Let's Talk About Stress + Controlling Our Reactions

Stress: Something that is an unavoidable and unpleasant part of life. We all experience it, and we all handle it differently.

I am personally not great at handling stressful situations. I get overwhelmed, emotional, and have major anxiety. I also get stressed out really easily - not great.

I tend to get overly worked up and stressed out over problems and situations that maybe don't merit that type of reaction. I am a people pleaser and hate when I feel that someone is disappointed in me, angry with me, or just plain doesn't like me. I'm also a bit of a neat-freak AND a perfectionist (when it comes to some things). All of this leads to me getting stressed out so easily - and quite often.

Luckily for me, I am married to a level-headed, pragmatic man who is so wonderful in helping me work through my stress and see situations for what they really are. I am so thankful for Ben and his calm, loving perspective and advice.

I've gotten a lot better about keeping my stress levels down. You can check out some of my tips for managing stress here.

I've learned that you have control over your reactions to situations - and that's it. You can't always control situations, or problems that arise. You can't control how people feel about you (nor does it matter). You can't control what someone says to you or what deadlines you have or what unexpected event happens.

But you CAN control how you allow yourself to feel about all of it...how you choose to react. A situation is only stressful if stress is how you react to it. A person's words are only hurtful if you allow yourself to feel hurt by them. A problem that comes up unexpectedly is only overwhelming and devastating if that is how you let yourself react to it.

Your reaction to something gives it it's value.

You can choose to react in a level-headed, unemotional, and practical way. You can look a problem square in the eye and choose to stay calm and tackle it in a methodical and efficient way. You can make the choice to not allow what others think or say of you elicit an emotional response.

You can choose how you react to every single situation that you encounter.

Ok, so, this mindset is a bit extreme. Obviously, we can't always have that much control over our natural responses and emotional reactions. But the point is that this is a good thing to strive for... to look at problems, interactions, and potential stresses with a clear, unemotional, and solution-driven mindset.

Easier said than done, but still an admirable aspiration, don't you think?

I've been reading 'The Daily Stoic' this year, and I highly recommend it. It talks a lot about choosing how to react to situations and not letting your emotions get in the way. It talks about staying in the moment and being aware of yourself and how you interpret things. It's good. You can get it here.

How do you handle stress? What are your tips for controlling your reactions? Please share in the comments below!

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Tips For Dealing With Stress And Anxiety

Stress and anxiety are things that a good majority of people deal with on a daily basis. For many of us, our lives are busy and full of deadlines, obligations, and To-Do lists that are a mile long. By now, most of us have heard about how bad stress is for our bodies and overall health. So, clearly, dealing with our stress and anxiety should be a priority! Learning how to manage and work through those feelings is important and there are several simple tips that I've found to be very helpful with this.

  1. Sleep. We’ve probably all experienced the power of sleep (or lack thereof) over our emotions. Problems seem bigger at night, and less so in the morning after a good night’s rest. Sleep is crucial for our brains to decompress and repair themselves. Getting enough sleep helps you to be able to have a fresh and clear perspective on things. Try getting an extra hour or two of sleep at night and you are sure to wake up feeling much better and ready to take on whatever your day has in store. 
  2. Meditate. I get pretty bad anxiety sometimes, to the point that I feel physically sick and short of breath. I’ve found that meditating daily has helped me to be able to better control my breathing and my thoughts throughout the day. Since starting to meditate, I’ve definitely noticed myself being able to calm myself down from cases of extreme stress and anxiety. Having some quiet, peaceful time every day to connect with yourself, quiet your mind, and focus on your breathing will help you to be able to re-center yourself throughout your day. Whether you have five minutes or twenty, take some time every day to be alone, quiet, and at peace. 
  3. Organize. Having a lack of organization in your life can be very stress-inducing. Even if you don’t realize it, having a messy house or a cluttered desk is not great for your peace of mind. Set aside some time to organize! Having things in their proper place will feel so good! And having clean, beautiful surfaces is much more calming and conducive to healthy thoughts and productivity than a messy, cluttered, and un-aesthetically pleasing space. 
  4. Plan. Going along with number three, try organizing your life and your To-Do list: plan. If you don’t have a day planner yet, I highly recommend that you get one! I use a Day Designer and I could go on and on raving about how much it has changed my life. Being able to plan ahead and schedule your days out is such a great way to stay organized and on track. Writing out your To-Do list helps you to keep track of everything that you need to do. Instead of trying to keep everything straight in your head, putting your tasks and goals and appointments on paper will take stress out of your life. 
  5. Prioritize. We all have a million things to do each day. Figuring out where to start can be VERY stressful. If you’re anything like me, having a huge To-Do list and not knowing what task to begin with often times leads to me sitting in front of my computer or phone, procrastinating. Which makes me stressed, because I get nothing done. Prioritizing is the answer! Every day, try picking your top three NON-negotiable tasks that absolutely MUST be completed that day. Everything else comes second, but those top three tasks are of pressing importance and simply MUST be completed. Start with those three tasks. Then, you can start moving down the rest of your list. It can be easy to put off the most unpleasant or challenging tasks. Try this: do those tasks FIRST. Think how great and free you will feel once those dreaded tasks are done! Then you can move on to the easier, fun, or more pleasant tasks on your list. 
  6. Exercise. Exercising gives you endorphins, which make you happy. It also helps to release stress and it gives you energy! I love to work out in the morning. It gets my heart pumping, gets oxygen to my brain, gets my body loosened up and moving, and helps me to feel good about myself, having accomplished something that is good for myself before my day has even fully begun! No need to trek to a gym. There are PLENTY of exercise programs and videos that you can do right at home. In your PJs even, if you’d like! Exercise is such an amazing stress reliever, and it is so good for your body and mind. 
  7. Breathe. When you feel yourself overwhelmed with stress and anxiety, try this: close your eyes, breathe in through your nose for the count of ten, hold your breath for five, then exhale slowly through your mouth for ten. Repeat this several times, sitting quietly with your eyes closed. Focus on your breathing. 

Remember, you are in control of your thoughts! Your thoughts and feelings do not control you unless you let them. Isn’t that a nice realization? Next time you find yourself stressed and anxious, try the above tips for dealing with those unpleasant feelings. 

What are your go-to stress relief techniques?

xo, Anna