stress management

Stress x Money

In the world humans have created, money is intrinsically linked to our sense of safety. Everything we’ve learned about how to survive & thrive involves money. So, when we think we don’t have enough money, our body reacts as though our life is at stake.

The past few months, I’ve run into some circumstances that have spread me thin financially, and I’ve been going into full-blown survival mode. For me, that’s been manifesting as a giant brain tornado — thinking TOO MUCH about “what do I doooo?!”, trying to control everything, complaining, feeling exhausted, beating myself up for not ‘getting enough done’, bingeing on screens, and feeling out-of-touch with my old friends Ease & Enjoyment.

Here’s what’s been helping me:

  • Coming up with a plan that I feel okay with (including a worst-case-scenario contingency), and then choosing to trust that plan every time I start freaking out.

  • Acknowledging my ‘wins’, even (especially!) the little things, every damn day.

  • Recognizing my humanness — I’m a person, not a money-making machine, and I have needs & limits!

  • Making time to reconnect with & care for myself physically & emotionally by meditating, moving my body, & spending time in nature

How to Regulate Anxiety

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Lots of people think of anxiety as a mental thing — negative self-talk, ruminating thoughts, catstrophizing... But that’s only part of the story — anxiety is at least as much a bodily experience as it is a mental one.

I don’t know about you but, when I’m having a full-blown anxiety attack, thinking ‘nice thoughts’ is usually not enough to calm me down. When my body is really activated, I need to address it directly. And science has confirmed my personal experience — emulating a calm state in the body can help the entire nervous system to settle down. Here’s how to do it:

  • Exhale completely • Deep breathing is often recommended to folx experiencing anxiety. But rather than hyperventilating or exaggerating your inhale (which can exacerbate anxiety) try starting with a complete exhale; then relax your torso and allow your lungs to naturally refill before exhaling completely again.

  • Use your Peripherals • When our defenses are activated, our vision naturally becomes very focused & vigilant; so shifting our perspective to be wider & more-relaxed imitates & reinforces a relaxed state.

  • Relax your muscles • Most of us have a tendency, when we’re anxious, to tense up in our face & jaw, shoulders, back, hands, and even our legs & feet; we can help to reverse the anxiety by consciously relaxing our muscles.

  • Notice that you are safe • Point out things you see, hear, & feel around you — the furniture in the room, the fan, the ground beneath you... Noticing that we are physically in a safe environment helps bring us out of the anxiety storm and into a state of feeling safe, which calms our nervous system.

  • Smile • Smiling has been shown to reduce our heart rate and release feel-good brain chemicals. For me, this is most helpful once I’ve neutralized a bit from crisis mode; it helps me shift from a neutral state to something more positive & optimistic

Titration x Productivity

We all know that moment: life is starting to get challenging and we’re feeling stretched, but our schedule is full and we have a lot on our plate.

In these moments, we have a choice: We can push ahead & test our limits. Or we can slow down and titrate (i.e. continuously measure & adjust the balance of) our stress levels to stay within our zone of tolerance.

Sometimes it’s good to push our limits and know what we’re capable of. And, when our giant pile of to-do’s is looming over us, it’s easy to think that the fastest/easiest thing to do is to ‘get it over with’ and rest later. But if we push ourselves to the point of burnout, it can take a lot of time & self-care to get back to health.

On the other hand, if we’re monitoring how we feel, taking breaks, and adjusting the amount of stress we put ourselves through, we allow ourselves to rest & recover as we go along. It can seem counterintuitive, but managing our stress levels in this way can help us to be more productive in the long run. We may work more slowly than we’re capable of, but we do better work with a healthy, well-rested body+mind. And we get to skip the days- or weeks-long burnout recovery period!

Burnout x The Stress Cycle

A lot of us have grown to view stress as this Big, Bad Monster. All the time, we hear about the havoc it wreaks on our bodies & brains

But that’s only part of the story. In fact, stress is actually really healthy & helpful! If it doesn’t seem like it, it’s because we’re not doing stress ‘right’

You see, stress belongs as part of a complete cycle. Our bodies have intelligently evolved to (1) Activate our Resources & (2) Take Action when danger is present, then to (3) Release & (4) Rest when we are safe

Until you take action, move your body, and allow yourself time to release the tension in your body and truly relax, you’re going to stay Activated. If you feel like you’re always stressed or exhausted, you’re probably missing one of these steps. And you’re not alone!

Many of us weren’t taught how to take effective action. Plus, ‘effective action’ has a different meaning now than it did long ago — often it doesn’t include moving your body, which is crucial for releasing the energy that was generated when you became Activated.

And, perhaps worst of all, we’re not relaxing & resting properly. This is a process that takes more time than most people allow for. And, when we do sit down at the end of our day, we’re more likely to numb out or distract ourselves than to mindfully relax.

Staying in that Activated state for too long is what hurts us, not the existence of stress itself. So the next time you’re feeling burnt out, remember:

  • Don’t Stress Over Stress • Stress isn’t bad — it’s a natural process that you are inherently equipped to handle.

  • Complete the Cycle • The more stressed you are, the more time & attention your body needs to release, relax, & rest. Put away the distractions. Stretch, wiggle, run, dance. Relax your muscles. Breathe.

  • Stay Present • Our bodies naturally know how to process stress. But, in order for it to happen, we need to pay attention to our bodies messages — a.k.a. the sensations & urges that arise when we pause to notice.

How to (Lovingly) Deal With your Inner Perfectionist

A note to my fellow perfectionists-in-recovery: You don’t have to struggle with your inner-perfectionist! You just need to give her a better job. The urge to plan & perfect is not ‘bad’ or wrong. It’s natural to want to predict & control — it’s hardwired into us to keep us safe.

My inner-perfectionist is always scanning for things that could go wrong, and trying to formulate the perfect plan that will protect me from any & all bullshit. But we do not have ultimate control over our circumstances, and sometimes life throws a big pile o’ shit at our perfect plan.

And I don’t know about you, but I don’t really find comfort in ‘just letting go of the reigns’ or telling myself “whatever happens happens”. I find it much more helpful to give my inner-perfectionist a job that suits her skills — I have her plan for when everything goes to shit.

I think about practical needs, like housing & food & rest. But I also think about how I’ll take care of myself emotionally, and make a list of who I can rely on for help. I do this for anything that I might be worried about, big or small. It reminds me that I can get through anything, which gives me peace. And it makes my inner-perfectionist a valuable part of the team, rather than something to be reigned in or repressed.

Planners x Mental Health

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New year, new planner! 😍

Using a planner has been sooo helpful for managing my mental health and manifesting my dreams.

Before I started using a planner, my brain was constantly like, ‘don’t forget to _______’ and ‘I really need to _______’ and ‘I don’t _______ enough’ and ‘I feel like I’ll never _______’

And when I wasn’t stressing about what I should or shouldn’t be doing, I was escaping my feelings at the bar or vegging in front of the TV (which, as you might’ve guessed, were not the activities I wanted to be doing more of)

Now, every Monday, I look at all the notes and to-do’s I’ve jotted down throughout the week, divide them into baby steps, prioritize them, and schedule them out — all of them! I try to balance my time for work, self-care, and relationships in a way that feels right each week.

Then, when those thoughts come up, I can put them to rest knowing that it will all be done. And I take comfort in knowing that my time is dedicated to the things that matter to me.