Stress seems to be an inevitable part of life, but we don’t have to let it take control. Here are 7 tips to reduce stress and keep ourselves from burning out.
I’m no stranger to stress. In fact, there have been many moments where stress took over my life, instead of my taking charge. My personality definitely leans toward commitment, high expectations, and pushing myself until I burn out. So learning to manage stress is necessary for the sanity of me and my family.
Here are seven tips I’ve learned along my journey that help keep my stress levels down:
We all know exercise is good for our health, but it’s also good for our minds. Exercise = endorphins. Endorphins = happiness. And now I’m just thinking about Legally Blonde. Anyone else 🙋?
Seriously though–if exercise is a part of our daily routine, we’re less likely to become burnt out with stress. Sure, it’s still going to happen sometimes, but exercise helps.
But often, when we’re stressed, exercise is the first thing to get knocked off our lists. So we need to be diligent in making sure that doesn’t happen. We need to make exercise a priority to keep our minds and bodies happy and stress-free.
2. Lower Our Expectations.
This is easily the hardest item on this list for me. I’m all about pushing myself and placing unrealistic expectations on my shoulders. But this is often the cause of my stress, as well as my ultimate defeat.
We’re human. We can only do so much. And that’s okay. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a look at what’s on your plate–all the things you feel like you need to do. Are they all really necessary? Or necessary to the extent you’re expecting?
Maybe during a particularly busy week, you can use paper plates for one meal a day to cut back on dishes. Or maybe you skip cleaning the bathrooms that week. Nobody will die if the toilets go one more week without cleaning 😅. Maybe you can delegate folding towels to your kids. Sure, they might not be folded as neatly as you fold them, but it’ll get done. Maybe you need to say no to the PTO meeting. Or grab takeout instead of cooking. Or switch carpool weeks with a friend. It’s okay. Life will go on, and you’ll feel a little less pressure.
We can’t expect to do it all. And we’re enough, as we are. So let’s lower our expectations a little bit. You in?
3. Build Pockets of Fun into Every Day.
Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean we don’t need to have fun. Of course we do! And we deserve it, too. If we’re feeling overstressed, we’re probably not making enough time for fun. So that’s when we most need to make it a priority.
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Turn on a song and dance to it. Spend ten minutes coloring with your kids. Pick up a book and read a chapter. Get outside and go for a walk. Build something FUN into every single day. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re having fun!
Gratitude changes everything. I fully believe this. When we’re focused on all that we have, it’s hard to sit in a negative space. Gratitude opens us up to optimism. It allows us to see the many wonderful things we encounter every day.
I’m a huge believer in starting each day with a gratitude journal. I have a free printable journaling page that helps with this. You can get it by signing up for my newsletter below. Or find more details here.
Or simply grab a notebook and jot down a few things you’re grateful for every morning. For more ideas on how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, check out this post on 3 Ways to Increase Gratitude Every Day.
5. Do a Mid-Day Refresh.
I find that when I’m feeling overwhelmed, it tends to hit me hardest mid-afternoon when my energy is waning and I realize just how much I have left to do that day. When this happens, I like to take a couple minutes to focus on my breathing. Trying to clear my mind and get some good oxygen going is huge!
I use a metronome app that keeps a beat, and draw a rectangle in my mind with the beat:
- Breathe in for 3 while drawing up.
- Hold for 4 while drawing the top line.
- Let it out for 3 while drawing down.
- Hold for 4 while drawing the bottom line.
And then I repeat until the timer goes off. This may sound weird for some, but drawing the rectangle in my mind keeps my brain from wandering to my to-do list. It forces me to sit still and quiet. And the deep breaths help calm me down.
Then, I take a couple minutes to free write in a journal. I write anything that comes to mind. Usually this means that all my stressors get scribbled furiously onto the page. Oftentimes as I write, a solution comes to mind. But even if I don’t find a solution, just getting all my thoughts out on paper helps ease my mind.
The whole process takes about ten minutes, and I feel refreshed and ready to continue on with my day. A healthy snack or a quick walk around the block are good options as well 😉.
We can’t do it all, as stated in number two. A lot of times we want to or think we can or we have control issues and don’t want to let someone else help and maybe ruin it 🙋. But when we’re stressed, we need to let go and ask for help!
So ask your kids to do an extra chore or two. Let your husband load the dishwasher, even if you can’t stand the inefficient way he puts the dishes in. They’ll get washed and it’ll all be okay! Hire a tween girl in the neighborhood to come watch your kids so you can tackle a project uninterrupted. Have a meal delivery service like DoorDash or pizza take care of dinner. Hire a house cleaner this month. Ask a friend to come over and help you finish a project. The two of you can chat while you work and you can buy her a soda as a thank you. Win, win!
Asking for help doesn’t make us weak or less than. It makes us human.
7. Focus on what you DO.
Oftentimes as women, we get so caught up in what’s left unfinished on our to-do lists that we fail to see the many things that get crossed off. Or further, the hundreds of things we did that weren’t on the list to begin with (diaper changes, kissing boo-boos, rocking the baby, making snacks, etc. etc.). We do so much every single day and we forget to give ourselves credit for that!Oftentimes as women, we get so caught up in what's left unfinished on our to-do lists that we fail to see the many things that get crossed off. We do so much every single day and we forget to give ourselves credit for that! Click To Tweet
So at the end of the day, instead of looking at your unfinished list in dismay, write down all the things you did do. Maybe that list only has one thing on it, like taking care of your sick kids, but that’s okay. That’s a very important job!
When we focus on what we DO, we’re more confident and less overwhelmed, which in turn gives us energy and strength and makes us more productive.
When overwhelm starts to creep in, and it will, we can exercise, lower our expectations, add fun into our day, focus on gratitude, take a minute to refresh in the middle of the day, delegate, and look at all that we’re accomplishing. Stress is inevitable, but with these tools in our toolbox, we can keep burnout from sweeping us off our feet.
What do you do when you feel stress creeping in?
For more ideas on how to avoid burnout, check out these posts: