These tips have taken a long time to cultivate, and they are all trialed by fire by yours truly. Our lives have gotten monumentally more stressful, and as you saw in my previous post, stress certainly doesn’t do anyone any favors, especially not those with already fussy skin. We are all individuals, so please take only what truly resonates with you, and be fearless about leaving the rest. As with skin, skincare, dieting tips, etc., we should be very willing to recognize when something won’t work for us, and not be afraid to leave it behind. This a list about how to get rid of stress, and manage and reduce the stress we can’t eliminate. Enjoy!
1) Take action – DO SOMETHING
My favorite, favorite, favorite tip, and I probably shouldn’t have put it first, since you’re not yet primed to hear it. But there is nothing better for stress than for addressing the CAUSE of the stress with action.
Action is the antithesis to worry.
Look at what is causing you stress head on and address it. It is important to interject here, that a vital part of this tip is taking the time to correctly identify the SOURCE of your stress.
For example, if you say your job is stressing you out, you must get clearer on the exact cause, otherwise your inevitable response will be: The only action I can take is quitting my job, and that’s just not feasible, so there is no action I can take to deal with this stress, and it will just continue.
However, if you take a closer look at your job, you might see that it’s actually your boss. Maybe, if you imagine yourself in the exact same place and role, but with a different supervisor you feel immediate relief. Now maybe, you’re still thinking there is no action to be taken, since you can’t exactly fire your boss or switch departments. Then you need to go deeper – what EXACTLY about your boss is it?
Do they give unreasonable deadlines? Do they take credit for your work? Aha. Now we might be getting to some things we can begin to change and regain control over. MOST of the time the action you will be taking to deal with your stress will be some type of communication. We will circle back to this later as well, but for now just imagine asking your boss for a meeting and in a gentle, non-defensive way presenting a pre-thought-out solution to the problems you identified. People DO NOT like hearing about problems, but they LOVE solutions, even if they are themselves the problem.
Look at the difference between these two sentences:
I wanted to talk to you because I feel like you’re taking credit for my work, which is dishonest and is causing me stress.
I wanted to talk to you because I have a great idea. Imagine how great the team would feel if we implemented a more explicit credit acknowledging system for our projects. I think it would motivate them, and make them feel seen. Maybe at the end of each proposal we send, we can have a small section where we give credit to the person who headed the team (you) and the top 3 authors.
We’ve already digressed quite a bit, but I hope this convinces you that not matter what is causing you stress, if you think you can’t change it, you are wrong. There is always SOMETHING, no matter how small, that we can do to at least give ourselves the illusion of being in control. The last resort is submitting in the name of service, which might sound a little iffy now, but wait until we explain it in more detail – it could be your secret weapon!
Feeling powerless and like you have no control are the very things that create your stress.
I can’t tell you the number of days I have with moss, where I have a huge to-do list, emails from everyone, and I feel like a deer caught in the headlights – I don’t even know where to start! The best thing is to take action, and when there are TOO many things to do, I use the 4 Ds to get out of overwhelm. We’ll get into the 4 Ds later, but for now, just know that they are: Defer. Delete. Delegate. Describe.
Another example from my personal life: In my late 20s, due to a huge disrupt in my life, I failed to file my taxes one year. The next year, things were still very rocky, and I was afraid to touch my taxes since I thought I would be in trouble for my failure to file the previous year. The year after that, as you can guess, I thought I had dug myself into a pretty big hole, and was hoping I could magically ignore my taxes and have the whole issue go away. Yeah, right. This stress was low-grade but pervasive and incredibly destructive to my energy. On a very deep level, I felt trapped, unsafe and like all of the money I had wasn’t really mine, so guilty and fearful as well.
The best thing I ever did was call the IRS and tackle the issue head on. And guess what? They sent me ALL the paperwork I needed. So all the excuses I had been making to put off confronting the issue, like not having any of my forms, or not knowing exactly what I needed, we totally taken care of.
The lesson here is that we’ll make all kinds of excuses that actually sound very real and logical to us about why we can’t take action, but know this: these excuses are – ultimately – bullshit.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Even if the IRS hadn’t sent me all my paperwork, I could have still filed – maybe taken a hit on my return, BUT it would have been worth it just to know I was back in the good graces of the IR-freakin’-S!
