I think with everything that’s going on in my life (and in the world), stress is a natural outcome. As I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep the other night, it dawned on me that I *might* be overwhelmed. I am in the midst of my final year of my doctoral program in clinical psychology, which means I spend approximately 45-50 hours per week at my clinical internship site, I have a 21 month old son and husband waiting for attention when I get home (and gosh they deserve it!), I have responsibilities to keep the house running (still waiting for a laundry robot to be invented – where you at NASA?), I am wrapping up my dissertation and planning to defend in the next few months, I am preparing applications to apply for postdoctoral fellowships across the country for next year, and I am trying to keep in touch with family and friends who are all so far from me. I am also trying to work in some fun and blogging/social media time where I can.
All this to say, no wonder I am feeling exhausted and a litttttttle bit in over my head. Fortunately, these are all wonderful stressors; they are moving me toward my goals and I know that I am very blessed. But sometimes the stress still gets to me. So here are a few tips for managing stress – they are things I’ve learned firsthand and also things I’ve seen work with my patients.
Keep Your Body Right
Nutrition and exercise are some of the first things to suffer when life gets hectic. So pay extra attention to making sure you are eating balanced meals throughout the day and providing your brain and body with all of the nutrients it needs to function well; food is medicine! Lately I have been focusing on eating more healthy fats/protein, vitamins (multi and D), and water intake (adorable water bottle here). Exercise is also so helpful for managing stress, anxiety, and depression. I have a bad habit of letting this one slide as the fall/winter months descend upon me. It’s one of the first things I tell patients to incorporate into their routine, so I think it’s time to take my own advice. I’m considering starting a whole section of the blog to track my fitness journey and help keep others accountable – who’s with me??
I will say this once and I will say it loud: if you are not supplying your body with proper sleep, you are going to see the effects in every aspect of your life. If you have trouble with insomnia, see your doctor or behavioral health specialist. Make sure you are engaging in a calming sleep routine before bed each night, limit screen time before bed so that your brain receives proper sleep signals, splurge on some new cozy sheets or a beautiful comforter, and keep your bedroom cool and dark (love these blackout curtains).
Making sure you have time for fun is so critical to happiness. For some people that means alone time, for others that means socializing. I need a good mix of both, so I have to decompress by myself for a little while after putting my son to bed before I can even think about anything else. Then I make sure I’m pampering myself, even if it’s in small ways:
– Going out for tea with a girlfriend
– A quick trip to Target sans kiddo
– Painting my nails with a new nail polish
– Finding a new series on Netflix or HBO to indulge in
– Baking everything pumpkin flavored and having zero qualms about my basicness
Remember What Matters
For me, this always keeps me grounded. I know that at the end of the day (or in the midst of a terrible, no good, very bad day), that my family and friends are my reasons for loving and living. If everything else falls apart and I still have love and relationships in my life, I’ll be ok. I know other people find meaning in other things: work, art, or travel. Think about what matters most to you and take steps toward those values; nurture what’s important and let go of micromanaging the rest.
I am always trying to find ways to give back to others, and by doing so, I feel recharged and uplifted. It’s amazing how helping others can help you, too. I do this in small ways: letting someone merge in front of me when traffic is bad, stopping to let pedestrians cross the road, paying for the person behind me in the Starbucks drivethru, leaving silly notes for my coworkers on their computers.
I also try to do it on a larger scale: donating to charities that are meaningful to me, working with underserved/minority/refugee populations in my professional work, volunteering to help clean up highways/beaches/etc., donating to food shelters.
As Ghandi said: “In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”
Ask for Help
I’m not the best at this one, so we can all work on it together. As humans, we’re social creatures, we’re meant to depend on one another and work together. And yet, we often end up isolated, caught up in our day-to-day hectic lives, and we move farther away from each other (emotionally and geographically). It becomes difficult to ask for help in these times, and sometimes it’s even difficult to identify whom we might ask for help. As a sister, wife, daughter, friend, aunt, etc. I love helping those I love. It is never a burden and I often feel honored when people ask me for help. So why is it that those same rules don’t apply when I need help? The saying “it takes a village” exists for a reason, so let’s learn to work together and provide community for each other. I’ll lift you up, you lift me up.
XX – Kate