Two Simple Philosophies for when Stuff gets Stressful

In our last Pep Talk, we talked about how to leverage your lifestyle in the here-and-now to help reduce stress when it pops up later. If you haven't read that Pep Talk, I recommend you check it out by clicking through here! I'm a big believer in doing that sort of proactive work, but let's be honest: none of us are superheroes, and while proactive lifestyle management will significantly raise your stress threshold, it won't keep stress entirely at bay. It often seems as if the stress that gets through your proactive lifestyle is less frequent, but that it's attached to a higher stake.

When stress does pop in to your life, whether it's acute or chronic, it's helpful to have some guiding philosophies to fall back on. The philosophies we hold inform the actions we take, so having a healthy philosophy or belief set around stress will be the difference between being stuck in your stress or moving through it effectively.

I know that in a period of stress, you don't have the time or mental energy to deal with a long list of suggestions or guiding principles, so I've made it simple:

  1. Control what you can
  2. Put your stress down

Two things. Even in a period of stress, you can remember two things. Here they are in more detail:

Two Powerful Philosophies to Help You Deal with Stress

1. Control what you can

Take a look at your current experience as a whole, and group pieces of it into two categories: things you can control, and things you can't. Then, start to gently exercise some agency over the things that you can control. Odds are, you have some amount of control over four major areas of your life: nutrition, movement, rest, and your schedule. While you may not need to totally overhaul each of these areas, you can probably capitalize on a better diet, consistent and gentle movement, and increased rest in order to help yourself cope better with the effects of stress. And while you  cannot change everything about your schedule, you may be able to push a few deadlines or simplify your obligations during this period of stress.

You also have some control over the amount of help you have. Remember when we talked about learning to ask for help? Now is the time to use that skill! Figure out what you could use help with, and ask for it. The worst case scenario here is that someone may not be able to help you. Best case? You have more help than you did before you asked.

2. Put your stress down

This is where that pinterest list of stress-busting techniques comes in. You know what I'm talking about, right? That list of things like aromatherapy, yoga, meditation, exercise, mindfulness, board game night, quality time with loved ones, and a cup of tea come in. I'm not going to give you a list of techniques to try. Instead, I want you to remember the key philosophy behind all of them: The outcome of your situation is not correlated with how tightly you hold on to your stress, so put your stress down for awhile. It will always be there for you when you get back.

It's almost impossible to remember to put your stress down when you're in the thick of it. Stress will make us feel as if our very survival depends on holding to it like a life raft, even when it's about to take us through some dangerous rapids. I get it. But I also want you to remember that this is a limiting belief, and that you can put the stress down for awhile and still be totally and completely okay. To be honest, putting down that stress will help you navigate the stress-storm better.

So how do you put down the stress? Engage in activities that remind you that there is more to life than the burden you're carrying, and exercise mindfulness while you do it. In other words, take a second to mindfully rid yourself of that stress before you begin the activity. After the activity, you can choose to pick it up again, or you can choose to leave it wherever you put it down.

My clients sometimes get stuck because they don't know which activity to try. In my experience, the activity itself doesn't matter as much as your approach to it. So go try something: go for a walk. Do some yoga. Smell something nice. Breathe deeply. Meet a friend for coffee. Plan your next trip. And before each, be mindful of putting your burden down while you do it. If that doesn't work, then try something else. The worst that happens is you move your body, get some fresh air, or see a friend.

So, remember: in a period of stress, simplify things down to two philosophies: control what you can, and put that stress down for awhile!

I hope this Pep Talk was helpful to you, friends! Next week is the final installment in our Stress Series, though it definitely won't be the last time we talk about stress on the blog. 

Please take a second and tell me below what sort of things you do to cope with stress!