Within the first two weeks of January, I was asked numerous times by numerous people how I can appear so calm through a storm. What do I do to destress? What are some practical ways to destress yourself? They wanted to know how I can be so calm with so much to do in so little time. One of my coworkers says it’s just my personality, she says that I have a calming effect. I’m just naturally destressed, maybe.
Although when I think about it, I haven’t always been able to find practical ways to destress during crazy times. There were times in my life when I felt overwhelmed, desperate, and anxious. I’ve done things over the years and have developed “coping mechanisms” that allow me to keep calm and carry on.
I’d like to share with you 9 Practical Ways to Destress.
This list is not exhaustive. There are many other things that work, depending on circumstances and personality. These are things that work for me that are also available for everyone to practice/do.
Let me start by saying this. More and more research is coming out concerning the science of chronic stress and how it’s detrimental to physical health and mental health.
As a follower of Jesus and a believer in what the Bible says, there are many times when it says to “not worry”. So why would I?
However, there are still practical things you can do to deal with stress in a healthy way. These are in no particular order.
1. Don’t worry about what you don’t control.
Seriously, you don’t owe the world nor owe it. And the world certainly doesn’t owe you. Stop caring so much about those things that are completely out of your control, don’t take everything so personally (it’s really not about you), and stop trying to control everything.
2. Understand that life has seasons.
Some say life’s a marathon, some say life’s a sprint. I think it’s neither. I think like is more like a track meet. At a track meet you do different things at different times. You may sprint, run, hurdle, jump, throw, and even rest.
The point is that life has seasons. What you’re doing now will not be the same as 10 years from now. Change can really stress people out. It brings ambiguity and anxiety. You must be ok with change. Understanding that change will happen no matter what and accepting that is probably the most power and practical way to destress that you can practice. You may be a really good sprinter and would love to do nothing but that you’re entire life, but the season changes and you can’t deal with it. You have to learn how to adapt.
3. Learn how to focus.
When you rest, really rest. When you work, really work. Combining the two means you fail at both. Too often, people want to work 24/7, literally, answering emails all day and night. Don’t be one of those people if you want to lead a productive life. When you’re working, be all in. When you’re not working, be all in. Working all the time makes you ineffective at your job. Resting/playing all the time makes you lazy.
4. Purposefully stress yourself out for certain periods of time or seasons.
How much can you really take? In the Army, soldiers train, train, and train. So when they find themselves in a certain situation, they can instinctively overcome it. In sports, athletes train so much, their sports become second nature. Do you think the longest route a wide receiver does is during a game? No way! That receiver trains all year for a few months worth of work.
The problem is, you probably don’t have an equivalent in your professional or private life. But here’s the point. Push yourself to your limits in controlled or semi-controlled environments. Doing this will result in more effective and more efficient performance in real time events.
I did this for 5 years. It was the toughest 5 years of my life. I worked full time, over 50 hours per week, and I went to school full time. During these 5 years I finished a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, while working and being married.
During these 5 years, I didn’t go on vacation for more than a couple days at a time, I didn’t go to the movies more than once or twice, I hardly ever watched tv, and I hardly went out with friends. I worked 6 days a week for my job and took a full load of classes. That meant that I never had a day off. As a matter of fact, I would go months without taking one day off. It was completely normal to me.
I feel like I was so stressed out during that time and still succeeded, that now there’s really nothing that I’m not able to do.
5. Exercise, preferably with weights.
I love to exercise. Exercising allows me to focus, helps me sleep, and re-energizes me. But there’s something particular about weight lifting. It’s something that running doesn’t reproduce. Maybe it’s the act of lifting or pushing large amounts of weight, almost like a metaphor for stress, where a couple hundred pounds is threatening to fall on my chest and I have to push it off. However, I recognize that weights aren’t for everyone. For many, running, basketball, or swimming is a huge stress reliever.
6. Prioritize ruthlessly.
Most people don’t have too much to do, like they think. What most people have is a prioritization problem. Because they don’t think about what’s important to them or what’s important in their job, they give everything equal weight and equal time. When you give everything equal priority, you’re essentially saying that nothing is a priority. Even at work, most of what you do will not give you the return you need. So focus on those activities that give you the return you’re looking for.
Realistically, you have all the time you need to do everything you need to do, all you have to do is cut out things like television. Don’t say you don’t have time to exercise if you watch television everyday. Instead, say that you choose to watch tv instead of exercising.
7. Take pleasure in the little things.
Learn to have fun in the day to day. I can’t tell you how important this is. People like to say “Work hard, play hard” Ok, that’s great. But many times I work really hard and I don’t have money, time, or energy to play hard. However, since I’ve learned how to take pleasure in the little things, I can go without the larger, more grandeur things. And when those larger things come, I appreciate them more.
8. If you’re going to fail, fail, learn, and move on.
This is something I wish I would’ve learned when I was young. I was so afraid of failing, I was paralyzed with fear. It resulted in me only doing what I knew I could accomplish, which wasn’t much. Maybe it’s because I’m older and more confident now, but I’m not afraid to take a chance on something. I’m not afraid to fail. If I do fail, I’ll do my best to learn from my mistakes and I’ll quickly move on.
9. Changing your wording results in a changed mindset.
A coworker of mine is working on a really difficult, extremely detailed project. She’s stressed. She mentioned that she “has” to do something. I told her that she doesn’t “have” to do anything. She has the “opportunity” to do it, or someone else will have the opportunity to do it. It wasn’t the answer she wanted, but it’s true. God will use someone to accomplish what He wants to accomplish. If we’re available to be used, that will be an opportunity for us. If we’re not available or we don’t want the opportunity, someone else will receive it. Either way, we’re not forced to do anything, we have the opportunity to do it.