Are You Stressed?

Over the last six months, I have been doing a lot of work on myself. I have been focusing on what I want in life, ways to make myself happy and coming up with ideas in order to combat my fatigue and burn out from both my professional and personal life. I am working on determining how to make myself healthy and whole again. And yet, I keep feeling those same feelings that I had before; those feelings that tell me that I am still stressed.

Now, I will fully admit that we are all stressed in some capacity. And in small doses, stress is actually healthy as it gives you the ability to appreciate things, have perspective and develop your critical thinking skills. However, I have had a LARGE amount of stress over the last ten years, and in hindsight, I didn’t realize quite how much I was handling. Work stress. Personal Stress. Medical Stress. Emotional Stress. And everything in between. And I was tired. I am tired. But I also knew it. I knew, and do know, what was happening but just couldn’t seem to change those things that were making me stressed. So I did what I could.

One of those things was to do some research, and this week I opened an old scribbler and started to reread some of the notes I had made on the things I was reading. And something jumped out to me. I had read the book Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski (if you haven’t read it before, I highly recommend that you do!). It was a few years ago at this point, in the peak of the COVID lockdown if I am being honest and if I felt burnt out then, well damn life was going to throw more my way. So, I read it, I recognized myself in it and it validated me. And than I put it back on the shelf and went back to not using any of the tools that were outlined in it to help combat what I was facing.

I didn’t have the room at the time to face those things. Months later, in a much different headspace, rereading those notes reminded me that I do, and can, implement those things that will help combat my ongoing stress. The book had lots of great tips, and lots of reminders that I didn’t know I needed at the time. However, the thing that jumped out to me now, years later, and what I want to share with you, is their outline on how to reset your stress cycle. We all experience stress, so then what do we do about it?

Well, at least in the moment, there are six simple steps! Simple? Great! I need simple. (Please note this is my own interpretation of their steps and not how they lay it out.)

  1. Breathe – easy peasy. Take those deep breathes and actually do it. Not say you are going to but rather take a moment to pause, take a few deep breaths and realize that you are going to be okay.
  2. Positive Social Interaction – If you are around someone, chat about something unrelated. Call that friend you know for support. Talk it out if that helps. Chat about something positive and use the time to de-escalate the stress, not amp it up. Stressed at work? Don’t just bitch about it to your colleagues. That feeds more stress. The important piece in this step is that it is POSITIVE.
  3. Laughter. Watch those funny cat videos. Put on your favorite sitcom. Read some jokes. Hang out with that person who always makes you laugh. It doesn’t matter how you do it, but find someway to bring some laughter in your life. They say laughter is the best medicine and they are right!
  4. Affection – Ask for that hug. If you have no-one around, as corny as it sounds, hug yourself. The actual physical touch matters and it has to be more than that quick hug or peck you get as you go out the door. HUG. Even if you aren’t a hugger (I will admit they are not my favorite either). Sit on the couch beside someone. Hold hands. It doesn’t matter what you do for this point, but rather that you are just getting some affection in some format that works for you.
  5. A Big Ol’ Cry – yeah, you heard me. Cry it out. I get it. As someone who was emotionally constipated for a VERY long time, crying was not comfortable for me. It still isn’t. But sometimes you just need to sit in those tears and release them. God damn it feels good when you do. If you need help, watch a sad movie or video. Military homecomings, puppies reunited with their owners or organ donor families getting together tends to work for me!
  6. Creative impression – The best part of this point is that creativity is flexible, adjustable and open to interpretation. For me, it is writing or coloring (usually curse word pictures). I have no drawing or painting skills so that wouldn’t work for me. However, I know that I enjoy writing so I do that. I have a bad tendency to avoid doing the things that are good for me when I need them the most. Even writing this blog is a way for me to reset my stress cycle.

Pretty simple right? And if you haven’t noticed, all of these steps really tell us the same thing. YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING. It doesn’t matter what that something looks like for you, but that it is something. It is some form of movement, acknowledgement or expression so that you can see the stress and work through it. Will it work every time? No. But I will fully admit, what does it hurt?

I am an avoiding. I tend to ignore my problems until I can’t anymore and I understand how putting yourself first can be a challenge. But, I also know that all these steps are DOABLE. I can handle it. And hopefully the more often I do them, the easier it will become. I can only hope the same for you too!

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