By Christi Tims
I confess, I am finding the weight of the world to be heavy these days. Between trying to run a business during the 4th wave of a pandemic, in an extremely divisive political community, parenting young kids in school, cold and flu season starting…. it adds up fast! My stress levels have been high and I’m often not enjoying the days as they go by. Sound familiar?
I’ll preface this post by saying I am NOT an expert, and I will often need to take my own advice here, but I have been talking to experts and making some small changes in my life, that ARE helping me to calm down -even if for mere moments. I’d like to share them with you in case you are feeling the same way I am.
Tip 1: Take 15 minutes to LET IT OUT.
At the end of the day, with a spouse, friend, or even on a piece of paper, take a few moments to vent about what is stressing or frustrating you. Blow it out, but only for up to 15 minutes. Then let it go. For my husband and I, we take 15 minutes to explode all the crap that occurs in our day (and try to do it out of earshot of our kids, so as not to add to their stress) -for him it’s the labour shortage, too much to do, parts went missing and not enough help in his shop. For me it’s frustration over our studio’s low registration numbers, I’m working long hours seemingly to little avail, the kids are in school with COVID cases, I’m worried about money, health, migraines, AND people are being downright mean to me and each other!!!!
Ok…. so we let it out. Then let it go. Talk about something else once you’re done. Talk to your kids, watch a brainless TV show, read a book, or make dinner while truly focussing on the present moment. But take Elsa’s advice here and LET IT GO.
Tip 2: Remember to breathe.
Experts will tell you that the quickest way to bring yourself back into the present when you’re in your head or panicking, is to use purposeful breath. This is practiced in yoga, therapy, mindfulness and nearly every technique designed to connect the mind and body.
I now have an app on my phone that reminds me to take 5 deep, cleansing breaths and even shows a sun or a circle expanding and deflating. I breathe along with the app. Sounds silly, but it works! You can download mindfulness apps that will remind you to breathe. This is the adult version. Reminders are always helpful as we get busy. There are kids' techniques too if your kids need to destress.
For my kids, with the help of some pros in mental health, they’ve learned to “cookie breathe” or “pizza breathe”. They breathe in a deep breath through the nose, as if they are smelling a freshly baked cookie or hot pizza from the oven. Then, they breathe out through the mouth as if they are blowing on the food to cool it off. Visualizing the food helps them to stay with the task and makes it more fun. Try this yourself or with your kids! 5 deep breaths can calm you down at any point of the day, and helps you to come back to the present moment.
Tip 3: Exercise
We all know that exercise is good for our bodies, but it’s also good for our minds. If you are not a regular exerciser, don’t bring on panic or extra stress by thinking you need to add more tasks to your day. Start with baby steps. Can you find 5 minutes to get up and stretch? Can you take the stairs instead of the elevator? Can you park a little further from the store door to walk an extra minute? These small things can add up in a day. Getting your body moving, increasing your heart rate and circulation definitely helps with calming down. The more you exercise the more you’ll trigger endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals in your body.
If you have more time, try taking a walk. The fresh air, change of scenery and exercise is SO refreshing. Even 10 minutes can change the course of your stressful day. If you have more time, I highly recommend joining a group exercise class. The atmosphere of a group is extremely motivating (more so than exercising alone at home), and even if you’re not keen to go, you’ll be proud of yourself that you did it when you’re done. An in-between step might be to do workout videos at home with a friend or your partner. Having more than one person helps to keep you accountable to your workout plan (you’ll cheat less) and makes it more fun. More fun= less stress. (Plus it's hard to think about work tasks when you're trying to follow a dance fitness class!)
Tip 4: Join a Class -A regular event for ME time
This tip can go with the previous one. Joining a class that interests you- whether it’s exercise, art, music, crafting or whatever you like- is a great way to carve out time for yourself. I always feel the most benefit when I leave the house to do an in-person class, but in pandemic times an online class could work as well (as long as you set boundaries in your house. Keep the kids, dog, phone and other distractions out of the way so you can attend fully!)
We often don’t want to commit to several classes or a full course session, but I highly encourage you to do this. If you pay ahead of time and sign up for a full session, you are far more likely to show up and make the class a priority -which also makes YOU a priority for the duration of the class. Taking some time for yourself to do things you enjoy can reduce stress a lot.
Tip 5: Take a break from social media
If scrolling through Facebook is getting you down, take a break. I recently deleted the Facebook app from my phone (OK, so I lasted one week), but it was a nice break from the hateful banter that I was seeing on my newsfeed, and I really needed the pause. I used to be really good at scrolling past comments and posts that didn’t interest me or angered me, but these days I see more and more and it was becoming too much. I highly recommend deleting the apps off of your mobile device-even for a short period of time. You can always check your account (if you have a business like me, you’ll likely have to do this) from a computer. I found that when I was only focused on social media in the context of my business, and had limited time to check it, I only attended to notifications that pertained to me personally and I didn’t scroll through the whole newsfeed of Instagram, Facebook and all of the negative news and attitudes.
It’s also okay to “take a break” (there is literally a button for this) from people who are posting negativity that you don’t want to see. This is a polite (they don't know you have done this) way of choosing not to see negative content without ex-friending people. I found that these few social media strategies helped my stress, and I’m now choosing to be more purposeful in how I engage with media after my break. Try it! It might be calming to you as well.
Tip 6: Talk to someone you trust
It may be helpful to share the weight of your stressors with another person who you trust. A phone conversation or walk-and-talk with a friend can be incredibly therapeutic. Talk to your spouse, friend, or a professional. I do all of the above. As I mentioned before, my husband and I have an agreement to dump our negativity and stress in a fifteen minute vent session each day, and after that we like to l