6 months ago
How I’m Reducing Stress and Anxiety
I’ve been talking more about stress and anxiety this year – something I’ve struggled with for most of my adult life. Most of us fear we’ll be judged or seen as ungrateful if we talk about anxiety, but being anxious doesn’t mean you’re not happy or grateful. Anxiety, depression, gratitude, and joy can coexist. I am well aware of the fact that there are people who are in far more stressful situations than I am. I am in a place of privilege and my daughter’s Leukemia diagnosis was a horrible thing to go through, but the prognosis is pretty much as good as it gets. I’ve gotten a few (very few – maybe two or three) nasty messages from people who basically told me to get over it. Their messages made me feel sad…for them.
I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I am grateful. I look for silver linings and do what I can to make things better for others. I’ve been given the gift of perspective. I’ve been able to fundraise and help other families in treatment. I get to be there for other moms through the darkest days after diagnosis. Sharing what I’m going through is cathartic, but I share what I do to help others. It is my hope that someone will feel less alone, or find a way to reduce their own anxiety.
Everyone has the right to feel anxious, stressed, or depressed, and mental health is something I wish we all felt more comfortable talking about without the fear of feeling judged or criticized. We need to normalize it. Anxiety is something I’ve struggled with the last decade, and it was another level after Margot’s diagnosis during the worst parts of a global pandemic. It took major trauma to start living a life that brought more joy and less stress. Please don’t wait for a life-altering event to force you to open your eyes and start living a life that makes you happy. Life is too short.
Here are the ways I’m reducing stress in my life this year.
Pre-pandemic, most of us were always busy. Always trying to do something. There was a time when I thrived on staying busy even though I knew that it was often too much for me. Working full-time, I didn’t have much room to be a good mom, take care of myself, and maintain my blog. Something had to give, and that something was usually someone. It was me.
I’m working every day, but I’m also taking time to take care of myself, to be with my girls, and to enjoy life more than I was. Gardening, the occasional lunch, house projects – things other than work that feel good. When the girls are asleep, I will get a few little things done, but have started using that time to relax. I’m also working less during the day, so I don’t feel terrible if I spend two hours working after bedtime since I was able to do things for myself.
Slow down. Unplug. Go for a walk. Put your phone away. Read a book. Take time to do nothing at all.
It’s no secret that I am an advocate for therapy. We lack the tools to cope with everything on our own, and talking to someone about what you’re going through so good for you. I believe that we can always do better and be better, and that the work (on ourselves) never stops.
Moving on and learning to let go of resentment is hard. This is something I am actively working on with my therapist. When you go through trauma or a big life change, you will find out who people really are. Some will go above and beyond in the most beautiful way, while others may not respect your boundaries or will even try to use what you’ve been through for their own personal gain.
I am still working on this by taking care of myself. Self care. Living a life that brings joy. I hope the following makes sense: It took time to get to a place where I did not care how my actions impact other people. That’s not to say I would be ok hurting someone, but if my intentions come from a good place and I am being mindful, and I’m doing what is best for my girls, myself, and my family, I can’t care what anyone thinks about how I process treatment, or how someone feels about how I’m living my life.
My therapist said something that really resonated with me a few weeks ago. The opposite of love isn’t hate. It’s indifference. This sounds easier than it is, but focusing on yourself will slowly get you to a point where you’ll carry less anxiety and will spend less time fixating on what isn’t going well or how others may have treated you unfairly.
I started taking anxiety medication while Margot was in treatment, and it really helped me get through a difficult time. Talk to a medical professional if you feel that you may benefit from medication.
This is fairly obvious, but exercise is good for your mind and body. It is a chance to disconnect from the world and to focus on yourself. It makes you healthier, stronger, and will leave you feeling more centered. After about fifteen months of not working out outside of my home, I was finally able to go to masked Pilates and it has been life-changing. I’ve seen such a difference in how I feel (mentally) those days.
Organize and declutter
If you’re anything like me and find organizing to be an enjoyable, stress-relieving activity, this can be great for reducing anxiety. There are a few things to remember though. This is something I wanted to dive into with my therapist because I was concerned about the fact that this is something I do when I’m stressed. She said that as long as I know that if my home is a mess, it doesn’t mean I am a mess, and if I am able to stop between projects (so it’s not obsessive) than it is not an unhealthy activity. Plenty of people enjoy organizing and it’s not a bad way to destress, but those are a few things to be aware of.
Find a hobby
I’m one of those people who admittedly not have a hobby until recently. My time was always spent working or being a mom, and on the days that I had a moment, I’d try to squeeze a workout in, but was otherwise most-often connected to someone or something. Last month, I picked up some boxwoods and decided to buy a few flowers for our planters. I didn’t know I’d enjoy it so much and kept going back to the nursery for more. It’s not possible to plant something new every day, but caring for your garden is relaxing and can be done daily. Try reading, painting, knitting, drawing, or a puzzle.
Get comfortable saying no
The last year really helped me open my eyes when it comes to what I say yes to and how I engage with people. I used to feel so much anxiety and pressure when asked to make plans, take on a partnerships, or even to respond to messages from people who follow me on instagram. It was all about not wanting to let people down and feeling like I had to do it all.
My therapist suggested just saying “no” without an explanation because the explanation can be anxiety-inducing and opens the conversation for an opinion or exchange (which can also cause anxiety). You can say “I’m sorry, I can’t” or “that doesn’t work for me” and that’s enough. There is no need to defend yourself. If someone asks you to do something you’re not comfortable with and you go into a long explanation of why it doesn’t work, you’re opening up the forum to have a possible discussion, putting yourself in a place where your anxiety might increase. Learning to say no did not happen overnight and slowly but surely, it can actually start to feel empowering.