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Monday, February 19, 2018

Stress Reducing Strategies

With winter dragging on and on, holidays past, germs spreading everywhere, and daylight still in short supply, this time of year can get stressful. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite ways to manage my stress levels at home and at school and make sure I'm taking care of myself. Most of these are quick and easy things I can do in the middle of the work day, in the middle of making dinner and supervising homework, or any other time I feel stress levels creeping up!

1. Give yourself a break

This time of year I often find myself pushing hard to do #allthethings before spring kicks in and my schedule gets crazy. Planning ahead and pushing myself to do my best are great, but if and when I find myself getting stressed and overwhelmed, it's helpful to take a step back and give myself a break. This can mean a lot of different things, but I try to give myself permission to take the "easy way out" and give myself a chance to relax a little:
  • Eat out or order takeout on a weeknight. 
  • Stop trying to cram so much into my lesson plans- allow my students to take more time getting settled at the beginning and transitioning at the end of the lesson, and if we have extra time, have a quick dance party.
  • Throw on a movie or watch a TV episode instead of trying to push through that to-do list all the time.
The most important (and most difficult for me) part of this is to release any sense of guilt. I'm no good to anyone at home or at work if I'm overwhelmed and stressed. 

2. Drink a tall glass of water

I've seen this advice so many times and I vaguely agreed with it in the past, but I have become a huge believer in the last few months. Any time I feel tired now, the first thing I do is pour myself a big cup of water. I've found I can slurp it down a lot faster when I drink through a straw, so I keep a tumbler handy on my desk at school and on my kitchen counter at home. It really does make a huge difference! 

3. Phone a friend

I know this comes more naturally to some than others. I have a dear friend from college who still seems to know just the right time to text or call or message me, remembers every holiday/ birthday/ event, and follows up on anything I share with her. My youngest sister is a busy law school student but still finds the time to squeeze in "just because" phone calls with friends and family all the time, and even makes visits to her friends and family across the country a priority. When I get busy, communicating with people is one of the first things to go- my response generally is to hunker down and plow through my to-do list rather than take the time to talk about it. 

There's definitely a healthy balance of doing and talking, but for me, I need that reminder to make the time to talk to people. I never realize just how many thoughts I have swirling around in my head until I sit down with someone who wants to hear about me and my life. Just getting it "out there" makes such a big difference in my stress levels.

4. Exercise/ stretch

I'm not someone who exercises for the purpose of exercise. The older I get the more I realize I probably should, but realistically it just isn't something I am motivated to do. Obviously if you can, going for a run, hitting the gym, or going to an exercise class are all great ways to reduce stress. But there are some quick, easy ways to get in some exercise (of sorts) that help me in particularly stressful moments as well:
  • Turn on some upbeat music. Sing and dance to it like I'm on Broadway.
  • Do the stretch I shared in this previous post a few times.
5. Listen to music

I've developed a list of go-to songs that I can turn on when I feel the tension rising. Sometimes I need a calming song, sometimes it helps to listen to something upbeat and fun, and sometimes I find it helpful to turn on one of those deeply touching songs to get inspired and refocused on my priorities. Here's a previous post with some of the songs that have gotten me through some of my most difficult moments- check out this list if you're looking for some new songs to add to your own stress-busting song list!

These ideas aren't rocket science, but I think we can all use the reminder this time of year to make sure we are taking care of ourselves. What are your favorite stress-busters? Leave your ideas in the comments!

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