Cut Your Stress Into Bite-Sized Pieces So It Doesn't Consume You

Ekingwrites

Getting control over small things can make a big difference.

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Have you ever seen a picture of earth from space?

Did you panic when you realized the thin blue layer surrounding our planet is the only thing separating us from certain death?

When you look around your house, are you paralyzed by the number of jobs that need to be done?

Does opening your emails in the morning fill you with dread?

Can you spot the similarities in all of these situations?

It's what can happen when we focus on the big picture.

So whether you're thinking about life, the universe, and everything, or staring down mountains of dirty dishes and laundry, it has the same effect.

It's overwhelming.

And if you don't have a strategy for dealing with that feeling, it can consume and paralyze you.

So when I'm freaking out, I take that stress pie and cut it into pieces.

I do small things to regain control over what I can to stop myself from spinning and get back on track.

I'm always amazed at how quickly simple things can ground me.

This makes sense because so many things in life are out of our control. If we focus on those, we feel helpless. But doing something to improve your life at the moment, no matter how small, gives you a sense of control.

These small things help me regain my equilibrium when I start to spin out, and I need to calm down.

Hopefully, they can help you too.

If you're feeling out of sorts, try these:

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Make your bed.

I know it sounds too simple, but making your bed is excellent for your mood.

It's that tangible sense of satisfaction that makes you feel productive from the very beginning of your day.

There are loads of other good reasons to make your bed every morning, too.

Some of the possible benefits are:

  • A feeling of accomplishment
  • A sense of calm
  • Better sleep
  • Enhanced organization
  • Improved focus
  • Relaxation
  • Stress reduction

Studies have even shown that bed makers are happier, more successful, and have more sex.

Even though most of the evidence is anecdotal, bed-making is important enough to have a whole day devoted to it.

September 11th is National "Make Your Bed" day.

Take a shower.

Showering can anchor your day and give it a solid start or end.

It's excellent for creativity, and research suggests the physical warmth of bathing can comfort you when you're lonely.

You can even tell a lot about yourself by how you bathe; singing, tooth brushing, lounging, and other shower habits can be very revealing.

It's the backbone of my morning routine, and apparently, I'm not alone.

A recent survey of 1000 women found that a morning shower made most of them feel more relaxed and attractive and gave them a more positive outlook for their day.

I totally understand because "before-shower" me is very different from "after-shower" me.

So taking a shower might not make the stress disappear, but it will put you in a better frame of mind to face it.

Clean the dirtiest room in your house.

Living in a messy house could be causing you more grief than you think.

You probably have that one area in your home that you can never get time to get to.

It weighs on your mind and bugs you every time you pass it or think about it.

That one room or area that never gets cleaned is a monkey on your back, so cleaning it will give you a feeling of well-being that lasts.

Every time you walk past it, you'll smile, and the sense of accomplishment will empower you.

But it's more than mental. Visual clutter has been found to have a negative impact on people.

In 2011, researchers found that clutter can make it hard to focus.

They found that the visual cortex can be "overwhelmed by task-irrelevant objects, making it harder to allocate attention and complete tasks efficiently."

That's just a fancy way of saying that when you're in a room with a bunch of stuff and clutter around you, it's distracting, so it's hard for you to concentrate on what you're doing.

So practicing a little feng shui could be helpful. Even though the scientific community is not 100% convinced about its effectiveness, many people swear by it.

In any case, if you clean up that dirtiest, most cluttered room or area, it'll eliminate some of that visual distraction and the nagging feeling that goes with it.

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Get into a routine.

When the pandemic hit, I closed my business, and it really threw me for a loop.

I'm used to rock-solid daily routines - I run a home daycare.

When it went on hold, I felt aimless. The days started bleeding into one another. It was disorienting and unsettling.

So, I put myself on a schedule with fixed anchors in my day.

Creating a routine helped immensely.

It works for the children, it worked for me, and it just might work for you.

Reframe the experience.

I know this sounds way too simple, but it works for me.

Whether I'm overwhelmed by projects, deadlines, or housework, I pull the release valve on the pressure by literally saying these affirmations out loud:

  • "I am so lucky to always have so much to keep me busy."
  • "I always have enough time to do everything I need to do."

And just like that, I'm decompressed. Sometimes I have to say it a few times, but once it takes, I'm golden.

Before discovering this gratitude hack, I'd spend so much time freaking out about how to fit everything into my day that I'd get nothing done.

This little pep talk helps get me past that overwhelm-induced paralysis, and there's a reason for this. It's science!

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There's another way you can nip overwhelm at the source.

It's called Voluntary Simplicity, and it's a lifestyle.

Voluntary Simplicity focuses on:

  • Free time
  • Relationships
  • Reduced stress
  • Stabilizing mental health
  • Mindful consumption
  • Meaningfulness/Gratitude

It's thought to cut down on the pressures caused by over-consumption and the lifestyle it creates.

In this way, you tackle your anxiety at the source.

The idea is, if you want for less, you won't have to complicate your life to get what you need.

This lifestyle is thought to help people:

  • Feel more in control
  • Decrease financial commitments
  • Reduce the desire for material things
  • Scale back and slow down
  • Invest more time in family and interests
  • Reduce career pressures
  • Reduce their carbon footprint
  • Focus on personal fulfillment

But even if Voluntary Simplicity is something that would work for you, maybe just taking a page or two from that playbook would be helpful.

Maybe dialing it back in one or two key areas could give you some relief.

Always remember, though, if you're struggling with mental illness or severe emotional distress, please contact a doctor or mental health professional.

If you're in crisis, please call a helpline.

But for everyone else, I hope this list has been helpful.

These are all things I do to reel myself back in when I start to feel overwhelmed.

I do the little things that make me feel better in the moment to create the mental space I need to tackle the bigger issues.

Life can seem overwhelming when viewed through a wide lens.

By pulling your focus a little tighter, you'll realize that there are lots of little ways to make yourself feel better.

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Musician, writer, toddler wrangler. Author of "How To Be Wise AF" guided journal available on Amazon as well as "The Automatic Parent" due out in Feb. 2022.

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