This month I moved. I have two major deadlines at work. By March 31 I will have travelled to New York, Vancouver, Montreal and Ottawa. I have a workshop that I have to participate in and will be evaluated on and I’m nervous. I’m the maid of honor in two weddings this summer and my duties for those wedding have ramped up.
Needless to say, I’m a little stressed.
As someone who has suffered from depression for most of my adult life, stress and I don’t always get a long. There are some people that are incredibly productive and resilient during the most difficult times. Their able to turn stress and anxiety over something into fuel and drive. For me stress can upset all sorts of things and impact my sleep, my weight, and my general emotional well-being. There was a time in my early twenties where any stressful situation paralyzed me. It made navigating the ups and downs of life extremely difficult.
For people that suffer from a mental illness of any sort - scratch that - for ANYONE – learning how to deal with stress in a healthy way can be difficult. I’m no expert, but in this post I’d like to share a few things with you that I have learned to be incredibly helpful in dealing with stressful times and have helped kept my physically and mentally well.
The first and most important lesson I have learned is that I need emotional support during times of stress. When I have a lot going on in my life, I know that I have the tendency to feel the weight of it all emotionally. I get teary, maybe I’m not sleeping as well and in order to build my resilience I need to have an outlet. For me that outlet comes in the form of a professional with whom I speak twice a month. Its important that I have someone that helps me to reflect on what’s going on for me and suggest helpful strategies to work through times of difficulty. A really good friend, family member, coach or mentor can also be a good person to reach out to if speaking to a professional isn’t your thing. Sharing our challenges can be a good outlet and can go far in helping us unload some of the emotional weight that stress can cause.
Pass the peanut butter chocolate ice cream. Seriously. Give it to me.
I have been known to eat my feeling in times of stress. Anything delicious gives me temporary comfort. Unfortunately it ultimately it makes me feel a whole lot worse. In order to get through times that are challenging mentally our body needs the proper fuel. The best thing that you can do is to show yourself some love by taking time out to eat healthy and nutritious foods. You’ll feel better, operate better and chances are you’ll sleep better if you’re filling your body with whole, nutritious foods instead of a pint of ice cream.
When I’m busy with work or travelling I get tired. Really tired. As a result, exercise is usually the first thing that gets eliminated from the schedule – I make excuses because I think I just don’t have the energy. I have learned again recently that this is probably the worst thing I can do. During times of stress I need to carve out time to sweat. It helps me shake my sillies out and re-focus. It also helps me have more energy to keep on keeping on and to do the other things on this list - like making healthy meals and reaching out when I need to. Endorphins are powerful things!
There are all sorts of studies that connect listening to upbeat or soothing music to improving one’s mood. For me, a great song can help to distract me and ease tension and anxiety. Over the past month I have made a conscious effort to turn music on when I’m at home or listen to my iPod more on the way to work to get the positive vibes flowing. Right now I’m loving Lykke Li’s “I follow” – its upbeat and makes me feel like I can take on the world!
I’m not a great sleeper on a good day – ask anyone that has ever shared a bed with me! I toss, I turn, I sleep walk, I talk – it’s a full day’s work in one night. So when times get tough my sleep really suffers. I have found that the best thing I can do during times of stress or just to ensure my resilience is listening to my body and trying to get as much sleep as I can. I’ve read that turning off electronics (phone, TV, computer) and being conscious of what you’re reading before bed (nothing too heavy) can also have a positive impact your ability to get to sleep and have a restful sleep so these are some strategies I use as well. Everything seems easier when you are well rested.
This too shall pass
I try to remember when times are tough that this too shall pass and I will get through those things that are challenging for me. We need to remember to be kind to ourselves and do those things that make us feel good when work or our personal lives seem crazy stressful. So this month I plan to listen to upbeat music on repeat, get good sleep, eat well and not sacrifice exercise in favour of work. Maybe doing some of these things will be helpful for you too?
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