Most of us have experienced the big stressors of life: changing jobs, getting married, moving houses, illness, etc. While these big-ticket stressors can be challenging, they are usually only a temporary disruption. However, when all of the “little things” start piling up, it can feel like death by a thousand cuts, and it’s hard to navigate that overwhelming stress. In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about “self-care” that usually involves eating more leafy greens. I joke, but self-care is really a form of stress relief and something for all of us to consider when we start to feel overwhelmed by the everyday things of adult life, like home maintenance, sick babies, and work demands. Here are a few tips to take care of yourself to feel less stressed.
Start with a solid morning routine. No matter what your day may throw at you if you start from a strong place you’ll be better equipped to deal with it. Start your routine with a non-negotiable wake-up time. Get up right away when your alarm goes off, instead of lingering with the snooze button. Once you’re up and out of bed, the rest of your morning depends on how much time you have and what you need. Whether you work out in the mornings, or meditate, or take a hot shower and moisturize from head-to-toe, all depends on what works best for your needs. Of course, the one thing everyone needs is a nutritious breakfast. You definitely want to give yourself time to eat. As corny as it sounds, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day.
Counter those little stresses with little rewards. If you know about the stressors that lie ahead, set up little rewards for yourself when you meet and hopefully conquer them. If you know, your 10 a.m. meeting is going to be at best awkward, or at worst confrontational, promise yourself a treat afterward. This gives you something to look forward to and acts as a reminder that “this too shall pass.” Treats can be anything from pieces of chocolate to watching cute cat videos or going for a walk. Again, customize your rewards to whatever feeds your pleasure center. At work, when I complete a challenging task, I like to take a moment and browse dresses online or read a post from my favorite celebrity style blog. At home, once I make it through bedtime, my reward usually involves a clay facial mask and a good book.
Next, look for solutions. If the same thing keeps stressing you out repeatedly, find a way to fix it, or at least make the problem less arduous. FYI, complaining does not a solution make. I know, it’s easy to “let off some steam” and vent about a problem, but if it doesn’t help resolve the problem, you’ll still be stressed by it. Be warned, though, some solutions may require a lot of upfront work until you see the benefit. Things like relocating your workstation to avoid an annoying co-worker may take a bit of time and some slick maneuvering of company culture, but, if you can make it happen without hurting anyone’s feelings, it’s totally worth it.
Speaking of solutions, look to yourself. We all have bad days, but if you find yourself having worse than good days, the issue could be you. Take a spiritual and emotional inventory and ask yourself if you handle the daily demands of life in a healthy way. Do you lose your temper over minor infractions? Do you feel personally hurt or attacked when given constructive criticism? Do you have trouble maintaining long-term friendships? Do you overindulge in alcohol on a regular basis? All of these are signs that you may need help. Talk to a counselor or clergy member to see if it might be time for some sort of treatment or action plan.
Lastly, get more sleep. The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep a night in order to function as a healthy adult human. Even one night of inadequate sleep can severely deflate your ability to cope with everyday stresses. If you’ve been consistently NOT getting enough sleep, you’ll be way more prone to stress, sickness, and grumpiness across all aspects of your life, even in low-stress situations. Whenever I feel that my hackles are getting up, I make it a point to have an early bedtime, usually right after I put my kids down. Yes, it may seem silly for an adult woman to have an 8:30 p.m. bedtime but getting over 8 hours of sleep once or twice a week can really make a difference.
Of course, there will always be those unsolvable problems and big shifts in life that no amount of self-care can prepare you for. However, for everyday annoyances and infractions, taking the time to sleep, eat, and reward yourself will put you on the path of less stress overall.