Welcome to our 2020 Summer Refresh! While Val is busy, busy writing away on her new book, we thought this was a great opportunity to update some old faves from the blog and re-share them with you! Enjoy!
A month or so ago, I attempted to take the week off. We had three weeks until the launch and one of those weeks I was going to be out of town so I didn’t actually quit working completely for the week, but I did give up my inbox to my two lovely teammates! Why you ask?
Because I was having health issues, nothing major, but enough to cause me to wonder if it was stress-related. If you had asked me if I was stressed, I would have said no. I sleep good at night and don’t lie awake stressed or worried about my to-do list or bills. I would have told you that I love my work and my family and feel like I’ve got a decent amount of balance. Regardless, I was sick of feeling sick and willing to accept that it might be stress.
I started evaluating my days and could see little signs that maybe I did have some.
- I’d ping back and forth from my computer to phone. The second my computer would freeze up (which unfortunately happens a lot) I’d turn to my phone to not “lose time” as if checking Instagram was going to be productive.
- I’d try to post something to Instagram while my youngest was opening pens and my oldest was making the most jarring noises to make her sister laugh.
- I was trying to respond to every comment in my inbox, Instagram DM, Insta comments, Facebook comments and text messages. At any given moment of the day, I felt like no less than 5 people were waiting for a response from me and it was my job to “hop to”.
So sure, I guess I had some stress. Maybe you do too.
The number of people affected by auto-immune diseases these days is insane. And many times, it’s a serious case of stress that pushes dormant symptoms into full-blown issues. I think it’s worth preventing those things where we can.
In my case, I was having some feet issues, lots of numbness off and on since a few months after Vana was born but the last few weeks, I was feeling a tingling sensation constantly and couldn’t sleep with it. Anyone else experience that? Curbing my stress has definitely minimized the symptoms so even if stress isn’t the direct cause of health issues, I think they can definitely make any issue worse.
Stress feels like a buzz word so don’t tune me out. I’m not just here to tell you to get rid of stress. I’m here to tell you how I have been practically getting rid of it!
But first, few things to know:
Stress isn’t all bad. In The Power of Full Engagement it says, “Any form of stress that prompts discomfort has the potential to expand our capacity-physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually-so long as it is followed by adequate recovery…We, too, must learn to live our own lives as a series of sprints-fully engaging for periods of time, and then fully disengaging and seeking renewal before jumping back into the fray to face whatever challenges confront us…We can only push so hard for so long without breaking down and burning out. Stress hormones that circulate chronically in our bodies may be temporarily energizing, but over time they prompt symptoms such as hyperactivity, aggressiveness, impatience, irritability, anger, self-absorption and insensitivity to others.”
Most recently, I’ve been listening to The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal and it’s further reinforced this thinking. She found that the biggest sources of stress overlap with the things that bring us the greatest joy and meaning. The things that can generally cause me most stresses are things related to work or my kids. These are also two of the things that bring me the greatest joy and meaning in life.
Even as I heard this concept, I let it shift the stress I wanted to feel about the work I had before me and let it instead remind me of how lucky I am to get to do this. She also said how “anything that feels stressful can feel like an intrusion” but this is just life. Once we stop trying to block out stress at all costs, we might feel less negatively impacted by it. There is no stress-free version of your life out there but how stressful to constantly be seeking that!
So my #1 tip is to first change how we view stress. Stop assuming it’s bad when it can be helpful and a sign of a meaningful life.
All that said, I think we can sabotage ourselves by unnecessary stress that does not result from a meaningful life, like staying up late on screens, forgetting to breathe, etc.
Here are 16 practical and somewhat random tips that I hope will help reduce unnecessary stress in your life and maybe help us not frantically fixate so much on “getting rid of stress” in the first place:
1. Do not speed up podcasts
Maybe you have never done this, but I used to listen to podcasts at a 1.5 speed. This does a few things. It is literally fast-talking that requires me to be on high alert to actually follow. But it also makes me feel like I’m listening fast because I have a ton to listen to and must “get through it”. It’s no longer as enjoyable. I do this with books too. I feel an urgency to learn everything and it keeps me in a constant striving state. Not healthy y’all. Slowing down feels uncomfortable and like you are being held back but it might just save you from unnecessary stress.
2. Get better sleep
Reading Sleep Smarter by Shawn Stevenson taught me so much more about the importance of sleep that has convinced me sleep needs to be a priority over work and even working out if I have to choose. Here are a few things that have really helped me sleep better.
- Changing the settings on my phone. How-to here.
- Blue light blocker glasses if I need to work on a computer or want to watch TV
- I still need my clock for an alarm but I literally taped an index card with a Bible verse on it to cover up the light of the time
- Our sound machine is on the floor under my nightstand so that light isn’t visible either
- Sleeping in socks. I read in Sleep Smarter about keeping temperatures cool but my feet kept freezing and made it harder to sleep. My answer was turning the temp up but then it was hot. We now keep it cool and I wear socks and it’s perfect.
- Hot Epsom salt bath right before bed. Magnesium helps your sleep and bath salts conveniently have magnesium. After a hot bath, I can normally fall asleep in less than 15 minutes.
3. Deep breaths
This one sounded POINTLESS to me, but in Taller, Slimmer, Younger by Lauren Roxburgh, she says “Breathing calms you down, draws you into the present moment, and makes you far more aware of yourself and the world around you. When you’re present and aware, everything changes – the stress eating goes away (especially the sugar cravings), you feel less pressed for time, and you make better choices.”