Once I received the paperwork, I invited a friend over that was a bookkeeper and in exchange for wine and food, she helped me fill out the paperwork. It came out that I owed $6,000. We all have our money thermostats set to a certain place (Where is yours set to? How do you react to that number?) but for me this was not unreasonable, but certainly NOT money that I had just lying around and I calculated I would be able to pay it off in three to six chunks. Just FYI, the IRS, once you file, is very good about working out a payment plan. So I sent in my taxes, and even though I owed all this money, I felt so immensely relieved. I knew exactly how much I owed, and that was 1,000 times better than being in the dark and constantly worrying.
When I got my bill from the IRS, it was a little over $1,000. They recalculated my taxes and it turns out my friend (she was a little drinky after all) had missed a pretty substantial deduction. I was able to pay it off immediately. Um, sweet!
Over the course of my life, there is one lesson that has slowly presented itself to me:
The Universe rewards the brave.
The chances are really good that once you take action, it will go even better than you could have imagined. That is why, when undertaking anything difficult, I always try to expect the best. Because that is usually what is coming. More on this as a way to relieve stress later.
Finally, the more times you take action, the more times you succeed. And the more times you succeed, the more confident you feel. Your life begins to shift. You go from feeling controlled to being in control.
Spend some time journaling or meditating on EXACTLY what it is that is stressing you out. Then make a list of 3-5 actions you can take to help begin to alleviate those causes.
2) Mantras – use the power of words
When I first started doing yoga, I though mantras were so silly. But I think that’s because they weren’t MINE. They were other people’s words, and they didn’t fit quite right. There are still mantras that make me break out into uncomfortable giggles when I hear them, because they sound so corny and canned. But the more people and teachers shared their mantras with me, the easier it was to find ones that resonated. And eventually, I was able to find them in song lyrics and books.
Mantras are simply the words that cause your perspective to shift in the right direction, or fill you with the emotion or characteristic you are longing for.
And when I was stressed, they became my meditation. When I could feel my thoughts spiraling into a worry vortex, I would repeat the mantras in my head to interrupt the thoughts and give my brain and spirit a break from worrying. The mantras did more than this, however. They gave me the reassurance and emotions to shut those thoughts down, so even when I stopped repeating the mantras, I believed them more than I did my worries.
The truth is words are more powerful than you might think.
For example, did you know you can give yourself commands? Two commands that are fun to play with so you can prove this to yourself are the dreams and wake up command. At night, before bed, tell yourself that the next morning you want to remember your dreams. Say it commandingly, lovingly, and like there is no question that the outcome WILL occur as you desire. You can also tell yourself what time you want to wake up. Play, and see what happens!
The first mantras that I really felt were useful were this little group here, all variations on a theme:
All is well.
Everything is ok.
Everything is as it should be.
You are in the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing.
Everything is happening according to a divine script that has your best interests at heart.
Trust the process.
Other matras I really love are:
I believe in the good things coming. (A song lyric)
Only great good can come of this.
I am being divinely guided.
I am safe.
No feeling is final.
You are the sky, everything else is just the weather. (a Pema C quote)
Time heals all wounds.
Nothing is ever as big of a deal as it seems.
Everything that happens is a gift. I am owed nothing in this life.
Love what is.
Keep on climbing, though the ground might shake
Just keep on reaching though the limb might break
We’ve come this far, don’t you be scared now
‘Cause you can learn to fly on the way down (Maddie & Tae lyrics)
You get the point.
How to create your own mantras
Take a moment to think or journal some of your own mantras. Recall songs that make you feel better or pump you up and see if you can find a mantra in the lyrics (make sure these songs lift you out of worry and stress, as opposed to validating or romanticizing your negative feelings).
Think of being held by a loved one, a strong, wise person, your knight in shining armor, a mentor, a trusted confidant, maybe a mother or father figure. Imagine what words they would say to you. Ask yourself what words you are longing to hear from them. Make these words into a mantra.
Write out the exact stressful or negative thoughts you are having, exactly as you are saying them to yourself in your head. Don’t hold back, get them all out. Then write a response that is unequivocally positive and whose only purpose is to dispel and allay all the fears and sadness. Literally take it sentence by sentence and write out the exact opposite of your negative, stressful thought. Example:
I am not strong, I’ll never be able to do this, failure is inevitable.
I am strong. I can do anything I put my mind to with patience and persistance. Success is inevitable.
3) take 10 deep, slow, belly breaths
Clichéd? No way. This is a scientific way to hack your body. When we are stressed, a number of automatic physiological reactions occur that we have no control over. Hormones cascade, adrenaline is released, digestion shuts down, and our breath becomes short and shallow.
Wait a second. We DO have control over our breath!!! And if we override the breathing pattern of stress, we can shift the body back into parasympathetic functioning, which means that all the other stuff we can’t control gets a signal to chill out.
