We’re entering the most joyful time of the year — and also the most stressful. Between keeping up with all of our usual daily responsibilities and doing the holiday shopping, baking, cooking, cleaning, and events, it’s no surprise that many of us find it a relief when the holidays are behind us even though we look forward to them.
But whether it’s the holidays or just usual life stress, there are a few simple things you can do to ease the stress quickly. They’re all easy and most of them will even give you more benefits than just reducing your stress.
Start your day with mindfulness
What do you do when your alarm goes off? Do you hit the ground running, checking emails and returning texts immediately? Do you lie in bed, eyes still closed, dreading the day ahead?
Try starting your day more mindfully. What might that look like? Here’s what my mindful morning looks like:
· I spend 20 minutes reading my current read
· I do 20–30 minutes of yoga
· I meditate for 10–20 minutes
· I write in my journal
· I go for a bike ride or walk (alternating days)
· I eat breakfast
Only after I do these things do I dive into work, emails, etc. Your mindful morning might not look exactly like mine. Maybe yours will include sipping a cup of coffee while watching the sunrise, doing a crossword or word search, cuddling with your kids or a pet, or something else.
The main thing is that these activities should be ones you enjoy and ones you choose. They should not add to your stress, cause you to interact with the world or work before you’re ready, or be random activities that you do just to fill the time or because they “need” to be done.
Start a bedtime gratitude practice
Bookending your day with mindfulness in the morning and gratitude in the evening is a great way to reduce stress, improve sleep, and just generally make your life a little better. Start embracing gratitude at bedtime.
Just take a few minutes before you go to bed to think of a few things you’re grateful for that day. They don’t have to be big things. You can be grateful for something as simple as not getting stuck in traffic on the drive home or getting the groceries inside before it started raining.
Come up with 3–5 things each day. If you want to build on this practice, write down your gratitudes each day in a journal or notebook. This will allow you to look back on the things you’re grateful for and realize just how much you have in your life — even when you feel super stressed and frustrated.
Stop saying yes without thinking first
One of the biggest sources of stress for many people, especially parents, is being overextended. Saying yes to too many things and feeling obligated to follow through can make you feel overwhelmed and lead to huge amounts of stress.
So stop saying yes without thinking about it first. Whether it’s your kid asking to join a scout troop, your boss asking you to take on a project, or your neighbor asking if you can pick up her kids at school, take at least a few minutes to think before you answer.
Consider your existing obligations, what your schedule looks like, and what you’d need to rearrange or give up in order to do what’s being asked of you. Also ask yourself if you even want to do this thing. Remember that if you don’t want to do something, that’s all the reason you need to say no.
For most of us, while stress certainly has a mental component, it also affects us physically. It causes tension and tightness in the body and sometimes even actual pain. Getting physical can help with this.
You can go to the gym and do a full workout if that’s what works for you. But you can also simply go for a walk, a run, take a bike ride, jump rope or on a trampoline, or play tag with the kids. It doesn’t really matter what you do.
By getting physical, you shift the energy that comes with stress. You release the tight, tense muscles, ease the pain, and allow the stress to start moving out of your body. Just a few minutes spent doing something active can change how you feel physically as well as mentally.
List the biggest sources of your stress
What are the top things that create stress for you? Create a list of the 3–5 biggest sources of stress for you. Don’t let guilt or embarrassment stop you from writing something down — even if it’s your kids or your romantic relationship.
By writing them down, you face the reality of your stress. You understand where your stress is really coming from. And this can make it easier to find solutions. Once you write them down, you can start thinking about how you might change the situation so it’s less stressful for you.
You don’t have to come up with solutions immediately. And the solutions you come up with don’t need to resolve the issue completely. Any step you’re able to take is a step in the right direction. And if it turns out there really isn’t much you can do about a source of stress? At least you’ll know you tried and that alone can help ease some stress.
You may never be able to eliminate stress completely. But there’s always something you can do to ease it and feel a little better. Give these a try and see what happens.
Wendy Miller is a Single Mom Coach & meditation teacher. She helps moms use mindfulness and meditation to create the life they really want. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
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