statement. It’s hard for me too.” Avoid the rabbit hole. Don’t get into the downward spiral of complaining. Try to avoid the mind trap of negativity. While self-serving, it will lead to more stress.

3.       Talk yourself through it

a.       This is how I cope. I have a hard time opening up. Always have. As a result I’ve learned to internalize things. Consider only the facts. Avoid telling yourself a story or what you perceive happened. What are the possible outcomes? Before I react and possibly make the situation worse, I think about what will happen.

b.      While hard at first, especially in a world of instant gratification, you will get there. Take time to think through the situation.  Don’t make rash decisions. It will alleviate a lot of unnecessary stress down the road.

4.       Exercise

a.       The very word invokes thoughts of body builders in my mind. I feel defeated just hearing the word. Like anything, take it day by day.  I can do 3 push-ups… maybe. That’s okay. Do what you can. ANY type of exercise reduces stress. At work? Get up and stretch. Anything that takes you out of the immediate situation will release endorphins and improve you mood.

b.      If you’ve been telling yourself you want to exercise more, count this as a win. If you did nothing yesterday, start today. Three push-ups trumps nothing. Just get started. Avoid penalizing yourself for not being an expert. NO ONE starts as an expert.

5.       Use positive self-talk

a.       Self-defeating (negative) talk is one of the biggest stressors in our life. When a task isn’t completed, we tell ourselves we knew we wouldn’t do it. We never will. On and on the dialog goes. The moment you start to feel this way, stop. Do a jumping jack. Stretch. Sing your favorite song. Jog in place for a minute. Anything. Then reward yourself by telling yourself you did it. You won’t be lying either. Do this over and over until you internalize yourself in a positive manner.

b.      Negative self-talk is worse than someone else tells us the same thing. We believe that what we say to ourselves is fact. We perceive it to be true. Perhaps it isn’t. It could be something you’ve internalized for so long you’ve forgotten when it started. Even if it is true in that moment, it doesn’t have to stay that way.

c.       Start to tell yourself you can. Then do it. If someone discourages you, that is an opinion. Don’t internalize that. An opinion is not your truth. Starting doesn’t need to be a marathon. Perhaps a walk around the kitchen table 10 times (I do this). Anything that takes you out of feeling like you can’t accomplish what you need to.

Conclusion

The world is full of people who come from different backgrounds. I love to hear stories of other families. It gives me great ideas for my own. Whether you had a helicopter parent, or are turning out to be one, you can stop today.  This adds undue stress on you and the child. Never put such a burden on yourself it causes more stress. The world isn’t perfect. You don’t have to be either.

When Breezy was growing up I was stressed all the time. I needed to look a certain way. She needed to look a certain way. Our friends only liked a certain designer, car manufacturer, etc. I was going crazy feeling like I didn’t measure up.

At least until the day I realized the fatal error in my thinking. NO ONE likes all of the same things.  Having several friends at the time I was always questioned. One didn’t like a certain car. One didn’t like the purse. Someone else loved it. Getting pulled in all those different directions by people who are supposed to care, was exhausting. I could feel myself shutting down. I just didn’t know what to do and I felt like I couldn’t please anyone.

In an effort to get my life back, I did two things. One, I bought things I liked. Nothing more. Two, I cut out “friends” who wanted to compare material possessions. I’m still stressed. That’s true. But I cut out about 70% of my stress.

Bottom line. Find what works. In the meantime, don’t fret over setbacks. Give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve it. You are trying. That is what matters.

We’d love to hear your stress reduction techniques. Comment and get the conversation started.

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