Stress is unavoidable. That's a sad truth of life.
And even though we know that some stress can be good for us, too much stress is bad.
I'm prone to getting stressed out easily. I used to just hope that eventually the stress would go away on it's own, that everything would magically get better. But that doesn't happen.
If we want less stress in our lives, we need to take action. Fortunately, there are lots of simple things we can do differently each day to lower our stress levels.
We've talked already about how to unwind at the end of a long day. But what about during the day? Surely there are things we can do all along the way to keep from pulling our hair out.
I've put together list of some little things that can make a big difference in your mood throughout the day.
Having a terrible day? Try a few. I try to do several of these things daily and they really help. Little things really do make all the difference.
Eat breakfast/Have a snack
If you're hungry or not getting the nutrients you need to function, you're going to get stressed out easier. We all know how we get when we're hungry.
When I haven't eaten, it's like my brain is instantly rewired to see everything that's wrong with the world. I also get cranky. We've all been there.
Being "hangry" often leads to more stress. Do yourself a favor and start the day with a delicious breakfast, and pack a snack in your bag for later.
Pro tip: I typically keep an entire desk drawer full of snacks at work. You know, just in case.
Get outside/Go for a walk
Getting some fresh air or being out in the sunshine can do wonders for your mood. You can feel the stress melt away in the afternoon sun.
If you're like me and work a 9-5 in an office, it's not always easy to get out and go for a walk. If you have the option, take a longer lunch break, head over to a park, eat your lunch outside (weather permitting, obviously), and then take a little stroll before heading back to work.
What if the weather is awful? It's safe to assume that going outside isn't a good idea if it's rainy or freezing or anything like that. That's definitely not going to improve your mood.
If you can, still take a walk around the office, or do some stretches at your desk. The key is to get moving.
Keep your to-do list short
And by short, I'm talking maybe 2-3 items tops.
Too many times we fill up our to-do lists with dozens of things and then stress about how much we have to do. And even worse, when we don't get everything done, we feel disappointed with ourselves.
No one needs that kind of negativity. So keep your list short.
Sit down in the morning and make a list of everything you have to do. Everything. Just like you normally would when making your to-do list.
Then go back over the list and pick out the 2 or 3 most important thing. Put those 3 things on a new to-do list and throw the other away.
Keeping your list short is more realistic (things take way longer than we think they will) but it will also make you feel so much better when you get them all crossed off.
It's also going to take away the stress of "I have so much I have to do! Look at how long my to do list is!"
Ok, confession time. I'm terrible at this one. I like to just get where I'm going. But the point of driving slower is not to go 5 under the speed limit.
It really just means slow down, take your time, don't be in a hurry.
When we're in a hurry on our way to work, every little thing is an inconvenience.
I've never been angrier than the times I'm driving and in a hurry. It brings out the worst in us.
Road rage is a very real thing.
But not only is being in a hurry detrimental to our mood and stress level, it's dangerous. When we're in a hurry, angry that we can't get where we're going as fast as we'd like, we're more likely to take risks or not pay attention like we should.
Combine that with other drivers that are in a hurry, you've got an accident waiting to happen.
Slow down. Don't be in a hurry. There is no place you need to be that is so important that it's worth your life. Or the life of someone else.
Doodle on your notes/Color a picture
Even if you think you lack all artistic ability, doodling or coloring a picture can help reduce your stress.
Because what it does is it takes your focus off of whatever is going on around you and making your focus on something else--colors and pretty things.
And lucky for you, the adult coloring book trend means you'll have plenty of options for coloring! Keep a small set of colored pencils or pens in your bag or at your desk. Whenever you start feeling like you need a break, print off a coloring sheet (or you can carry your coloring book around with you too) and color for a few minutes.
But make sure to set a timer. It's easy to get carried away when it comes to coloring.
]Smile even if you don't feel like it
This is a "fake it til you make it" mentality.
