Stress! How many times during a day do you hear someone lamenting the amount of stress in their life? How many times are you that person lamenting the stress?
Stressors are a piece of life. There are challenging days, weeks, and seasons of life. It might be waking up to a flat tire, getting an unexpected bill, ending a relationship, dealing with a difficult boss or co-worker, death, and on and on and on. What stressors are you currently facing?
It may not be realistic to live a life completely free from stressors. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that even positive experiences can represent stressors. However, you do have control over how you respond to stressors and the buffers that you create to help you cope with negative consequences of stressors. Your response can either add to the stress of the initial stressor, or not!
Self-care is not a luxury. Let’s repeat. Self-care is not a luxury. You cannot take care of others or fulfill your responsibilities if you are burnt out. It is so easy to get caught in the trend of one-upping each other in regards to how many stressors you are coping with and how little self-care you are engaging in. Getting no sleep, forgetting meals, and working non-stop are often worn as badges of honor. For those of you thinking “Hey, I love my work. I work 7 days a week and feel energized!”, my response is “That is wonderful!”. I am talking to the individuals who are running on fumes and constantly feeling on the edge of a mental or physical breakdown.
Investing time and energy in yourself keeps you healthy (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) enough to give to others. Make a list of the things that bring you energy and fuel you, and find a way to incorporate this into your life.
Last thought (for now) on self-care: you are responsible for taking care of yourself. You cannot wait for others to fulfill this need while you yourself neglect it. It is your responsibility to prioritize your health and well-being. It is your responsibility to set the boundaries necessary to prioritize your health and well-being. I hope that there are people in your life who support this self-care and contribute to your well-being, but the responsibility ultimately falls on you.
2. Reset your Breath
I think you might be surprised on how often you (and most of us) forget to breathe. I mean, we’re breathing to the extent that we need to to stay alive and upright, but maybe not much else. When I start to notice myself feeling stressed or upset, I often realize that my breaths have become shallow and short.
Direct your attention towards your breath, and begin to inhale through your nose. Focus on keeping your breath slow, and continue inhaling until you feel your lungs are full. Take a moment to pause at the top of this breath, and then slowly begin to exhale. Often times, we stop our exhale short- keep your exhale going until the last of the air is released. Now repeat this at least five times, or until you start to experience your body return to a calmer state. Every time I do this exercise, I am amazed at the difference five breaths can make.
3. Practice gratitude
Start to prime yourself to look for and recognize what you are grateful for on a moment to moment basis. The smaller, the better! Most of us are very aware of the big things to feel gratitude for- health, family, food, a home. Can you begin to notice small moments of gratitude throughout the day? Can you find gratitude in that first cup of coffee in the morning, the person who holds the door for you at work, or a great hair day? I have tried to really start savoring moments when I am outside and the temperature in just perfect. I will physically stop myself, close my eyes, breathe in the weather, and notice gratitude wash over me. And it feels amazing!
When you can cultivate this habit of gratitude in small moments, you can begin to shift your perspective. You will begin to experience gratitude even during times of stress.
4. Look at Your Plate
Not your dinner plate. The metaphorical plate that holds your duties and expectations and responsibilities. Are there some expectations or tasks that you can give yourself permission to take off of your plate? At least for now? There are seasons of life during which it might not be realistic to be or do all of the things. When you keep this expectation of yourself (that it is, in fact, reasonable to expect yourself to do all the things), even during a season where this is nearly impossible, you will likely start to feel overcome with stress and feelings that you are failing. You wind up disappointed and feeling as though you aren’t really doing a good job in any area of life … which further fuels stress. Are there things that can be delegated? Can you ask for help? Are there things that you may need to say “no” to?
To learn more or to book an appointment, contact me via telephone or email.
Brenna Burke, LMFT is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Santa Clarita, CA. She provides individual psychotherapy and couples counseling. Information provided through this website is for informational purposes only. It does not create a therapist-client relationship and does not replace clinical assessment or professional consultation.