Lately, amidst all the standardized tests and graduate school applications, I’ve realized that two things many of us fail to do amidst chaos are
1) effectively managing our stress levels and
2) properly regulate our emotions.
The word “effectively” is important there. Too often people hide their problems through the use of mechanisms such as binge drinking or over reliance on Anti-Depressants, all the while crying silently where no one can see them. They are stretched to their max mentally. Usually when we think of words such as “health”, “gym” or even “Fitblog”, we imagine a person going to the track, running 13 or so miles than eating a healthy meal and posting pictures of it. “Fit” as a concept though is so much more: it’s also mental and emotional health. We often times think our outer display of fitness supersedes our inward need for joy, stability and calm.
We all need tools during stressful times. Life often taxes our emotions and we simply don’t understand why things are happening to us. We ask “Why me?” instead of “How can I deal with this in an appropriate manner?” There’s a few ways to deal with chaos and these are the ones I’ve picked up over the years that have helped me tremendously. Hopefully in here somewhere is useful advice for you to be sure you are taking care of yourself--- not just by your daily logging of miles on the treadmill, but also but taking time out for yourself to remain balanced.
1) Create a schedule / list– often times when life is chaotic, we find ourselves looking for a sense of control. Frequently little problems (I call them “brushfires”) occur one right after the other. You forever wind up chasing your tail because before you take down 1 problem, 3 more have appeared. A list or schedule where you can dictate when you are dealing with each problem will be helpful to give you a sense of control over the various situations. Also by writing things down, you don’t have to constantly remember which
villain you must next take down issue must next be remedied. It sounds small, but this little tool helps a lot.
2) Steer clear from binge drinking – Alcohol doesn’t take away the problem. Instead, it leaves you with a hangover, extra pounds and now you have to address the situation with a pounding head plus any mistakes you made while intoxicated. It won’t help and will actually add to your stress far too often. Be wary when a well-meaning friend says “let’s hang out at the bar, it’ll be good for you.” Instead go outside, maybe for a hike or meet at the coffee shop if you need to talk to someone over light food.
3) Watch over training – on the opposite end of the spectrum taking out all your frustration on the treadmill might not be so good either. After you burn out your legs, central nervous system and adrenaline, often you’ll find that you’re too tired to move to actually address your problems and now you’re depressed. Then 2 or 3 weeks roll by and you simply don’t go to the gym. Maintaining balance is hard, but your physical fitness can only aid in your mental health. Don’t go any less &don’t go any more than you’ve been going as much as possible. You don’t need to be a hero-- you just need remain consistent.
4) Do most feared tasks first – I’ve lived by this creed for years. Whatever you have to do, be it talk to that manager and deliver the bad news, ask that person for help in making that payment or calling her up and apologizing, do the most feared thing on your list first. Why? Because this will build confidence and you’ll realize that things aren’t as bad as you thought -- you looked a bad situation in its face and defeated it. This will remove some stress, make you happier and now, you mighty warrior you, you can do anything.
5) Don’t go it alone – No matter what’s going on, someone understands—a friend, spouse, partner, family member. Someone will get you. Write that email. Make that phone call. Send that text. There’s a saying that states, “Two are better than one because they have a reward for their labor. For if one falls the other is there to lift him up. Woe to the one who falls when no one is there to lift him!” In short, often times we need others to reflect back solutions and remind us that we’re okay. We are not the problem---we are dealing with a temporary problem. Friends’ and loved ones’ love lasts longer than our stress. Why not utilize them?
6) Be mindful of your diet – We get depressed and usually have two reactions to food. We over indulge or we starve. Both are not good. You need your strength but you don’t need the extra 10 pounds that now you will be trying to get rid of the next 3 months. Force yourself to eat healthy even if it’s light. Fruits and Veggies will make you feel better.
7) Participate in mindful silence- We all believe different things here. It might be spending time in prayer at your church or synagogue. It might be lengthened yoga for you in the studio, mountaintop or lake. It might be a day out in the woods or the long 6 hour flight to your next meeting. Whatever the case, you need a mechanism for erasing the noise in your life that clouds your thoughts. We too often cannot simply find time to reflect on our lives because we live moment to moment. Looking for the next partner, worrying where the next dollar is coming from (or going to) and constantly trying to stay a step ahead while remaining 2 steps behind. Even when things are calm, try to find 30 minutes a day where there is no one but you. It’s hard in this world of social media where our phones are constantly ringing with notices of Likes, Tweets and Video Responses. Turn it off so that the world’s noise doesn’t drown out your inner peace.
8) Write – Use a journal (paper or an online one), start a blog (you can make it public or private). If you don’t like writing, record videos on your computer that no one will ever see and save them to your files. The key is to speak or write your emotions so as to gain clarity on what you feel. Often time when you go back later, you will see or notice new things that you didn’t before.
9) Chuck the Deuces – Perhaps the hardest of all, learn when certain people are not good for you. Either the boyfriend that adds to your stress levels with his constant flirting and late nights out, or the friend who only knows how to deal with life by being in a constant state of intoxication. Your inner circle must be composed of people who can lift you up when you need help--- not users and narcissists too self-involved to lend you a hand.
You don’t have to wait for a hero to save you (though if you shine a light, I will appear dramatically and pose for pictures before assisting you). You can be your own simply by being sure to always have the words “Self-Care” in mind when dealing with whatever life throws at you.
The sound of sirens outside these windows means it time for me to suit up. But remember, you are often your own best advocate. Learn to deal with life’s problems now and as you get older, no matter what comes your way, you’ll have the gifts needed to deal with them.