As a work at home mom to two young kids, with a husband who works on the road half the year, stress in my life is inevitable. Sometimes stress levels are higher than others, especially during times of the year like right now, when I have a lot of work projects and deadlines on the books and I'm also taking care of the kids by myself. I'm also just naturally prone to anxiety, even during less hectic periods. The truth is that we all deal with stress, regardless of our situations. Every single person has things in his or her life that cause stress. And many times there isn't much we can do about the causes themselves. We can, however, recognize when we're feeling anxiety, and take action to reduce our overall stress levels so we're more in control of our lives.
I am incredibly grateful for the fact that over time I have learned how to better cope with stress and ultimately live a healthy (for my body and my mind) lifestyle - but it wasn't always this way. For many years, I allowed stress to take over, mainly because it got to the point where feeling stressed out was such a regular part of my life that I didn't know any different. I've talked before about how, in the days when I ran my clothing brand, I used to overwork myself to the point of getting physically sick. I would work until 1 or 2 AM, lie in bed with horrendous insomnia worrying about what I hadn't gotten done or what I had to do the following day, wake up exhausted, immediately check email and start on work again, only eat when I remembered to (which wasn't often), and continue into the night again. I never made time for exercise or took breaks for myself. As a result, I experienced frequent panic attacks, often felt depressed because I was so burned out, and had a hard time functioning. I genuinely had to reach a really low point before I realized that I needed to make changes, and that those changes started with being intentional about recognizing and practicing small ways to reduce my stress in the day to day.
Over the past few years since this time, I've discovered some specific things that have really helped me reduce not just stress in general, but also how that stress negatively affects my body and mind. As I mentioned above, we all have to deal with stress in our lives, no matter who we are, where we live, or what we do. But by recognizing stress and feeling the effects of it when it occurs, and making small, intentional changes in our lives to lessen these things, we can ultimately feel calmer, healthier, and happier as a result, and focus more on the things we enjoy in our lives. Today I'm sharing ten things I've found to really help me reduce my own daily stress that I hope can help you out as well.
1. Exercise. I'm just getting this out of the way right out of the gates because it's something most of us dread, but it's incredibly important to stress reduction. I am not one of those people who jumps enthusiastically out of bed to head to the gym at 6 AM. By any means. In fact, every time I'm about to start a work out I think of excuses in my head to try to get out of it. I recently read something though that said, "you never regret a work out." And man is that the truth. Getting daily (or almost daily) exercise is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind, and spirit. I usually work out 5-6 days a week, and it makes a massive difference in my stress levels. I try to mix up my workouts - some days I do yoga (my favorite; you can see me busting out a 'Half Lord of the Fishes' pose in the top photo, a pose I do everyday upon waking up to stretch my spine), some I do cardio, and some I do strength training. On days where I can't do videos or attend classes because I have the kids myself or an intense work schedule, I try to at least go for a walk. There are times where I admittedly let exercise slip all together (sometimes for several days), and I definitely notice increased anxiety levels when I do - so I really make an effort to get active as much as possible.
2. Eat Clean, Healthy Foods. I've shared peeks into my clean eating journey here before, and while I'm not constantly on a clean eating challenge, I do always make sure that healthy, whole foods make up the majority of my meals. Our bodies and minds work together, and when we're consuming a lot of sugar and processed foods, neither of them work properly. Eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and a balanced mix of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs makes a huge difference in how intensely stress affects me.
3. Get Enough Sleep. Okay, I'm gonna be honest here guys. I very, very rarely get enough sleep. I have a baby and toddler who both wake up multiple times during the night, and while I should probably go to bed when they do, the few hours I have to myself to do what I want (which is also important to reducing stress; see #6 below) after they're asleep feel like gold. That said, on the rare occasions where I get a solid 7+ hours, I notice a monumental difference in how much less stressed I feel the following day.
4. Unplug from Technology. I am admittedly terrible with this one too, but I've come to learn how beneficial it is in the reduction of daily stress to just turn my phone and computer off and be present. Social media and the internet have taken over our collective culture to the point where people are no longer getting outside, interacting with others, or living life. We are not biologically wired for this you guys. It's not natural, and it's not healthy. When I'm not working I often leave my phone in a different room so I'm not tempted. I always feel so much lighter after a good technology break.
