So, today I wanted to do a little post about my Stressbusters, the little things I do, both in the long and short-term, to help with stress and anxiety.
First, let’s do a quick breakfast recap. Breakfast was delicious and filling this morning. I wanted something with good staying power because I had an early gym session where I did strength + circuit training. (On a side note, someone asked in the post yesterday if I could be more detailed in describing my strength training routine. In the near future, I hope to do a post just on these exercises with photos of me doing them from home (can’t bring the camera to the gym- which i think is a good thing!).
I had some black tea + rice milk + sugar in the raw, and a “waffle sandwich”, using whole grain, flax waffles (Nature’s Path), almond butter, apricot jam, and half a banana. Lots of protein- filled me right up!
So, on to Stressbusters. As I have said earlier, this blog is not just about what I eat, but how I find balance, and I wanted to give you some of the tips I use in my daily life. For example, I really dislike the subway. I am a bit claustrophobic – I grew up in sunny Miami and we had no basements and never went underground (you can’t dig below 5 feet or something). It just doesn’t seem natural to me. But, the subway is NYC transportation and I have to take it! I can’t take cabs everywhere….
The most stressful times for me are when the train stops underground (or under the river-eek!) between stations. At these moments, I have to work on staying relaxed and calm. Here are the tools i use and tips I recommend to you:
Listen to relaxing music. I always bring my iPod with me when I am facing a stressful situation. I love Tracy Chapman and Norah Jones. This helps me tune out the world and all the people around me- especially on the subway. I think this is really helpful before walking into any stressful situation- a job interview, an important meeting, or a presentation.
Breathe. Take long, deep breaths, and close your eyes. Focus especially on the areas in your body where you are tensing up because of your fear, stress, or anxiety and focus on breathing into those areas. Visualize the muscles becoming soft- and they will unclench. Once your muscles relax, you will feel your heart rate go down, your palms will stop sweating. All of the symptoms you are feeling should lessen. Do this as much as you have to, bringing yourself back to your breath.
Call your thoughts out for what they are- just thoughts. If you have ever experienced intense anxiety, you know you can have some pretty crazy thoughts. Try to remain as aware as possible in moments like this. Call them what they are- name whats going on. For example, “That’s just an irrational thought”. “Thats a lonely thought.” “Thats a fearful thought.” Or my favorite, “That’s just a habitual thought.” When you can step back from your thoughts, you don’t get as drawn into them. They just pass you by. You can think the craziest things in the world- but remember, they hold no weight. They are not reality. In fact, they often separate you from the objective reality which is: everything is OK. Keep reminding yourself of that.
Take care of yourself by being a little indulgent. This is a more long term tip, but so important. Take relaxing baths or read gossip magazines. Watch bad TV. Eat your favorite flavor of ice cream. Don’t feel guilty for it! These little things are what your body and mind need sometimes to withdraw from the craziness of the world and just zone out. If you feel like reading an intellectual novel or the newspaper, great. But don’t deprive yourself of doing something silly for a while if that’s what you want to do.
Reflect and visualize. If you have a really bad day, where stress or anxiety really gets to you, think about why. Maybe write down your thoughts or just sit for a moment, going over how you reacted to different situations and why. Instead of beating yourself up, visualize positive outcomes for similar situations in the future. Visualization is such a powerful tool. Olympic athletes use this all the time. I tried this in the weeks before walking into my LSAT exam, a three hour, hardcore test. I still got nervous, but I tried to continue going back to my visualization, and say to myself, “You’re kicking ass! Keep going.” This kept me in the game- I wouldn’t give up.
Go to your happy place. This sounds really silly, but everyone should have one. Picture a time when you felt carefree and happy, somewhere serene and beautiful, surrounded by people you love. If I am at the doctor geting my blood drawn (which I hate) I breathe, close my eyes and picture this:
On a freezing winter day in New York, when someone pushes me on the subway, I lose my keys, and my cat throws up all over the carpet, this one really helps.
I’m not perfect, and these tools don’t always work to calm me completely. But my advice to anyone who struggles with anxiety or deep stress is do not give up, keep going back to these tools, or whatever tools you use, again and again, and you can and will change the way you think and the way you react to the world. This is all just habit- and you can undo these habitual patterns by creating new, more positive ones. Just like anything else in life- learning to play the piano or taking up a new sport- this stuff takes patience and practice.
I would love to hear more about the tools you use when facing stress. Feel free to leave your additions to this list in my comments section.
Alright, I’m off. Have a great day, all.