So you’re stuck at work or at a party or you’re in the middle of a crowded Chipotle, and suddenly it hits you like a summer thunderstorm: stress. Just like that, you go from ‘I think I *will* get guac, even though it’s going to cost extra’ to ‘I’m never going to be able to finish all the things I have going on right now.’ Some people may not be able to wrap their mind around that, but as someone who suffers from anxiety, it happens more often than I would like.
And while you can give people the pointers that work in the long run – exercise, meditation, the right amount of sleep, the corrective dosage of vitamin chill – sometimes that’s not going to be possible in the middle of rush hour.
So here are five methods of dealing with stress on the spot:
- Visualization and dialogue: I have found that a very helpful way of dealing with immediate attacks of stress is to imagine it as a person or object that you can talk to. Explain in no uncertain terms that you acknowledge its existence and that you will deal with it in time. Let stress stand next to you in line, but do not let it do the ordering.
- Count your breaths: You obviously can’t go into downward dog in the middle of Denny’s, but you can inhale and exhale (and you should be doing that already). My favorite count is a 7-second in and 11-second out.
- Focus on details: This is especially helpful if you can find something pleasant to focus on, like a flower or an animal. But put all your attention on an object and list as many details in your head as possible. What color is it? What size? What’s your favorite part of that object? Make up a story about it. Anything to divert your attention from the inside of your own head.
- Stockpile your favorite funny things: Jokes, vines, one-liners. You can even keep them programmed into your phone. Look at a few and have a laugh. I find humor is a quick way to distract myself. And if I don’t have anything, I force myself to smile. It works surprisingly well.
- Think of your favorite song: A happy song. Upbeat. If you can, sing it or hum it. Dance a little (like no one is watching – even if they are). If you have earbuds, listen to it on your phone. Let it take you to a better time. Enjoy it.
How do you deal with stress on the go? Tell me about it!
My day job recently has been…very stressful.
Sometimes, I finish the work day, and I am in a jumbled state that can only be described as “frazzled.” I cross the finish line and my legs won’t stop. I get to the end of the sentence and I can’t just put down the period and be done.
This is a very stark contrast to how I normally operate, when things are running smoothly: I’m a perfectly functioning automobile heading down life’s interstate. Oh, it’s time to change lanes? I put on my turn signal, move over and boom. Easy.
When I’m stressed out, it’s Fast and Furious, Part Katie’s-Gonna-Kill-Someone.
So I learned something very useful but surprisingly difficult to do: I take 30 minutes and only do things I want to. I close the door to my office. I cross-stitch. I listen to music. I mess around on my computer. I doodle.
I imagine you’re waiting for the ‘difficult’ part here. The activities themselves are pleasant, sure, but it’s the awareness of what is waiting on the other side of the door. There’s this tiny version of me, banging on it with both fists, saying, “Hey! Hey! There’s dinner to make! That laundry isn’t going to put itself away! You do not have time to just be hiding in your room!”
The hell I don’t.
30 minutes. Think about it. How many times have you wasted 30 minutes on an extra episode of a television show? Or hitting the snooze on the clock by your bed?
By taking the time to gather my mental marbles up and put them back in the bag where they belong, I know they aren’t getting lost. I can come at my to-do list reinvigorated.
Give it a try. You have time. I dare you.
Recently, I have found that music has been my saving grace, so far as my productivity/creativity/sustainability has been going. The importance of my life having a great and appropriate soundtrack has been crucial, and I want to share some tips because you all deserve to have a swelling orchestra on your side, too. Or Nirvana. Nirvana has been working really well for me.
- Decide how much you are willing to pay for it, and do your research: you don’t have to break the bank to get streaming music from the magical world of the Internet. There are plenty of free options, but you’ll have to stomach the commercials every now and then (more frequently when you decide to skip a song). Recently, I’ve been exploring the Google Play Radio, because you not only have the choice of customizing a radio station by a song/artist, but there are also a lot of stations by activity, genre, etc. Some are pretty damn specific. There’s also Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Prime (that one pays for itself with the shipping and Kindle lending library), so on.
- Get the right stuff for the right time of day: I try not to listen to mellow stuff in the morning, because it makes me want to go back to bed. This inevitably leads to one of my ‘dubstep’ stations. Likewise, at night, I usually want something chill, like a movie soundtrack. I’ve also been taking a strong look at how certain types of music impact different kinds of tasks. If I’m reading or doing something text heavy, I avoid stuff with complex lyrics that my mind will get hung up in. In fact, the more I need to focus, the more I go to something without any vocals at all – which doesn’t have to be baroque, by the way.
- What am I making and what does it sound like: when I’m writing, using music in a smart way can actually really add a dimension to my characters and scenarios. Is it a face-off between the hero and the villain? Anime soundtrack! Is it a romantic moment between lovers? Cue the REO Speedwagon! Is it an actually serious moment between lovers? Maybe opt for some Andrea Bocelli.
Life can be busy. Times can be tough. Don’t do it in silence. I dare you.
Or “How Not to Get Pigeonholed”
HA. Do you see what I did there?
Okay, anyway, so…there’s a popular notion that there are two types of people when it comes to habits: morning people and night people. Or morning larks and night owls. For most of my life, I have established a card-carrying owl status. When I was in college, my sleeping hours were about 5am to 10am. My bursts of energy tend to come around 9PM to 10PM. I’ve gotten a lot of awesome work done while perfuming my artistry with fumes from the midnight oil.
A while back, I actually found myself getting angry, because with my day job, I do not have the ability to stay up as late without being a zombie the next day. “It’s not fair!” I said. “The world is out to get me!”
But the fact of the matter is this: if you want to get up early, you will. If you want to accomplish things in the morning – if you really want it – it can happen.
