Stress has a way of sneaking up on you. Last year I was sitting in my comfy chair scrolling around on my tablet. Suddenly, without warning, my eyes started flickering and spinning. Startled, I thought I was having either a seizure or a stroke, maybe both.
After working in the medical field for years, naturally, my mind goes straight towards the worst-case scenario. Thankfully it didn’t get worse and eventually started to ease up.
My husband quickly ordered me to bed for some rest and thankfully nothing like that has happened again since. But it rattled me enough to get to the root cause of that weird event, which leads me to today’s topic…
At the time we reach midlife, most of us are well acquainted with stress. We may even be so used to it that we can barely recognize it. It becomes the white noise in our busy lives.
By middle-age, many women have married, raised children, established a career, weathered countless disappointments, lost family and friends, may have gotten divorced, lost jobs.
After working hard for a long time for the kids to go to college or at least move out of the house on their own. The return of a more carefree lifestyle beckons.
But more often than not, that reality just doesn’t come to pass. For many a whole new set of unforeseen challenges crops up.
The big difference this time around is that we are just tired. Raising a family and working, whether outside the home or as a stay-at-home Mom, sometimes both can drain you in unexpected ways. Adding insult to injury, aging bodies begin to fall apart a little bit more each year.
Even if your kids settle into successful lives of their own, you might suddenly find yourself in the role of caregiver to your aging parents. You know it’s the right thing to do and after all, taking care of others is your specialty, right?
But suddenly one day you realize you can’t remember the last time you weren’t stressed out over something. Maybe your memory begins to let you down. You can’t remember your favorite color.
Or you are perpetually tired to the bone, yet cannot ever get a good night’s rest. When was the last time you did something just for fun? The person you used to be before you were saddled with carrying the weight of your world is no longer there.
You get sick easily, and each day is a challenge. And you may have resigned yourself to the fact that this is just how life is.
Sure, you want to change and take better care of yourself, experience joy again, but that’s just another thing to add to your to-do list. Besides, who has time and money for luxuries like massages, yoga classes, and therapy? You feel stuck.
What I just described does not mean you are doomed to remain on a borderline depressed, stressful track.
While taking care of the needs of those around you day in and day out is noble for sure, sacrificing yourself on that altar is not. That is a price nobody should have to pay!
There are several steps you can take to get yourself on the road to a less stressful life. And the best part is that they cost little or nothing and you can start today.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. This post is not a substitute for professional help. If you are depressed and need help, seek help from a licensed mental health professional!
While you cannot remove all of the ongoing stressors from your life, simple changes, if employed consistently will add up to a calmer YOU by equipping you with the tools you need. And over time you may find yourself much in a better frame of mind to weather the storms, trials, and tribulations of being everything to everyone.
During my research for this post, I encountered some striking facts. A growing number of scientists that genetics don’t play nearly as much of a starring role in how you and your life, turn out. Recently there has been a significant shift away from genes as the all-encompassing determining force and towards environmental and lifestyle-related factors.
Why should this be so important? Well, in a nutshell, it takes the keys away from genes and their pre-ordained powers and puts you squarely in the driver’s seat. And that control gives us the opportunity to change course, to re-define ourselves and our lives.
With stress now considered the major contributing factor to illness, it stands to reason that we owe it to ourselves to reduce this destructive force.
Here are basic lifestyle factors that play a huge role:
- sleep quality
All of those factors go hand in hand. The good news is that they can be in your control.
Today I would like to help you get started on the path to living a better life by equipping you with a few simple tools and strategies.
All of the printables mentioned in this post can be found in the FREE Resource Library. Just sign up here and the password is on its way to your inbox!
And with that, let’s dig in!
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BEGIN RECLAIMING YOUR LIFE FROM STRESS – ONE LITTLE STEP AT A TIME
When it comes to changing your overall outlook and capacity to handle stress, positive messaging is key.
What is that little voice in your head telling you day after day? Is it encouraging, or beating you up? Sadly, for many, the latter applies more often. Being your own worst critic is second nature.
Ask yourself: “Would I allow someone to talk to others in my family, or in my care like that?” Likely not. And that brings me to the first step.
PRACTICE POSITIVITY WITH AFFIRMATIONS
Using positive affirmations daily is a powerful and underutilized tool. Positive affirmations will actually form new pathways in your brain over time and eventually take over from the negative soundtrack you have been listening to, diminishing and hopefully extinguishing its grip.
Begin by paying close attention to how you tend to react. What is the first thought that pops up when something doesn’t go as planned? Are you silently beating yourself up over little mistakes or do you encourage yourself? Would you dare criticize anyone else so consistently out loud and to their face?
Simply google “positive affirmations” to find examples to get you on the right track. The simplest way to get started and to figure out which affirmations are more likely to resonate and produce results is to keep a running list of the self-defeating thoughts that come to mind.
For each one of the negative messages, formulate an opposite, positive one. Write it down. Read it often and say it out loud. There is something very powerful and reinforcing in hearing your own voice expressing positive, encouraging information.
You can find a FREE printable guide on how to write your own affirmations and little cards for you to print, fill in, and cut out. They are waiting for you in the Resource Library.
To make this easy for yourself you can also find positive affirmations here. Just pick out the ones that make sense to you and write them down on little individual cards.
Keep your affirmation cards where you will see and use them often, like your nightstand or next to your favorite chair. Make it a habit to start and end your day on a positive note. And that moves us on to the next step.
MAKE GETTING A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP A PRIORITY
Getting a restful night’s sleep can be a real challenge. Believe me, I know from personal experience! But a good night’s sleep is what fills the tank that gets depleted throughout your busy day. You cannot run on empty for very long. What can you do to set yourself up for a peaceful night?