Smiling, even when you don't feel like it at all, eventually will trick your brain into being happy.
You'll also notice another interesting thing happening.
Smiling, much like yawning, is contagious. When you smile at people while you're talking to them and are in general pleasant, they'll be the same way back (usually, this is not always the case. but most of the time).
And what happens when you have two pleasant, smiling people talking to each other? You feel good, they feel good, you're spreading joy.
Everyone likes when someone is nice to them.
I'm not saying you're not justified in being upset or needing to vent, but continuing to complain or vent to multiple people is only helping you dwell on what it causing you stress.
And as we saw in the point before, moods can be contagious. If you're complaining and being upset, that's going to spread to the people around you.
Here's a better option. If you need to talk about it with someone, do that. Sometimes you need that. But if you still feel the need to keep talking about it or find yourself dwelling on the situation, write it down. Grab a pen and piece of paper and just write. Once you get out everything you think and feel about it, crumble it up and throw it away.
You'll feel better for getting it off your chest, but without spreading around the negativity or having other people feed into it.
Keep a gratitude journal.
When you start feeling stressed, take a 5-10 minute break, grab your gratitude journal, and write down all the things you're thankful for.
Or go back and read previous entries. You'll start feeling better when you look at the bright side of your life.
Thinking about good things is always a surefire way to boost your mood and relieve stress. And reminding yourself of better times is also a great way to cut back on the complaining.
We can choose our thoughts, so why not choose happy ones.
Start having an afternoon cup of tea
Tea time exists for a reason. Not only is it just delightful, but it's good for you.
And there is something about holding nice warm mug that just gets you all cozy feeling and relaxed. I've adopted this habit and it has been a game changer.
Every day at about 2 or 3 o'clock, I grab a mug and some tea (usually green ginger or chamomile) and just sit and enjoy it. Because I'm typically still at my day job during that time, I still need to be doing work.
But instead of continuing to focus on what causing me stress, I do the little mindless tasks that end up on my to-do list while I have my tea. Check email, organize the papers on my desk, do some research pertaining to my job.
Anything that is simple and not mentally taxing. It's a good 10-15 minute kinda-break during the day
Call a friend or family member
Let's be clear about one thing: this is not to vent about your day.
It's going to be tempting, but remember that we're not complaining. Call someone dear to you, your best friend, your mom, your significant other.
Just chat. Find out the good things happening in their life.
It doesn't need to be a long phone call, but it could be if that's what you need, but just a few minutes sharing joy with someone you love will be enough to boost your spirit and help you relax.
Treat yourself/Enjoy the little things
Bad days happen. Stress happens. And sometimes you just need to treat yourself to a little pick-me-up.
It can be something really simple, as simple as taking 5 minutes to indulge in looking at kitten pictures on the internet. Maybe you've been putting off that manicure that you really want. Maybe you need to go pick some wild flowers.
I don't know what your go-to feel better thing is, but whatever it is, do it!
For me, it's putting flavored creamer in my coffee.
Or sometimes having an afternoon coffee.
I don't normally do either of those things, but when I do, I feel like I'm getting something really special. Even if I'm making the coffee myself. It's still a treat and it boosts my mood.
Be kind to yourself
Your stress is not going to go away if you're still putting yourself down and being hard on yourself. We are our own worst critic. But it doesn't have to be that way.
You are wonderful and lovely and strong. And you deserve to hear that everyday. From yourself.
We believe the things we hear often. So if you're saying to yourself "I'll never get this done. I'm a failure. I can't do this" every day, you're going to believe that.
Be kind to yourself. If you wouldn't say something to your friend, you don't need to say it to yourself. You deserve good things.
Try this: several times a day, maybe every time you go into the bathroom, look at yourself in the mirror and say "You can do this. You are strong and amazing. Today is your day." Even if you don't believe it now, keep saying it. Eventually you will.
Of course, there are other ways of managing stress. You can use essential oils, yoga, meditation, all kinds of things.