What was I thinking? In 2 days my job will take me to Kenya. But since I’m also a full-time online student, I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to get 6-weeks worth of school work done.
Not only did I have school to worry about, but at my job the pressure was high and the patience was low. Everyone felt the side-effects of when time moves on and leaves us behind. Over the last three weeks I picked up little tricks that I used every day that made one of my coworkers ask, “How are you calm right now?”
Since I write in the moment, at this moment, I feel like a teakettle with a clogged vent! I took a look at what I was doing, and what I could do better, to make a checklist of how to handle a stressful day and walk away with some sanity…
1. Accomplish small tasks
Each week for my school there are small tasks that need to be done. When I look at all the work that has to be finished by the end of the semester I want to wrap myself up like a blanket-burrito and dive into a bag of Cheetos.
Instead of being overwhelmed, I make a check list of simple tasks I can accomplish. To me, crossing out each box is like giving a dog a treat. Love that dopamine!
Some small task ideas:
- Clean one spot in the room for 15 minutes.
- Dust something.
- Organize files—whether it’s files on your computer or that tower of papers on your desk. (If you don’t clean it up now, I’m pretty sure some girl is going to get locked in there and you’ll have to deal with princes and other fairy tale riffraff stopping by…)
There are more studies that show the benefits of exercise than the number of pushups I can do. But just because it’s good and helpful doesn’t mean it’s easy. And when I have an endless to do list of things that are due tomorrow, blocking out a 45-minute chunk to work out can feel like I’m making things harder on myself later.
But actually, I’ve found that taking time to challenge myself physically helps me think clearer. Plus, sticking to the number of repetitions and sets in a move ties into step #1: each exercise is another set of accomplishments!
Looking for some exercise inspiration? Here’s the collection I use. As an added bonus, my gym has a hydro-massage and a tanning booth for members as a perk for their membership. If you’re interested, take a look to see if someplace somewhere has something similar in your area.
3. Take a walk
Uhm, isn’t that the same as exercising? Yes and no. While walking can be a good warm up before exercise, when we go for a walk during a stressful season think of it more as a meander.
Purposefully watch how the wind moves across the grass. Marvel at the sunlight on your skin. Smile at others who pass by. Wonder about impossible questions.
This walk is a period of release and transition.
4. Create something
Whether you paint like Janey from Not Another Teen Movie (haven’t watched it but this gif makes me want to), or practice your baking and cooking skills (PB&J counts), take some time to step away and create just for fun.
In all honesty, I neglect this step the most of all. Since I create graphics and videos for my job and for school I create 3D characters, I think, nah, I’ve already been creative today.
But there’s a gratifying freedom that comes from blasting some Lord Huron and slapping some paint on a paper (or canvas if you’re fancy).
5. Ocean breathing
I admit, this is a weird one. I learned it when I took a yoga class at the hospital. Although you might not want to do this in a restaurant or on the job, when you get home take some time to breathe like the ocean.
I might be wrong, but I learned ocean breathing as inhaling through your nose and exhaling from your mouth. But the key to ocean breathing is when you breathe OUT, try to sound like the ocean! If you’re like me and have spent 99.99997% of your life in a land locked state, the video below is a good example of the noise to aim for.
Yep! It sounds like the earth is sighing. So give it a try, sigh right now. And if you’re at home, don’t sigh shyly either. Really get into it. Let out that pressure like not sighing is the one thing keeping all that stress bottled inside…because it might be!
I hope this list helps! If you’d like a handy reference, I like to think of these steps like a hand to punch stress in the face!
- Thumb: exercise
- Index: complete a small task
- Middle finger: take a walk
- Ring finger: ocean breathing
- Pinky: create something
But there are times when even these 5 tips to diffuse a high stress day seem to do nothing….Sometimes my inner voice screams, Hey! I followed this list and I still feel like I’m going to spontaneously combust in 11 seconds!
In those moments I eat some chocolate, pet my dog, and pray. But don’t pray for patience or you’ll get another round of opportunities to use it!
What are some things you do to get rid of some stress?
Karianne is the founder of Windmill Ways. She plays the cello professionally and currently works as an Art Director for a charity. Because she loves animated shows and movies, she studies 3D animation and graduated with a BFA with the unfortunate class of 2020. Her dream vacation would be just staying home, but "home" being a glamorous cabin somewhere in the mountains surrounded by forest.
Favorite band: Lord Huron
Favorite book: This Present Darkness
Favorite quote: "Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life. You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail." Proverbs 19:20-21 (NLT)
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