5. Listen to Music. I may be biased because music is such a huge part of my life and my family's life (and not even because my husband works in the industry; I just happen to intensely love it), but listening to music has been scientifically proven to instantly reduce stress levels. Enough said.
6. Take Breaks for Yourself Everyday. This is something I legitimately had to learn the hard way. I never used to take breaks from work, even when I was really creatively stuck and would have benefited from walking away for a few. And it took its tool. When I first became a mom, I found myself back in this trap again. By taking small breaks throughout the day (even just a couple of minutes to get up and walk around or read a book or stare at the freaking sky, man), you can recharge and reset your mind and body, and subsequently majorly reduce your over stress levels.
7. Use a Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker. I've worn fitness trackers for a couple years now, but the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker has become my favorite tracker, by far (you can see me wearing it clipped to my sports bra in the photos throughout this post; I also clip it to the waistband of my pants). Spire measures calories, activity, and steps, and is easily comparable to any competitive wearable technology - but it takes things a step further by measuring breathing patterns throughout the day, and pinpointing when you're stressed, focused, and calm. By alerting you in the moment when you're feeling stressed, and suggesting breathing exercises and meditations, Spire can help reduce stress and make mindfulness more reachable. Pretty cool, right? I'm also a fan of the design - it looks like a pretty river stone with a clip attached, and blends seamlessly into whatever I'm wearing. (Even the charger is beautiful!) And the companion app is super easy to use, giving insight into your personal well being by syncing with your location, calendar, and photos and thus showing where, what and why you are experiencing periods of tension, calm or focus. I kind of think of it as a personal trainer for my own personal mindfulness journey, and it plays a key role in reducing my daily stress. If you don't have a Spire of your own yet, I highly recommend checking them out right here.
8. Get Outside. I happen to be a pretty outdoorsy person, so this is a big one for me. I have a hard time in the winter because when I'm consistently cooped up inside, my anxiety gets pretty bad. So even when it's freezing outside, I make a conscious effort to walk outside and just breathe everyday, even for a few minutes. In the spring, summer, and fall, I try to spend as much time outside as possible. As humans, we need to spend some time outdoors to feel refreshed and recharged. It's important to regulating our stress levels and to our overall physical health. Even if you're not a fan of the outdoors, try spending at least a little bit of time outside everyday and take notice of the positive difference it makes in how you feel.
9. Practice Meditation and/or Mindful Breathing. I talked in #1 about how exercise is incredibly important to reducing overall stress, and I mentioned that one of the forms of exercise I do regularly is yoga. While I do best with fitness when I'm mixing things up from day to day, yoga is by far my favorite activity because it not only makes me physically stronger and healthier, it allows me to simultaneously practice mindful breathing. Taking the time to become aware of your breath and get in a flow where it is connected to your body is an instrumental way to reduce your overall stress levels. Meditation is another wonderful way to practice mindful breather. There are all sorts of really great guided meditations available with the Spire Mindfulness + Activity Tracker that I talked about in #7. And as I mentioned, just wearing a Spire daily will also train you to become consistently aware of your breathing, which is the ultimate goal.
10. Express Gratitude. This is so important you guys, and it's so, so easy. During the height of my over-the-top stressed out period, I was constantly worrying and focusing on the negative. It became a vicious cycle where my mind was taken over by things that were wrong, or my failures, or what I didn't have or hadn't accomplished. After I hit my breaking point I started a gratitude journal. Even when it felt like I had nothing for which to feel thankful, I forced myself to write down one thing, no matter how small. (Sometimes this would just be "I'm grateful for the sun being out today" and that's it.) Eventually, finding things for which I was grateful got easier and easier, and eventually I no longer needed to write them down - I just felt them. These days I don't keep a gratitude journal at all, and I just naturally express gratitude throughout my day. This might sound cheesy, but trust me - it will lower your stress levels and make you a happier person in general.
I hope that by sharing my own story with stress and anxiety, and letting you know the ten things that most help me reduce my daily stress, I'm able to help some of you as well. As someone who naturally deals with anxiety, I also consider myself to be a lifelong learner on the journey to reducing stress, so I'd love to hear tips on how you deal with daily stress as well!
Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby and Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
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