Note: if you don’t want to, that’s totally fine and acceptable. But if you do, read on.
For roughly the last week, I have been experimenting with getting up a half-hour early. That’s it. Just 30 minutes. It’s a drop in the bucket so far as a day’s time goes. And it was because I decided that I wanted to be able to get things done first thing, so I wouldn’t have an excuse in the evening. I flipped the script because I saw the results in my mind and took steps to make it happen.
A few tips if you’re trying the owl to lark idea:
- Decide on a schedule beforehand. When you’re going to bed and when you’re going to get up. Stick to it.
- Get some really good coffee. Drink some in the morning. Just watch all the additives.
- Have a bed ritual. For me, that was taking one of the Olly Restful Sleep gummies from Target at 10pm. Not only are these great for getting a full night’s rest if you tend to overstimulated at night, but it sets a countdown in my head. I know that within 30 minutes I won’t be able to keep my eyes open.
- Immediately do some stretches when you get out of bed. Be gentle on your body, but get the blood moving. If it’s too much, just commit to standing. Do not sit or get back/stay in bed.
If you’re going lark to owl:
- Avoid caffeine after about 7pm. It’s easy to think, “I need something to keep me going,” but it will do more harm than good.
- Again, get your blood moving. Stand up. Move around.
- Be conscientious of others in your household. Just because you are trying to stay up doesn’t mean they want to.
- Once you get to the point that you absolutely cannot stay up another second, go to bed. Make note of the time. Come back to it tomorrow.
Have you experimented with your productive times during the day? Are you adamant that the lark is obviously superior? Or are you set in your owly ways? Open up to the other! I dare you! And tell me about it in the comments or on my Facebook page!
Dare to grab hold of things that make you really happy. Even if no one else gets it. Even if there isn’t a greater goal.
Watch cartoons. Read comic books.
Draw. Paint. Get a bucket of chalk and work your sidewalk until the rain washes it away.
Make things without agency or intention beyond bringing something into existence that wasn’t there before. Don’t you realize how godly that is?
Dress up and stay home.
Play with action figures.
Make castles in the sand.
Stop thinking about it.
So today, on my writing site, I talked about my word for 2016: REBOOT. This is a follow-up to 2015, which was a JOURNEY, and 2014 when I was BRAVE.
These focus words have been more helpful than any “concrete” resolutions I ever set. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with resolutions, but it’s easy to see why they can end up being frustrating. For example: you write down on your list of New Years Resolutions “lose weight.” That’s it. Just lose some weight. No problem, right?
Maybe not, but what if you get sick? What if you do but then gain it back after a rough patch? What if you just stay the same, all year, no matter what you do? December 31 of next year rolls around, and all you have is this feeling of failure. It may not even take that long – studies have shown that people give up on their resolutions within the first month.
By giving yourself a focus word, you can take a look at what you’re doing throughout the year and decide if it’s in line with who you want to be or where you want to be going. The words I’ve seen people use, including myself, are never negative – you don’t see things like DROP or ELIMINATE or SAYNOTOTWINKIES. Just reminding yourself of your word is a burst of inspirational energy. It’s great. Try it this year. And tell me about it!
I dare you!
So over on my writing site, I just did my annual post of my 5 Favorite Things from 2015. Check it out by clicking the image below:
I started doing this because every year, the big idea we see plastered all over the media each late-December-early-January is ARE YOU READY FOR THE NEW YOU? Everybody talks about resolutions. “Should we do them? Shouldn’t we? Are we setting ourselves up for failure? And have you joined a gym yet? Clean out your fridge! Quit your job! GET IMPLANTS!”
However, while I do give myself some soft resolutions as well as a word to focus on (more on that tomorrow), I have learned that it’s just as important to stop and ask, “What did I do with myself this year? Who was I?”
In 2014, I traveled a lot. It was awesome. This year, because I didn’t travel as much, I’ve been muddling through the past few days, kicking rocks, a voice in my head saying, “Great, so I bought a house this year. Big whoop-dee-do.”
Then I started going through my Facebook timeline and my Google photos and guys. I did so much more than “just buy a house.” I did travel. I did a marathon. I went to author events. Hell, I had an author event of my own. I was so lost in the big picture of 2014 not being like 2015 that I almost let those memories slip away unrecognized.
So, during these first few days of 2016, I urge you to stop and take a good long look at this past year. Delight in the memories. Realize what you needed to learn from. And realize that the passage of time is the same today, tomorrow, on New Years Eve and Day and March 5 and July 10, onward and onward. We’re all hurling through life at the same speed. Live it viciously.
I dare you.
Why is it that every year when daylight savings time ends, that Sunday feels like the longest day of the year? I slept in this morning after starting National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I’m still shocked that there is usable time to today!
What is that can make a single hour so special? Ever day, we take these little chunks of time for granted. We can zone out through an entire hour with no effort, or we can feel like asking for an hour is a life-changing request.
Just think of the things you can do with an hour for yourself:
- Journal, write or scrapbook. I especially love Project Life for this sort of thing.
- Watch an episode of your favorite show.
- Take a shower with your favorite soaps and shampoos.
- Take a walk around the block. Smell the flowers and appreciate the area you live in.
- Email a friend you haven’t talked to in a while and tell them what they mean to you.
- Clean up a section of your house. This could be a shelf, a closet, a drawer, anything! It’s crazy how much you can get done in even 20 minutes when that is what you are focused on.
- Meditate or pray.
- Read a book or play a video game.
What an hour truly comes down to is being mindful of what it is. If you take the time to be present in those 60 minutes, it’s amazing how much more refreshed you feel after it’s over.
How did you spend your 25th hour today?