Do you work from home more lately? Or are your family members driving you crazy? Maybe something in your personal life isn't going as planned? You've done all the yoga and meditating you can do on a regular basis, but you still feel stressed. Here are some ways I've managed to keep my stress levels low despite how unconventional or conventional they may be.
You can find many of the popular and typical ways to destress everywhere - from pinterest to blogs to therapists that say to meditate, yoga, etc. When those things just didn't work to pop this looming dark cloud of stress that kept me up at night, I decide to figure out what works for me. Some are conventional and some are unconventional, but that shouldn't matter. All that matters is that we keep our stress under control.
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When I've experienced stress building from work or from personal relationships, I researched ways of self-help. Many people, including psychologists suggest journaling. Journaling was my daily ritual for years in middle school and high school. It helped to relieve a lot of stress during those turbulent years as it often is for teens. But I lost touch with this practice once I reached my young adult life. It started to feel like a chore that I didn't have time for. But after thinking back to how helpful this was, I turned back to journaling.
There's something powerful and meditative as you write words with a pen in a notebook. Alternatively, you can type your journal entries on your laptop to save some time. But due to the speed of typing, it's easy for your journal entries to becomes ramblings and almost like you're mimicking work. The act of writing is a slower process, which makes you slow your thoughts down as you think of only the important things you want to write. If you want a more thoughtful, focused and personal experience, writing in a journal is the way to go.
Be purposeful when you write. You don't want to ramble or go off topic. But think of that one struggle that is creating stress and write about it. Whatever you wanted to shout aloud to the world, but knew that wasn't socially acceptable, write it down on paper. These are your private thoughts. Honestly, there are times when I cuss in my writing. But being able to see my truest thoughts and emotions out in the open (technically for anyone to read if they get ahold of it) gives me a sense of relief that I've been heard and my words are accepted.
Don't let the journal entry end in negativity. Now that you've written what was on your mind about that specific stressor, you want to write a reflection of yourself and a remedy. Have you played a role in the situation being the way it is? If you have, how could you change the current outcome? If you haven't played a role, what is currently in your control to fix this situation? If it's a situation that is completely out of your hands, what are some things you can be thankful for and reflect on positively? The list goes on and on about how you can end your journal entry.
At the end, I want you to come out of your daily journal entry feeling like you just talked the situation out with yourself and now your stress is relieved and compartmentalised inside that journal. It's basically an informal therapy session with you as the patient and the therapist. The positive side of this form of therapy is that you don't need a filter or the time to get to know your therapist.
If you're human, you've had moments where you wanted to scream and maybe you did. It wasn't the first time nor is it the last. Staying at home more often now or even summer/winter breaks where the kids are home full time from school can bring on more of these situations. But it's not publicly acceptable to scream aloud, is it? And you don't want to startle your children, partner or even pets by having random moments of yelling. So what are your options of relieving this pent up stress and frustration in one fell swoop?
I've always been used to a long commute to work via driving. Twenty some miles in distance or 45 to 80 minutes in time has always been a normal commute for me during the last 10+ years. During that time, singing in the car has been a lifeline. I've utilised singing as a means to keep me awake, boost my mood, and let go of the day's stress.
If you think about the physical mechanics of screaming, you're using your diaphragm, lungs, larynx, and mouth to force a loud and high pitched force of air outwards and the end result is the relief of some tension. At least, that's what you're aiming for. When you sing, you're basically using the same organs and muscles as you would if you were screaming. I'm not referring to singing an opera version of Ave Maria. I'm referring more to singing a pop song like Kelly Clarkson's Since You've Been Gone or Journey's Don't Stop Believing. A song you can just belt out with all your might.
Ideally, you want to find a song where the lyrics are positive, relatable to how you feel, and that allows you to project your voice in a prettier sounding way. Try it out. Sit in your parked car for privacy with music on your phone to sing along to or find a room away from the rest of your household while you sing your heart out. It's a time just for you to melt away your stress.
3. Accomplish Something New
When it seems like work is not going your way, sometimes it can feel like a failure. It may not necessarily be a failure on your part, but it could be your work team or just a plummeting financial market that's out of our control. Whatever the case, if you're not the best at compartmentalising, feeling that stress at work can spill over into your personal life.
How do you know if it does? When you're finished with a less than successful work day, do you feel down after everything is unplugged? Or are you able to turn that part of your brain off? It's healthy to be able to compartmentalise different facets of your life but it's not always possible for everyone. If this sounds like you, a great way to turn those negative feelings around is by finding success in your personal life.
When things are out of your control at work or your personal life where you're finding it difficult to find success, try out another hobby you'll find a sense of accomplishment in. That can be learning a new instrument, a new language, a new recipe, a new hobby, etc. Maybe you can build that little garden you've been meaning to make. Or maybe you can try that new pasta recipe you had saved in your Pinterest for some time. It's not a distraction. But its a way to find fulfilment and success in other parts of your life.