So we can control our body through our breath.
That is insanely powerful.
Honestly, I use this one as a last resort. It really works well for in the moment anxiety attacks. Giving a presentation and realize you forgot your slides? Mantra might not cut it. Take 10, slow, deep breaths. 10 slow breaths is actually around a minute or two of time. Which is a nice chunk on time. I mention this so you can see that 10 slow deep breaths is actually a process, not just an immediate, too simple, too-good-to-be-true type of action. If you do not feel calmer after 10 slow deep belly breathes, I guarantee that you either rushed, or decided 5 was enough or just thought about doing it and dismissed it out of hand, confident that something so simple would not work. It’s actually not that simple, and does take a bit of willpower, as you will see if you actually try it.
(When you’re calmer, figure out how best to proceed. A great time to remember that nothing is ever as bad as it seems, and that no matter how things go, life will go on.)
If your mind is racing, and is resistant to the breathing (which it will be) here is a technique to use. It actually takes a fair amount of effort to switch our breath from shallow and fast to deep and slow, but that is where you get the sense that this is actually not as simple as you thought and that you are bringing about a meaningful shift. Which should send shivers up your spine. Talk about having a secret weapon.
The technique that will help a racing and resistant mind is to count during your inhales and during your exhales. Aim to increase the count by 1 or 2 by the end of the 10 breathes. So if you are counting: Inhale: 1…2…3…4, Exhale: 1…2…3…4 on breath 1, by breath 10, you should have slowed it down to Inhale: 1…2…3…4…5…6, Exhale: 1…2…3…4…5…6…7…8. If you want to play with more advanced stuff, try getting your inhales as long as possible, and then getting your exhales twice as long as your inhales.
Even if you’re not feeling panicky right now, try this breathing exercise! It will literally take 2 minutes max. And if you don’t want to try it, then notice the resistance and excuses coming up. Get curious about that.
4) create ritual/routine
A big one for me! The life of an entrepreneur has NO consistency and lots of surprises that leave me feeling like I’m playing defense and catch-up more than I feel like I’m the one steering the train.
We love consistency.
We love knowing what to expect. We love knowing what to do. Over and over studies have shown that we get overwhelmed by too many choices, and too much freedom. We also – obviously – get very stressed when we never know what to expect, or how to prepare for what is coming.
So as much as you can, create little oasises of ritual/routine. Even though I’m getting emails all day every day, I only respond to them at most once a day, and usually, every other day. This is my routine, and it helps me not get pulled into other people’s agendas. It also makes me calm, because I know that I have designated a time and place to deal with the emails, so it is ok to ignore them till then.
Even though I do not have a daily routine, I have a ritual in place that is weekly.
At the beginning of every week, I make a spreadsheet with all my tasks and then organize them in the most efficient way. That way I know what is coming for the rest of the week.
I know some people who have really elaborate morning and evening rituals and really regimented schedules. That is not me, but I do have enough rituals and routines in place to keep me feeling sane and safe and happy.
Yes, rituals, especially ones that feel fun and special, are a huge key to feeling contented.
In the morning, I always get up, make myself coffee (well, my superherb coffee tonic which you can read about in my book), treat my skin with what I think it needs (a fun experiment I look forward to, since I’m usually testing a new product), and work on what I WANT to, until it is time to walk the dogs with my fiancé.
In the evening, I always take a break to again, walk the dogs and visit with my fiancé. We prepare and eat dinner together. Always.
For lunch, I NEVER eat at my desk. Even if I only take 10 minutes for lunch, I eat my food at the table. I like to read while I eat, but never my phone. Always real books! Thursday nights I teach yoga. Friday mornings I have ceramics class. On Sunday we always go out for croissants and coffee (real coffee, not coffee tonic 🙂 ). On the weekend, I surf once or twice. On the weekend, I never do work unless I honestly want to. I don’t want to bore you, but these little rituals are rules that keep me safe – non-negotiable anchors of dependable consistency that work like stepping stones in a sea of stress.
Take a moment to define and respect the rituals you do have. Then maybe think about editing them. Are there rituals or routine you would like to add? Make sure not to make too many changes at once. Start with adding something pleasurable and easy.
OK. There is NO WAY I can get through the many other things I have to say, but you know what they say:
Done is better than perfect.
Expect a part 2, 3 and maybe even 4 on how to get rid of stress! But for now, would love to hear your mantras, or stress managing tips in the comments!
In beauty and bliss,