4. Go outside
Y’all, this stuff all sounded so hokey to me. How can nature really help? But there is lots of science I’ve read lately that I really couldn’t recite even if I tried, but try it and you will feel the effects. Maybe not the Target parking lot, but go find a patch of grass or woods or ocean and breathe!
5. Close all those tabs
I can’t really talk. I have 6 open, but it might explain why I keep clicking around and keep losing focus. Too many tabs make us feel like there are 6 things that need our attention. That is exhausting and makes it impossible to be all there.
6. Can’t close them? Separate them
I use Toggl to track my time while working, and I normally have Asana open because I reference it often along with a Bible tab or other tools that I don’t want to close if I’m going to need them soon. Separate all those tabs from the one you are focusing on and minimize that browser so it’s close by but not in your face.
7. Skip the foods you know you shouldn’t eat anyway
Sugar, carbs, caffeine all exacerbate our stress. Cut them out unless you are OK with your stress getting worse.
8. Take a social media break
This is talked about all the time, but for a very good reason. And while we’re on the subject? Don’t waste time on comments on controversial posts and don’t engulf more news than necessary. 24-hour news channels have the responsibility to make 24 hours of content that is urgent and news even if it’s not. It convinces us that we are “uninformed” if we aren’t getting a daily dose of hours of news. If you aren’t sure if too much news is negatively impacting you, give it up for a short time and see what happens. My anxiety many times correlates with me reading more news stories on FB than I should. Check out our social media detox to dive deeper into this!
9. Get moving
Again, soooo cliche but release all that energy into a workout. It works.
10. Include silence into every day
If we aren’t giving God space to speak to us, we shouldn’t be surprised that stress takes over us. Check out this post about silence and solitude.
11. Create a slow down routine at night
- Prepare for the next day – This sounds like it might be super proactive and not a way to relieve stress but when we prepare things ahead of time, we avoid a stressful morning of feeling behind. I go to sleep relaxed when I know I’m ready for the next day.
- Stretching – Normally I’ll read a book or Scripture while I do this.
- Journaling – See how I like to do this in this blog post. 🙂
- Chamomile tea or Natural Calm cocktail
- Epsom salt bath – Y’all sick of me talking about my nightly bath? 🙂 It’s done wonders.
- No TV in the bedroom – This might be really hard for some of y’all but I’ll give you an example: I was watching Frasier on my iPad in bed and was wide awake. I switched to a book and fell asleep before I read two pages. If you struggle to fall asleep, turn off the TV and try a book instead.
12. Input vs. Input
That is not a typo. We need input, we need to refill our tank so that we have enough to give, but many times we try to refill by taking in more input from sources that aren’t really refreshing us. Instagram. I know. We all sound like a broken record but if you are stressed, figure out what you are inputting and honestly ask yourself “is it really refreshing you?”
13. Output something
What are we doing with all the content we drink in? Are we walking around with swollen brains so full of information but not utilizing it? I have a huge post on this idea that has been on my heart so much lately.
14. Have a conversation with someone who notoriously does not stress you out
I love my mom, like, I think she is one of the funniest, laid-back moms that ever lived…but she can stress me out when I’m already stressed because, well, she’s my mom. If you are feeling particularly overwhelmed, have a conversation with that friend that talks slow and reflects with you. The friend who doesn’t hurl a thousand questions at once or stress you out more.
15. Listen to classical music
Listen to the old stuff or your favorite worship songs without the words.
16. Look at art books before bed
I shared this on Instagram a while back and it is one of my favorite things! When I’m too spun up to even read a book, looking at soothing pictures and lingering over the details, colors and techniques is so relaxing. I don’t have to retain any of the content so it’s less pressure-filled (even though it’s subtle) than reading a non-fiction book. (And bonus, your kids might enjoy it too. Last night Vivi asked to lay in my bed and look at my book on Mary Cassatt. When we finished she asked to take it to her room to keep looking at it. 🙂 )
Ready to slow down more? I’ve got a book coming out this fall call Led, Not Driven all about what God has taught me over the last few years about taking my ambitious heart to Him and slowing the heck down. Sign up here to find out when it releases!
When you’ve been told to get rid of stress, have you known how to handle it? And if so, share your tips! We’d love to hear!
On your tip for deep breathing, it reminded me of something I’ve learned in my leadership class at school called centering. Before each class we spend a few minutes doing some deep breathing to try to get rid of stress and be present in the moment! I’ve really loved it so far!
Thank you, Val! This is timely. <3
Love this! I’m feeling extra conflicted about the amount of social media I consume and I am certain that it contributes to my stress levels. Also, another good source of calming music is movie scores! Maybe not superhero or action films (sometimes those can be a bit intense), but scores from romantic comedies, animated films, period dramas, etc. are what I listen to when I am stressed or overwhelmed. Scores from movies like The Holiday, anything based on a Jane Austen book or scores to Disney/Pixar films are a good place to start.
Oh my gosh!! This is so true! I love Zootopia’s score. I’ll have to find more now!:)
I love all of these but #13 is really hitting me hard!! I feel like I definitely struggle with that issue- can’t wait to read your next post! 🙂
Thanks Val for these amazing tips!
Such great tips, Val!