Tips for Minimizing Stress
We all get stressed out from time to time, and sometimes it can feel like everything in our lives is stressful. Family, work, the constant, daily go, go, go. Stressful circumstances, relationships and feelings are always going to be a part of our lives. We can’t stop them from happening all together, but we can focus on minimizing stress and its effects on our minds and bodies by being aware of what sets our stress-filled spirals into motion, and taking a few actions to minimize the effects stress have on us. Our minds and bodies are very intricately connected. One influences the other, and they depend on each other for survival. Our minds can’t do their jobs when our bodies are hurting, broken, or not working well; our bodies can’t do their jobs when our minds are distracted and not sending proper signals to them. Stress can lead to a whole host of health problems (sleep deprivation, lowered immune system, etc.). Minimizing stress is an important skill to develop, especially if you live in a constantly busy society like ours.
Here are some tips for minimizing stress in your life:
• Pray and read my Bible, and spend some quiet time with God. While I’m not good at doing this as often as I’d like to, I do find it grounds me and helps shift my perspective so that life’s important things seem important, and life’s non-important things seem non-important. Who better to start your day with than the One who made you and designed how your mind and body work? It’s so simple, but it often feels difficult to make time for. However, when we spend time with God first, everything else falls into place second (like it should).
• Keep my home clean and tidy. If there are too many things around me, visually, I know that my mind gets distracted by all of the unfinished projects and tasks that are surrounding me. I fall asleep and wake up happier (for real!) when my bedroom is neat and orderly and uncluttered. The same goes for my kitchen. I am much more cheerful and ready to take on the day if I can make my morning coffee and breakfast in a clean, uncluttered space. This works for any room in my house.
I find I want to spend time in the tidiest, most-organized rooms - the ones with things put away in their places and out of sight. It’s calming and rejuvenating to spend time in places that project simplicity.
• Make sure air quality is the best it can be. House plants are supposed to clean up the air in our homes. Since I developed asthma (was it even asthma, though? We may never know...) randomly about a year and a half ago, I became very aware of the air quality in my home. I bought a humidifier/air purifier, bought a few new plants, and stopped burning candles made with paraffin wax or that sent visible soot into the air when they burned.
I use soy candles and keep their wicks trimmed as short as possible. I care for my plants by letting tap water sit out for 1-2 hours before watering them (I read somewhere that it helps some of the chemicals put in our water to evaporate – I’ve also been doing this with drinking water and it tastes much less like pool water!).
Since I started using the air purifier, I haven’t need to use my daily steroid inhaler a single time. My lungs feel the same, if not better, as when I was taking the inhaler. Clean air is great! Besides, green plants in the home make it feel… homey!
• Tackle relational conflicts as soon as possible. I try to take a little down time to sort out my own feelings and decide the best way to respond, and then address the issue. Relational conflicts can escalate over time, or they can be hastily brushed aside only to crop up later at a very inconvenient time (and usually with more vengeance than when they’d originated). This also helps the people around me lower their stress levels, too. Win, win.
• Have vegetables and meat, etc., prepared and waiting in the fridge. I am way more likely to eat a proper meal with valuable nutrients if half the prep work is done ahead of time. I love to wash and cut up veggies and have them ready to dump into salads, and marinate meat so it’s ready to throw into the oven right before suppertime. I also usually make all of my school lunches for the week on the weekend. That way, I’m not wasting weeknights doing extra food prep, and in the morning I can just throw the containers into my bag and head off to work. Healthy food gives me body the energy to better deal with what the day has in store.
• Follow a routine. While it’s definitely nice to do things out of the ordinary from time to time, my sometimes frazzled brain often does better if it knows what to expect. During the work week, I shower at night. On Saturdays, I clean my apartment and do laundry, and sometimes invite company over. Every morning, I make my coffee the exact same way, and put it in the same travel mug.
These may seem like silly little tasks to do on repeat, but they often free up my mind to think about other, more important things while I am doing them. I know how long each of these tasks takes, and I can function in auto-pilot while my brain is busy thinking about what to teach in tomorrow’s classes, figuring out how to approach a potentially difficult situation with a delicate soul, or calculating how much nap time I can fit in after a quick grocery store stop on the way home.
• Get some down time. We all have hobbies, but sometimes we put them on the back burner because our lives are so busy and demanding. I try to take time out, at least on the weekends, to crochet, shoot, read, try out a new recipe, go for a walk, or watch a show on Netflix. It’s hard to set aside time to do fun things when there is always cleaning, marking, prep, errands, etc., to do.
I know we all feel guilty when we try to take time out for ourselves, but I think it’s so, so important to have a little quiet fun on a regular basis, to slow life down and enjoy just “being.” All of those stressful things will still be around to deal with after your quiet time, but the quiet time gives you a chance to be alone and recharge.
I definitely find that the above list helps me to stay grounded and cheerful, keep stressful things in perspective, and enjoy life’s smaller joys on a regular basis. It’s much easier to deal with… well, life, when your mind and body are rested and working well together.
Do you find that stress too often takes over your mind and body? What strategies do you find help you the most to stay grounded and cheerful, with your mind and body properly connected and working well together?