One thing I did recently was I bought a ukulele. It sounds random, but I always loved playing my viola growing up and never had the opportunity to learn the guitar. A ukulele felt like the middle ground being a new instrument I never tried before. But I promised myself that I would learn how to play a full song. I ended up learning two! There's a sense of accomplishment. That feeling of pride and happiness is like a flood of endorphins. It's exhilarating and makes you forget about your stress. But make sure you're not getting frustrated with this new hobby. Learn to enjoy it. If you need any suggestions, I can give you a ton.
4. We All Need An "Adda Boy" or "Adda Girl"
It's easy to get stuck in our own heads. We listen to the negative voices inside our own minds that aren't true and can really break you down. But the more we allow the stress and frustrations to build internally, the harder it seems to pull yourself out of the sinking sand of negativity.
When this happens, you need someone else's voice - a louder voice - to boost your morale. Call up mom, dad, a mentor, or any loved one you admire and respect. Tell them you're stuck and that you just need some words of encouragement.
It's been a struggle moving to a new country and looking for a new job, especially in the current economic climate. When I internalise my stress and frustrations to the point of drowning, I call upon a lifeline. I call my friends, colleagues, or parents back at home and just unload. To my surprise, they'll remind me how strong, resilient and intelligent I am and that there are great things in store for me in my future. These are things I know myself but hearing it from someone else makes it sound new and truer.
You can't always control what's happening in your life, but you can control the amount of stress you allow to build within you. If you feel as though that's also out of your control, call on a lifeline for an unbiased perspective and encouragement. We all need people cheering us on. When you are reminded of them, you'll feel the weight lift off of your shoulders.
I'm sure you've heard the many benefits of exercise - specifically the release of a brain chemical called endorphins as a result. I'll be completely honest with you. I hate to exercise. (I'm pretty sure I just heard you gasp.) But I love how I feel afterwards - the increased energy, the elevated mood, and the release of tension. But the actual act of exercise, even the thought of it, makes me contemplate each day as to whether I'll actually do it or not.
It's a constant wrestling within myself. Some days are harder than others. Does this sound like you at all? But think about the benefits of how you'll feel afterwards - there's a high. That alone makes it absolutely and always worth breaking the sweat. That's why usually I opt to work out even more when I'm stressed. I know the high I feel afterwards and remembering that addictively positive feeling gets me on my feet and in my sneakers.
I also know how it feels when I choose not to exercise - especially after I've had an injury like a sprain. Falling asleep with all of this piling stress becomes difficult. I find myself irritated and stressed about the smallest things. Eventually, the stress just boils over.
When I'm referring to working out, I don't mean going for a walk or yoga. Those are all great ways to manage stress and may be enough for some people. But if you're at a point where you're stress is boiling over and you want to scream, one of the best ways to release all of that tension is through high intensity exercises. It can be HIIT (high intensity interval exercises) such as heavy circuit workouts in the gym or you can perform HIIT workouts through cardio such as spinning, rowing, or running at different speeds and intervals. Whatever it is, you want to be left panting and your lungs burning.
If something strikes you hard, the greater its power, the greater the pain you're holding internally. It feels like you need to put that much more effort into letting that go. So imagine exercising to be a way to force that stress out of your system. You need to hit exercising hard to release that massive tension built inside of you. Does that make sense?
Since I know working out will help me manage my stress, but I don't particularly enjoy it, I started to create milestones for myself. If you do the same work out routine repeatedly or see the same visuals on a run, you start to lose motivation. It gets boring. To keep your motivations strong, create mini goals for yourself.
The running trail in my neighbourhood is long but boring. There aren't different pathways to take - just the one lap around for 3 miles and the same buildings to see along the way. Initially, I started off with a short incomplete lap of about 2 miles. Then, I made the goal to reach 3 miles within 2 weeks. Next, I created goals to shorten my running time going the same distance. Now, I'm trying to run multiple laps around the path. This also brings us back to Point 3 (above) which is to accomplish something new.
There are so many ways to get you motivated with HIIT workouts. Plenty of applications and websites exist that you can use. YouTube has several free videos, but I haven't found any good ones so far. I usually turn to subscription plans because those are the most ironed out, challenging, and well-presented using top motivated trainers in the field. If you want to know what I use, feel free to contact me for suggestions. I've been using some of these for the last seven years and they've never disappointed.
I never want to see you losing sleep or pulling out your hair or showing up to work with dark circles because of the stress in your life. We're all going through something challenging no matter what stage of life you're in. We can't control everything that goes on in our lives, but we can control how much stress we allow to build within us. In order for you to be a light and help others around you, you need to first help yourself. Don't hold it all in. Let it out with these tips.