Here are a few suggestions:
- keep caffeine consumption to a minimum or cut it out completely, see my post on quitting coffee for good
- don’t eat a heavy meal close to bedtime
- resist the temptation to watch that late show on TV
- create a calm evening routine
- designate your bedroom a zone for resting, not work
- stick to getting up and going to bed at the same time every day of the week
- try to go to bed earlier, the more sleep you get before midnight the better
- keep a notepad by your bed to jot down any worrisome thoughts that may keep you awake
- make it a habit to write down thoughts on the day in a journal
- end your day by reflecting on what you accomplished
- read an inspiring, uplifting book or leaf through your favorite magazine
- listen to a guided meditation (find them on YouTube or in the app store on your phone like Headspace or Harmony)
- diffuse calming essential oils like lavender, cedarwood, chamomile
- treat yourself to a cup of chamomile tea or golden milk before bedtime or if you’re up for it treat yourself to something a little more decadent like these yummy hot drinks
HARNESS THE POWER OF GRATITUDE
Even during your most stressful times, taking a few moments to reflect on what is good and working in your life is important. Some days may be what I have come to call “water days” when all you can think of to be thankful for is clean drinking water and flushing toilets. But that’s okay. Aren’t they amazing luxuries we shouldn’t take for granted?
Gratitude is one of those buzzwords that is flung around a lot. It sounds awfully cliché. And it may take some practice. As a recovering confirmed pessimist, it took some doing to win me over to the glass-half-full side of life. But once you get the hang of spotting the silver lining in every little cloud you will find that gratitude can help you weather the disappointments of life.
Everyone has “water days”. Use them to really buckle down on finding something to be truly grateful for. Better yet, make it your goal to aim for at least three things. Just like positive affirmations, the act of thinking about what is good and working in our lives shifts the focus to the good side.
Write down what you are grateful for and you won’t have to remember so hard next time you are faced with a challenging day! The little blank cards in the FREE printable affirmation kit (in the Resource Library) will work for this as well. Or keep a little notebook of blessings so you can go back and re-read them any time life has got you down. The more you exercise your “gratitude muscle” the more it will become ingrained in you.
SET BOUNDARIES FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS
Why are you burned out and stressed? Chances are you have too much on your plate. Do you do too many things for too many people? Let stress be proof that it’s time to lighten the load. Sometimes all it takes is to say NO.
Remember NO is a complete sentence.
Of course, it will likely go against the grain to just say no, but I assure you, the world will not come to a screeching halt if you do. Do what you comfortably can and delegate the rest, no explanations required.
Do you consistently fail to meet your own expectations? Lower them, my friend, if only long enough to catch up with yourself. If you don’t have at least some time to do the things you love, that make your heart sing – you are working too hard.
You don’t need to do things simply because they are asked of you.
DESIGNATE A QUIET SPACE IN YOUR HOME
For those times when life just becomes too overwhelming and you need to step away and refuel if only for a few moments, a quiet space just for you is a must. This can be a favorite corner in the living room, your bedroom, any calm and quiet space will do.
Keep it ready and free of clutter. Make it your special place to take a few deep breaths, close your eyes for a few minutes, listen to your favorite meditation app, or enjoy a cup of tea. Add a warm, cozy blanket and a nice pillow. Make it a habit to be good to yourself!
BE SURE TO INCLUDE HUMOR IN YOUR LIFE
No matter how sad or stressed you are, how bleak things may look at that moment, humor will get you through. Laughter can be the best medicine! Listen to your favorite standup comedian on Pandora (free in the App store) or pull out that old Farside cartoon book or other funny light reading. I live in Erma Bombeck country. Her deadpan humor endures and her books will make you smile and laugh out loud, guaranteed.
Now, I understand that doing something artsy and creative may sound like a lot of effort and time. Hear me out on this:) Remember how happy coloring and doodling made you as a little girl? Enter the amazing invention that is the adult coloring book! No special skills or fancy art skills needed. Just choose your favorite colors and create little masterpieces of your own. Coloring inside the lines is strictly optional!
My friend Becki recently wrote a fun post filled with adult coloring books for just about anyone! You can find it right here on her blog abookloversadventures.com.
SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH YOUR PET EVERY DAY
Pet ’em if you got ’em. When we run around like chickens with our heads cut off all the time, our pets can fall by the wayside, as far as getting the love and attention they deserve is concerned. Research has shown that petting Fido or Fluffy actually lowers your blood pressure! Do yourself a favor and take your dog for a walk or play with your cat. Not enough energy? Your furry friends will love for you to snuggle with them!
I hope you find these steps helpful. Use some of them, the more the better, often and I promise you it will help reduce stress in your life. My eye-spinning incident was a wake-up call for me. Sadly, it has taken a number of wake-up calls to get me to realize that taking care of myself is not a luxury, it is a necessity. Here is another affirmation I have found to be the absolute truth! Remember…
“Your sanity is essential to the smooth running of this operation.”
Don’t forget that! You are important and your health and well-being matter. This post is meant as a starting point on your journey to a less stressed and happier life. There is so much more information out there on this topic. My friend Laura recently posted her own helpful post on this topic on her blog naturalhealinghope.com. Be sure to tell her HI from me when you stop by!
If you need some help pampering yourself, check out my homemade health and beauty recipes! Why not surround yourself with some inspirational art? You can find all of those in the FREE Resource Library.
You are always welcome to join the conversation in the TWGL Facebook group. Come on over, we’d love to have you!
And don’t forget to follow me on Instagram to see what trouble I am getting into!
I wish you happy, healthy, and stress-free days ahead! And if stress does rear its ugly head, you’ll know how to put it in its place!