Stress is a serious buzzword, and the only explanation I can think of is that we’re all suffering from it. But the solution isn’t to just take a week off, fly to the Caribbean, have relaxing massage sessions weekly, or drink green tea while sniffing lavender (though those things would probably all help). The tricks to stressing less are usually far more apparent than we want to admit. Here’s my scientifically unproven and totally obvious list of rules for not wiggin’ out.
1. Write it down. Whether it’s a brilliant idea or just the grocery list. Write. It. Down. You won’t remember it all. You can’t remember it all. There’s something cathartic and awesome about dumping out the stuff that’s swimming in our heads— pen and paper style. I recommend doing this every single night before trying to fall asleep.
2. Go to sleep. It doesn’t matter what the excuse is. Deadline, project, Sister Wives Season 2 on Netflix. Nothing is important enough to interfere with sleep. Everyone needs a bedtime.
3. Unplug. There are the science-y reasons— like artificial light preventing the body from producing sleep hormones. And then there’s the obvious: Once you’ve been sucked into a late-night kitten video marathon, it’s nearly impossible to resist the “watch more” button. In addition to a bedtime, you need an unplug time (I’d say a couple hours before bed). The kitties (or email or half-finished assignment) will still be there in the morning.
4. Be unreachable. Sometimes it feels good to know you’re needed— and unavailable. In addition to turning off (silent, airplane mode, power off, whatever you gotta do) the phone while asleep and driving, have at least a couple hours per day of unavailable time. Whether it’s on the train commute home or during a workout, take time each day to be totally tech-free. Now look around and actually interact with the world. Neat-o.
5. Don’t answer. An email. A text. A call. A snarky comment on a blog. You have a right to not answer anything you want. And not feel guilty about it. I just saved you hours (days? weeks?) of internal debate on the appropriate response to every single email and text you get. You’re welcome.
6. Be quiet. When friends or family head into a stress tirade, close your mouth, smile, and nod. (Why is it we feel the need to out-whine each other? And has it ever done anyone any good?) Once you let those stressed-out thoughts out of your mouth, it’s a lot harder to take ‘em back. Instead of complaining, breathe deeply and do something you love. Oh, and avoid those toxic stress talks whenever possible.
7. A place for everything and everything in its place. Knowing what to expect from the second you open your eyes in the morning to the moment you fall asleep makes the chaos of the day much more manageable. For me, that means always stashing my keys and purse in the same places and knowing that the towel’s going to be hanging where it belongs when I get out of the shower. If you don’t know where things belong, how else do you find them?
8. Have a routine. But don’t. I think it’s essential to have a routine, but mostly just so you know when you’re deviating from it. Leaving the house a few minutes late? Great, you’ll know what to expect at your destination. That said, once the routine is off, it’s essential to accept it. Freaking out has never once made time move backward. Just go with the flow when things don’t go according to plan.
9. Read. I don’t care what it is, but take time daily (ugh, fine, every couple days) to read something not on your computer or phone for at least 30 minutes. Just sit quietly and let your brain focus exclusively on the text. No frantic Gchat windows popping up or incoming emails. You’ll be amazed at how silent your surroundings (and the hum of things to do in the back of your head) become when immersed in a story.
10. Pull yourself together. Nine times out of 10, it’s worth being late to be pulled together. I’ll take being 5 minutes tardy over forgetting my headphones or not doing my hair any day. Feeling confident that you’re prepared for the day, no matter what, is essential.
11. Bring a friend. Anything you’re dreading— getting a shot, flying, cleaning out a closet— is made better by the company of a friend you trust. Do the same for them when they need it and you’ll both feel wanted and supported.
12. Your brain and surroundings are one. Whether it’s your desk, fridge, or handbag, the spaces you interact with daily will impact the way you feel and vice-versa. Clean up to trick your brain into feeling calm.
13. Schedule serenity. You’re never too busy to relax. You’re just not prioritizing it. If you can’t force yourself to put down what you’re doing whenever you feel the need to chill out, schedule in relaxation time for reading, napping, taking a walk, whatever.
14. Know how you feel. Short of signing on top physicians to measure your cortisol levels every hour of every day, only you can tell how stressed you are. If you aren’t taking stock of how you feel, who will?
How do you de-stress? Tell us in the comments below!
Photo by Marissa Angell