The Secret to Surviving Stress

This week has been overwhelming. The steady waves of complicated life just seem to keep coming and coming and coming. It’s been relentless. Stuff going on at home, a really busy season at work, a friend’s cancer diagnosis. The list just seems to get longer and longer. I could go on, but you get the picture. You have your own relentless life and your own overwhelming list.

So, how do I deal with this well? I find myself wanting to withdraw, wanting to cry, wanting to give up, but having to keep going. And, I know it will be at least another couple of months before it’s going to slow down. The secret to surviving this season is to look after myself really well, which means using all the stress reducing tools I have in my kit.

The top ten tools that help me survive a stressful life.

Here are the tools that help me survive a stressful life:

1.  Sleep

Getting to bed early is really important for me. Without a good night's sleep everything else is harder, and after a few late nights in a row I fall apart altogether. The world is a much more difficult place when I’m tired. It makes me cranky and teary. Prioritising sleep is really important. Saying no to one more episode, one more chapter and turning off the lights at a reasonable hour can be difficult, but it’s so worth it. 

2.  Exercise

I made it to Pilates this morning. Tick. It was good because I’ve missed the last two weeks with other commitments. Exercise is the last thing I feel like when I’m stressed. Actually, exercise is the last thing I feel like any time. But it feels good when it’s finished and all those natural feel-good chemicals that the body makes when you exercise are helpful when life is tough. After a really difficult day, going for a run is the best way for me to get the fight out of my system, and it definitely helps me sleep better.

3.  Diet

I’m not really into any of the fad diets, and I’m not super strict, but I try to be a bit more intentional than ‘all things in moderation.' I’m learning to value a healthier diet, and when life is extra hectic, I try to make good food choices. Fresh, simple, clean food is best. Fruit and veggies, meats and grains that aren’t processed or preserved are definitely the very best. Good food gives my body the fuel it needs to cope well. I make sure I’m drinking plenty of water, and I drink one of those fermented drinks with the live cultures like Buchi. Ginger & Turmeric is my favourite.

4.  Rest

It’s important to have some down time to recharge the batteries. This is different for different people. I enjoy sitting with a book or working on my quilt for a while. Usually times of extra stress are also times of extra busyness and it is hard to take time to rest, but burning the candle at both ends is not sustainable.

5.  Faith

When I’m busy and stressed, taking time to read my Bible, journal and pray becomes even more important. I am more able to cope with my own complicated life when I lift my eyes to the author of life and allow Him to speak peace and perspective into my heart. I follow a simple Bible reading plan on the You Version app called “A Moment with Scripture”. From the reading I highlight and write out a verse that speaks to me and write out a reflection and a prayer. It’s amazing how often the passage of the day speaks wisdom into the specific situation I am facing. 

When I'm busy and stressed, taking time to read my Bible, journal and pray becomes even more important.

6.  Fun

Have a coffee with a friend. Play golf. Watch a funny movie with the kids. Put on some music while you do the jobs around the house and allow yourself to have a laugh. Stress and fun don’t really go hand in hand, but laughter is really healthy for the body. I have a couple of go-to movies that always make me laugh, and some work colleagues that are helpful too.

7.  Fresh Air & Sunshine

Get outside. Go for a walk or potter in the garden. For me, there is something about having sunshine on my face and dirt on my hands that makes the whole world feel better. I have been vitamin D deficient in the past, and I know the tiredness that I felt. Spending time outside isn’t something that I do in my regular routine. I have to intentionally make it happen.

8.  Be Kind

Do something to be kind to yourself. Cook your favourite meal for dinner. Have a bubble bath. Buy some flowers for yourself. Treat yourself to a massage or a manicure. Whatever it is that makes you feel special and spoiled and brings a smile to your face. Our life is full of blessings to enjoy. Don’t wait for your birthday. Find joy in today!

9.  Meditate

When life is really busy and overwhelming I find it hard to wind down enough to rest and sleep well. The thoughts just swish around and around and I end up in a worry party, which is never much fun. When the anxiety is bubbling, meditation works a treat. I have a fantastic 30min meditation called “Resting in God” that is a beautiful combination of relaxation and meditation on scripture. I've never been disappointed when I've invested the time to do some intentional meditation.

I will consider all your works and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
— Psalm 77:12

10.  Smile

Big day ahead? Lots going on? Wash your hair. Slip on an outfit that you feel great in. Put your make-up on. Smack a smile on you face and hit the front door of your day feeling strong, confident and capable. If it unravels through the day that’s fine. Have a good night’s sleep and have another go tomorrow.

What tools do you have that help you cope with stress? I'd love to hear what works well for you!