The world can be a pretty stressful place. Every day we face news headlines of war, death and political unrest so it’s no wonder that so many of us feel frazzled and downright depressed. The fact that 110 million people are dying every year as a direct result of stress should be enough to make us chill out but we’re still running around like headless chickens, absorbed in our own worries and strife.
Recently, I’ve discovered the hard way that I cannot go on living life as a stress-head. I’d get down and anxious and on-edge, over-think and overdo it and it started to really affect my mental and physical health. So I’ve been taking some steps to stress less and be happier and I thought I’d share my favourite ones with you:
Get to the root of what is making you stressed.
Whether that’s self-reflection, therapy or just talking things through with a friend. Take some time to really identify what is making you stressed. (Hint: it often comes from a place of fear; fear of failure, fear of running out of time, fear of letting people down or not living up to expectations etc.) Really search your soul on this one because once you know the cause, you’re more prepared to recognise and tackle it when your stress comes about.
Prioritise your basic needs.
I cannot emphasise how important it is to make sure you’re eating, drinking and sleeping enough. If you’re getting 4 hours of sleep a night and living on 4 black coffees a day, you’re not fuelling your body or mind to sufficiently handle the demands of each day. Get the sleep you need, eat a good amount of protein, fats and carbs and drink plenty of water.
Do something active.
You don’t need to run marathons or bench press your body weight to be active, just do something that isn’t sat in front of a screen or lying in bed. And do something active that you enjoy; whether it’s netball with friends, boxing with your boyfriend or walking with your mum, whatever it is, just get out there and do it. Being active releases endorphins which make you feel happy, it’s an obvious and easy win for happiness.
Say yes and say no more
I’m aware that these directly contradict each other but hear me out. Too often we say yes to doing things we don’t want to do and say no and make excuses not do things we’d probably actually enjoy doing. Prioritise what you want to do and do that! It’s okay to be a little selfish sometimes!
Let go of the notion of ‘perfection’
Nothing will ever be 100% perfect. There will always be something that could be made a little bit better with a few little tweaks here and there but the pressure and time and energy spent getting to perfect is not worth it. Be happy with ‘pretty damn good’ and don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Pressure to be perfect will leave you feeling inadequate and unfulfilled.
Don’t compare yourself to others
In a similar notion to perfection, you will never be the same as someone else, so don’t compare yourself to them. Comparison is the thief of joy. Be happy for other people’s achievements but focus on your own goals and standards. You’re out to be the best version of yourself, not anybody else.
Set goals and work hard
Sometimes it can be hard to feel worthy and happy when you don’t have a purpose. In that self-reflection time I talked about earlier, think about what makes you stressed but also think about what makes you happy and what makes your heart feel like it’s bursting with pride and love and gratefulness. Once you’ve found your purpose, set goals that are aligned with that and then go out there, work hard and achieve them. Your goals are totally up to you, don’t feel like you need to aspire to be CEO of Google to be successful (unless that’s what you’re really driven to do, then go for it), just work hard towards what you want to achieve from life. Having purpose feels good.
Surround yourself with positive people
When you feel alone, it is really hard to feel positive. It is easy to spin off into a spiral of despair because nobody is there to talk some sense in to you. Even worse than feeling alone is feeling surrounded by misery and negativity. If you surround yourself with negative people, they’ll drag you down into that pit of despair no matter how hard you try to get out and see the light. Surround yourself with people who make you feel positive and loved and joyous.
Sit-up, take notice and acknowledge the good
Even when everything feels like utter shit, the chances are, there’s something good going on somewhere in your life. A wise friend once suggested that we start verbally acknowledging the good by saying “you did a good thing”. We laughed at first because it felt unnatural but now it feels so good to acknowledge when I and others do a good thing. It’s not all doom and gloom, you just have to make the effort to see through the shit and embrace the good stuff!
Talk to someone
Don’t be afraid of the ‘T word’. I mentioned it before and I’m sure half of you recoiled in fear at the mere mention of the word ‘therapy’. But you don’t have to lie on a brown leather couch and cry to a stranger who jots notes on a clipboard wordlessly. Furthermore, therapy does not make you crazy or weak or unbalanced or stupid, it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about! There are people out there who train for decades to be a therapist specially to make people feel less stressed and happy, so use them! If you can’t face speaking to a therapist or a doctor, at least open up to someone you trust – your mother, best friend, boyfriend or colleague. Whoever you choose to talk to isn’t important, what’s important is that you don’t bottle it up, just talk to someone, it helps. The minute I opened up and talked to my friends about how I was feeling, it was like a huge weight had been lifted and their love and support made all the difference (thank you, you know who you are!).
This list is by no means exhaustive, nor do you need to do everything on it, these are just a few pointers from me to you. I have deliberately not talked too much about my own experience of stress or unhappiness because this wasn’t supposed to be a self-indulgent rant, but one to offer practical advice and help to others who might need it. If anyone does want to talk to me further about anything that I’ve written here then please pop me a message on Instagram or on my email.