How I Address My Stress

I've known stress for a long time.

Stress has shown up in my life in a variety of ways. Stress was a part of my athletics with the pressure to perform, in high school with the stress of being accepted into post-secondary, and ultimately in the high expectations that come with graduate school. Stress has come from external organizations, from co-workers, from family members, and from expectations.

And because of how I am wired, a lot of my stress comes from myself. It's a character flaw that I've learned to recognize long ago but still struggle with its management. This stress that I put on myself creates knots in my shoulders, nights of insomnia, and the itching feeling that I'm not "doing enough".

But that is not what this post is about.

This post, is the culmination of knowledge I've been able to lean on over the years to help fight the effects of stress on my body and mind. This list is not exhaustive in the least, but it's a start. And ultimately, what works for me might not work for you, so I nudge you to take some time to reflect on what helps you in times of high-stress.

What needs have I been ignoring?

When life gets busy or hectic, I find I often neglect my basic needs to focus on the task at hand. These may be small things such as skipping a meal or going to bed an hour later, but they have larger and lasting effects on my body than I can imagine. Taking a few moments to pause and reflect on what I've been ignoring has been really beneficial in finding the small tweaks I need to make to get back on track. If you feel like you've been running yourself dry but are not sure where to start exploring, try asking yourself these questions:

Did I eat breakfast this morning?

Did I get at least 8 hours of sleep last night?

How much water have I consumed today?

Have I been outside today?

Have I interacted or talked to anyone else today?

Have I made time to buffer my stress?

Exercise is one of the most cost-effective and beneficial ways to deal with stress. And though it may not be everyone's first choice in times of heavy stress, it's something to be aware of as a tool in your stress tool kit. And when I say exercise, you don't need a 90-minute gym session in the morning to get the benefits. Going for a walk, taking the stairs throughout the day, or practicing gentle yoga can be enough for your body to release feel good endorphins and help buffer the effects of stress. It can also feel selfish or hard to schedule this time in when you're feeling overloaded, but it's crucial to take time for yourself and your body when you're spread so thin.

Am I taking on this stress alone?

The effects of stress can feel like rocks weighing heavy on your chest. I've felt this heavy feeling, where taking breaths seem laboured and uneasy. But we do not have to carry the burden of our stress alone (despite feeling like we do). When I feel the heaviness of my stress or worries, I've learned that I have so many wonderful people in my life that want to help me share the burden. This doesn't have to be a long sit down session, but it sure could be. For certain friends it's a quick text of, "I'm not okay and this is why…" or a much needed catch up phone call. How ever long or short you're able to get in, I know I always feel the weight lift off my chest and my breathing become easier. The small fact that I do not have to suffer this stress alone, or that someone else in the world acknowledges that I am working harder than I need to truly does lighten the load.

Stress likes to manifest itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes it feels manageable, and sometimes it feels like this will be the thing to end you. Whatever kind of stress you feel, I hope you know you can take a step back and ask yourself:

What needs have I been ignoring?

Have I made time to buffer my stress?

Am I taking on this stress alone?

Hopefully, the answers to these questions can lead you to a greater understanding of how you can address the stress in your life. Because that would be really, really cool.

Thanks for being here,

**All photos by the lovely Hannah Brooks –**

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