Welcome to the blog where I give you ALL the answers to identify, get rid of, manage, or handle your stress! 

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was that simple?

Now that I have got you with my informercial title, I hope you will stick around. As per usual, I don’t have the answers. For today, I am going to try to simplify it a bit and offer some insight into what is and isn’t working for me. And I write this with the belief that although I am uniquely made, my human struggles are pretty universal. One thing I know for sure to be true: 

We all feel stress. 

Honestly, admitting that I feel stress is a new, and hard, thing for me to do. I recently came to the realization that rather than learning how to manage stress, I constantly try to minimize it. As a healthy woman with a loving husband, well-adjusted kids, many friendships, and financial freedom, I realized that I feel guilty when I have stress. So, instead of aknowledging it to myself or others, I try to hide it, from others and even to myself. I search for perspective. I focus on the fact that it “can be worse.” 

Guess what? That is true. It pretty much always can be worse. But, that doesn’t mean the stress I/we feel isn’t still real. Pretending it isn’t there doesn’t help you identify the triggers. It doesn’t lead us to tools to manage it. Ignoring it actually only makes you feel worse, in the short and/or long term. 

Maybe you have some of the same struggles that I do over feeling guilty about having stress. Or, you may ignore stress because it holds a mirror up to some things that you know you can change, but prefer to stay safely in the predictable. You might lean into a victim mentally and rather than dealing with you stress, you blame everything, and everyone, else for it. Some of you reading this likely feel overcome with stress daily. And others may be much further along in this process than I am (share your tips in the social media comments!) Most of us experience a variation of all of the above. 

Although it often doesn’t feel great in our bodies, stress itself is not innately bad. In fact, it is an important part of the equation for evolving with awareness in life. 

Stress + Rest = Growth/ Success

Stress can teach you a lot about yourself, your relationships, your choices, and your surroundings. In fact, many of you reading this invite stress into your lives, via training for endurance sports. I am guessing a lot of you wouldn’t identify the physical stress from training as “bad.” But, it is stress, and needs attention for it to add value to your life. 

Although stress is not “bad,” we know that feeling through stress can be very hard. As I personally do this I am learning how to better manage my stress (with emphasis on learning, not expecting perfection). At the same time, I am becoming more aware of the choices I make to keep stressors in my life… some of them unnecessarily.

Isn’t it amazing how each season of our life teaches us so much?

Our culture inundates us with messaging that the only way to handle stress is to remove it, or to wait it out. Ads and memes tell us that if you simply do, or buy, “X” all of your stress will be gone. And I am pretty sure we have all said, “I will feel less stressed when (insert stressor) is over, or “X” result is achieved.” 

But, even if we remove some stress from our lives, more will present itself eventually (or immediately). So, I will argue that we need to learn how to intentionally invite, remove, and how to manage stress. But, contrary to the beliefs of meme writers and marketing specialists on the internet…it is not simple. It takes many daily, small practices over a lot of time—not a giant mental shift in an hour, day, week, month, or even year. It doesn’t always just go away with a magic pill, product, or well written quote (or blog ;))

Even though it is not easy, finding ways to remove or manage stress is absolutely, without a doubt, worth it. In addition to causing uncomfortableness in a moment, accumulating or chronic stress impacts most of your body processes. It can cause insomnia, digestive problems, high blood pressure, headaches, depression, weight gain, memory loss, heart disease, infertility, pain, brain fog, immune system problems, and hormonal imbalances. 

So, what are the secrets to magically handing stress?

I am no magician, but I do have a few practices/reminders that have been working for me, and may work for you too: 

  • Identify how stress feels in your body. Where do you feel it? How do you react internally and externally? 
  • Once you know what it feels like, you can notice your stress triggers (situations and people). Limit your exposure to these as much as you can– in person and online. Practical tip— if you find certain friends to be triggering on social media, you can hide, or mute their posts for short periods of time, or indefinitely. These actions are not as concrete as the “unfriend,” “unfollow” options. And you may find that a short break allows your response to change. 
  • Take stock in how you honestly spend your time. If you aren’t sure, write it down! Identify what is life-giving for you. Find ways to have more of that, and be fully present in those moments. 
  • Find perspective. Our brains are always on the lookout for what could be harming us. Most of the time, this hyper vilignace causes unnecessary stress. When you find yourself getting intensely riled up about mostly insignificant things, try looking at the big picture. Ask yourself if this is this something that requires this much energy. Remind yourself that most things are not personal. 
  • Do the recommended stress relief things. Seriously. They work. Breathe. Bring yourself back to the present moment, through meditation or otherwise. Go outside. Have a spiritual practice. Journal. Listen to music. Dance. Go for a walk. Seek out ways to laugh. They might not magically erase your stress, but they often help (and are worth a try!)
  • Allow yourself to feel your feelings, rather than do all you can to hold them in or live seeking out constant buffers. When you need a break, find distractions intentionally and mindfully. Seek out people and activities that allow you to be yourself.
  • Unplug when resting! Give yourself the best chance to not accidentally be triggered (um, like “taking a break” but scrolling through social media) 
  • Women: understand your hormones and the impact that stress has on them. All—try adaptogens to manage stress! 
  • Athletes: mitigate training stress through daily life nutrition, recovery nutrition, body work practices, and sleep. When you plan your race calendar, consider the time you have to give to the big picture, not just the hour of training. You need all of the above to be able to handle the stress well. 
  • Choose hobbies that add value to your life. And, they can include some stress. Just try to make sure it is mostly offset by the positivity they bring, whatever that means for you. You get to choose your hobbies!

Okay, great. Now flip those switches and stop being so stressed out. 😉 Or… start today with admitting that you have stress and identifying how it feels in your body. Stop placing blame and take back some power for your choices. Then, start to figure out where you can lessen exposure to triggers and gather some tools for the rest. 

But, really— let me know if you find a magic wand. That sounds way easier. 😉