How I De-Stress

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Stress.  Ugh . . . it’s the devil.  But we all experience it.

I thought I’d share the one thing I’ve found that helps me de-stress the most.  I’ve tried it all:  yoga, listening to music, doing something fun, disconnecting, etc. but I’ve found those are all just distractions and I’m more of a “let’s go straight to the issue” type of person.  You know, after a round of melt-downs and what not.

So, after I binge eat, talk my friends and family’s ears off, maybe take a trip to the casino, and all the other things that we do to try to make ourselves feel better, I finally do what works best.

What I do is this:  I go to the notes section of my phone and I start writing (typing) in an unfiltered purely honest way all of the specific things stressing me out.  I know I can delete it, so I am just very honest with myself.  It can be a work assignment I’m trying to finish and I’m still waiting on information from someone and it’s stressing me out, it could be me worrying for someone else going through a hard time, it could be a sick family member that I hope feels better, it could be an over-packed schedule and too many commitments on deck, etc.  Big, small, whatever.  If it’s anything that is at risk of waking me up in the middle of the night with stress insomnia or it’s simply something I keep venting about — I start listing that crap out in my phone notes.  I include names, I include my feelings, I include the details of why I’m mad, sad, or anxious about it, I use terms like “they always do this . . .” or “I can never blah blah blah.”

After I get the list out of my system, the next thing I do is the most important part to actually helping my stress vs. stirring around in it for days — so if you’ve read this far, hang in there for the kicker . . .

After the “things stressing me out” list is created (I literally put a header that says “things stressing me out”), I start back at the top of the list and after each item I write what I can do about it.  I literally write “nothing, let it go” or I write “come up with a contingency plan if I don’t get the info” or I write “email so and so and give them a heads up the assignment may be late” or I write “wake up earlier and do (whatever the thing is) before I leave for work” or I write “reschedule dinner plans to the following week” or I write “send so and so a card to let them know I’m thinking about them” or I simply write “pray.”

This feels like common sense, but I’m telling you what, the actual act of getting it out in a list you can (re)read makes you realize three things:  1.  You can actually come up with a plan for most things to ease the stress.  It may not solve the problem, but it may restore your sanity.  2.  You realize many of the things you are stressing about aren’t actually real.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listed an item that is my thoughts on what someone else’s perception of me was in some situation that really doesn’t matter.  3.  You may list 10 things, but really, you’ll find there’s only 1 that is stressing you — the others are just the cherries on top of that one thing that’s weighing you down so you can now ignore the 9 dumb things you were adding in the mix.

This is something I’ve started doing on Saturday mornings.  Admittedly, I cannot compartmentalize well so if there’s anything, let’s say, at work, that may be stressing me out — I will literally carry that with me all weekend.  By making a list and then going back through the list with actionable things that I can do to solve the problem, I feel a big weight lifted off my shoulders and can actually shift my focus to something else.  I also sometimes go back and read old lists and go “oh, psh, that was such a big deal to me last weekend and it worked out fine and doesn’t even matter anymore” which helps me go “will this matter next week?” when I’m making a new list.

I heard on a podcast once that “your brain is not your office” (wish I could give credit to whoever coined the phrase, but I forget who said it).  It’s true.  You think you can solve these problems in your head, but get that down on paper (or virtual paper) and come up with solutions and move on with your life — let your brain be full of other healthy things.  I truly believe mental health should be discussed and addressed just as much as we talk about our physical health.  If I scroll Instagram, I find photos of every possible healthy meal or workout one can do to stay in prime physical shape, but we don’t talk nearly enough about what we can do for our mental health.

So, my little stressed out friends, consider this a round of free mental therapy this week from me to you <<sips coffee, straightens psychology degree on the wall>>.