Hey guys. I know, I haven’t posted a blog in a few weeks. That’s not like me. What’s my reason for leaving you high and dry for so many long, cold lonely nights? Well, when you mix together a decent sized portion of life changes, a few handfuls of lack of sleep, a dash of fear of the unknown, and a pinch of procrastination, you get, as any New Yorker can relate to – a nice hearty helping of feeling overwhelmed and stressed. And for some crazy reason, feeling stressed can lead us to avoid the very things that make us feel relaxed, at peace, and purposeful (like blogging).
Living and working in New York City, I encounter stressed out people every day. They are impossible to avoid if you walk around in Manhattan (and especially if you take the subway)! Being a 27-year-old girl in New York City means I encounter even more stressed out people – my peers! Being in your 20’s, and particularly your late 20’s, can be a time full of questions, changes, and trying to figure out what you want in life. Of course, you can feel this way at any age, but I’m just speaking from personal experience here. I’ve noticed a definite upward trend in the stress levels of my friends and peers since we started to hit this age range.
Well, the good news is I have some tools in my handy tool box to help move through your stress (at any age) and live more peacefully. Sounds good right? Here are a few things that have helped me work through my stress over the past few weeks.
- Don’t overbook yourself. Some of the most stressed out people I know are the ones who have a tendency to spread themselves too thin and have little or no time for rest and self care. Do you end up booking up all of your free time, or have a hard time saying “no” to plans or meetings even when you’d rather do something relaxing or get some rest? Do you have things scheduled that you’re only doing to make other people happy? Do you have a hard time setting boundaries? Take an honest look at your schedule and your priorities. Is there something you’ve got going on that when you think about the possibility of canceling it, you feel a rush of relief? I realize that there are some things that you absolutely can’t cancel, but if you take a real hard look at your schedule, I’m willing to bet there’s something you can cut out in favor of some good old “me time.” Even if it’s just one night a week (or even one hour!) it will make a huge difference on your stress levels.
- Find a buddy. Find someone who is going through a similar situation as you – and there IS someone out there going through a similar situation! Buddy up with that person and talk things over – and I don’t just mean venting and complaining (although I realize that venting can be therapeutic too). Find someone who is willing to talk SOLUTIONS. How can you help each other take the steps necessary to overcome whatever obstacle you’re currently facing? Talk about tactical approaches and check in with each other. Having someone to check in with can motivate you to get closer to a solution. I recently met a new friend who is in a similar phase of life as I am – we’ve been emailing daily to check in, letting each other know what’s going on, and outlining what our next steps are going to be. It has been tremendously helpful. If you’re a woman looking for a support system, consider joining HerFuture.com.
- Be solution-oriented. Are you spending more time complaining about your stress than doing something about it? (Well, even if you are, at least you’re reading this blog post, so you’re already being solution-oriented)! Ask yourself what you can do now to make things easier on yourself. Some stressful things do need to be dealt with immediately, but others are either out of your control or would be better dealt with on another day. Instead of spending your time worrying and stressing over things that are in the future our out of your control, spend time focusing on solutions to things in your immediate life. Try living in the here and now. What can you do today?
- Nurture your soul. What are the things that really make you feel at ease? These are the very things we usually “don’t have time for” when we’re feeling stressed. Is it yoga? Meditation? Walking? Journaling? Jogging? Cooking? Spending time outside? Whatever it is, don’t skimp on it, especially during a high-stress time. Giving yourself a little time to feel balanced and inspired will make your other daily tasks much more manageable.
- Make a gratitude list. Do you spend so much time thinking about what’s wrong with your life that you totally miss all the great things? Do you think so far ahead into the future that you don’t appreciate what you have at this moment? Take some time and think about what you’re grateful for today. Maybe you have a place to live. A friend or family member who loves you. Enough money to pay for what you need today. Maybe you accomplished a goal that you had a year ago, and you don’t even realize it or give yourself credit for it. Maybe even in the area of your life where you don’t think you’re perfect, you’ve made a little progress. Maybe you’re just grateful for that warm cup of comforting tea in your hands, or the refreshing ice water that cooled you down. Think about it. If it helps, email your gratitude list to a friend and ask them to send one back.
- Help someone else. For so long, my coach Gabrielle would tell me to help someone else when I was feeling stressed out. I didn’t believe that could work, I thought it would only make me more stressed out myself. Wrong! When you reach out to someone who is going through a tough time or maybe just needs a listening ear, you get out of your own head for a little while and start to realize the world doesn’t revolve around your problems. Plus, offering someone else some advice may even help you find answers to your own current dilemma. Even just a simple text to someone saying “how are you?” might brighten their day and yours.
- Listen to a guided meditation. Even if you’ve never meditated before, taking a few minutes to just listen to a guided meditation on your iPod can be very calming. And you don’t have to be sitting on a pillow in a candle-lit room to do it! Last week I was having an extra overwhelming few days, so I listened to short guided meditations whenever I had a chance. On my lunch break from work I listened to them while walking down the street. I took 10 minutes one day to sit on a park bench and listen to them. You don’t have to dedicate a lot of time to this and I promise it will be worth it. Gabrielle Bernstein’s guided meditations are the ones I’ve been listening to, and you can download them on iTunes (just search her name in the iTunes store). Most of them are less than 10 minutes long! The ones that have helped me the most are “Climbing Meditation” (where you mentally climb to higher thoughts), “Vision Meditation” (where you visualize exactly who you want to be, doing exactly what you want to be doing), and “White Light Meditation” (where you focus your energy on receiving your desires).
- Don’t stress about your stress. If you keep thinking and saying to people “I’m so stressed out” all day long, guess what – you’re only reinforcing it, and I guarantee every little task or thing that comes up that day will seem even harder to handle because you’ll think “I’m already SO STRESSED – and now this!?” Little things – like an email from someone asking to make dinner plans – may seem harmless on a normal day, but if you’re defining yourself as a stressed-out person, that email will feel like just another thing to “deal with.” Focusing so much on the fact that you’re stressed will not make the stress magically disappear. Instead, try accepting the fact that you’re feeling stress. Allow it to be there, and don’t give so much power to it. Know that it isn’t permanent. It may feel that way at the time, but believe me – it will pass! Don’t allow yourself to feel like a victim. Ask yourself what the next right action is on the path to relieving your stress and be solution-oriented. Use the tips I mentioned above. And don’t forget to breathe.