Stress is a huge topic.
When I was first pondering how would I approach this blog, I felt overwhelmed. I had so many ideas bouncing around in my mind, all screaming for attention, all protesting that they were the most important, the ONE thing that needed to be told. But the truth is, stress is complex. There is no ONE idea, ONE approach, ONE solution. And that’s because there are myriad things that stress us out and because we’re all individuals so stress will affect each and every one of us differently.


One image that I often conjure up when I’m stressed is the idea of a Stress Bucket. I don’t know about you, but when I picture my Stress Bucket, it is often sloppy and the stress is just splashing around as I swish the bucket back and forth in my daily life. The bucket is heavy and sometimes stress spills out, as it inevitably will if I’m sloshing it around.
An important thing to remember when you’re lugging this bucket around is that you’re not alone. It is so much easier to carry the load with a friend’s (or professional’s!) help. So share it.
Another thing that is helpful is to recognize is how stress makes you feel. And I mean coming up with more words than the obvious “I feel stressed!”. Notice what is happening in your body and your mind. Do your thoughts spiral? Does your body tense up? Do you sleep restlessly? Are you snappy & irritable? Take note of these things so that when they start to creep in, you can step in with some strategies before you drop your bucket and there’s stress all over the floor.


So, speaking of strategies, what are yours? That’s right, everyone has different things that work for them; maybe you should take some time and reflect on what works for you. Investing a little time now will help you oh so much later. That said, there are some general guidelines that we can look to for reducing stress.

I love the quote:

Don’t forget to drink water and get some sunlight because you’re basically a house plant with more complicated emotions.

Unknown.

It really sums up some core stress-reduction techniques and says it like it is: take care of yourself. It may sound simple or cliché, but sometimes things are cliché for a reason. So:


Drink water – lots of it
Eat well – veggies, lots of them
Get outside – Vitamin D is good for you
• While you’re outside, get some exercise – It is the #1 thing you can do to reduce your stress
Sleep – I think that Western workaholism makes this a real struggle for people to prioritize, but sleep is the most restorative thing you can do for yourself
• Do something to deal with those complicated emotions – Those emotions that houseplants don’t have, those are so important. Don’t ignore them or push them down. Learn to feel them and let them out. Crying is one of the most cathartic experiences when you’re stressed, you’ll feel so much better after, I promise.
Get creative – seriously, dance, journal, paint, play music. Whatever floats your boat, do it, and love it. If you’re stressed about how much time it will take, give yourself 20 minutes. Set a timer, then just let loose like you did when you were a kid.
Talk – talk it out with someone. Houseplants thrive when they are spoken or sung to, let’s thrive like houseplants and talk to each other. (Am I taking this analogy too far?)
Unplug – Gasp. I know. Again, set a timer to deal with your FOMO and just be free. Don’t make me quote the digital detox studies, you already have enough reading to do.
Create space – Wherever you can. Give yourself space to breathe. Have the courage to say no and to put a few things on pause. You can usually come back to them without too much trouble


Did you make it through the list? Are you now stressed that you have to remember to do all of those things? Relax. You don’t have to do ALL of them, and you don’t have to do all them all at once right now! Just keep them in your back pocket so you’re ready.
Did you notice how active all the things on that list were? I mean, besides sleep (although your body is surprisingly active while you sleep), the thing with stress is, you have to let it out. It’s just running around having a party inside you so you need to give it an outlet, run, cry, create, talk. Find what works for you and do it. If you don’t, it will just come out in other ways, you know? Those ones we don’t like? Like being crabby or forgetting things? Find a healthier way of letting it out and you’ll feel way better (and so will everyone else).


Let’s end with a simple relaxation exercise. Use this technique often to help you take a minor pause and to regain some control. Close your eyes and take a deep breath for a count of 4 seconds, then breathe out for 4 seconds. Repeat. Smile. You’ve got this.