From Tony Soprano or Homer Simpson, no one is immune to feeling overwhelmed from time to time. I know a lot of teachers in particular who get stressed out over the balancing act they constantly have to master in their busy jobs. I thought the end of the school year would be a perfect time to discuss some of the ways you can de-stress your life and break away from the pressure you’re feeling to get everything done right this minute.
#1: Take a Deep Breath
Totally cliche, but it is said time and time again for a reason. Taking a deep breath in through your nose and blowing out from your mouth slowly can lower your heart rate and make you feel much calmer in a short period of time. If you need to take a second for yourself, this is the first thing you can try to calm yourself down.
#2: Laugh Out Loud
Just the act of laughing can make you feel better. Start with a smile (fake it till you make it, to add another cliche!) and then think of something that’ll make you chuckle.
Can’t make yourself laugh on command? Hop onto YouTube for a few minutes and search for funny videos… Just taking a beat away from what’s troubling you can help you feel better. And when you go back to deal with your responsibilities, you’ll be doing so with a fresh attitude and lighter demeanor.
#3: Make a List
When I am feeling overwhelmed, it’s usually due to the fact that my mind is racing faster than I can keep up and, while I’m usually intensely motivated to be productive, I end up accomplishing nothing substantial because the ideas are just bouncing around up there. I solve the problem by writing out a list of tasks I’m excited to do (or not excited, in some cases) and then order them by level of importance. I find that this organizes my thoughts better and holds me accountable for actually doing the things I need to get done.
Plus, it feels sooo good to cross those things off as I complete them! Bonus!
#4: Listen to Music
Music is incredibly therapeutic for me. Sometimes there’s nothing better than a great song to get you out of a funk!
When I’m listening to music to de-stress, it helps to use headphones. I feel like then I really concentrate on listening to the lyrics or the instruments and it helps me avoid distractions. (This also works well if you’re alone in your car and you can crank the volume up to the max!)
#5: Go for a Drive
Sort of hand-in-hand with the music thing, going for a drive can really help you clear your mind and feel better. (If you are going for a drive and listening to music, please DO NOT wear headphones for the sake of safety!) I remember going for a LOT of drives by myself during one of the most stressful times in my life… When I was planning my wedding (I swear I wasn’t a bridezilla and I never once had cold feet, but just the idea of spending so much time and money on ONE DAY made me stress like crazy!). I totally felt better after driving down some winding country roads for a while. Now with two kids under 3 years old, it’s a little harder to just hop in the car and go, but I can’t say I’ve never done it!
#6: Write About It
This works well if you find writing relaxing. If it’s going to stress you out to write or if your hand is going to cramp because you haven’t written since you had a high school book report, then this strategy may not be for you.
If you DO enjoy writing, however, this is a great way to figure out the source of your stress and get it out of your head. Occasionally, if I am super stressed, but don’t exactly know why, I just start typing without any real plan of where I’m going. It’s amazing how I can usually end up figuring out what’s irking me once I start venting to my word processor. (No, you guys don’t get to read those pieces… Trust me, you’re better off!)
#7: Do Something Nice for Someone Else
I always feel better when I do something nice for someone else. It gets my mind off of myself and my worries and onto how I can make someone else’s day. It could be as simple as doing a chore around the house that your spouse usually takes care of… It could be sending a friend a text to let them know you’ve been thinking about them and want to get together… It could be sending a “just because” gift to someone… It could be stopping by to visit someone you haven’t seen in a while… It could be baking cookies and dropping them off…
Bottom line is, it doesn’t have to be fancy, grand, or expensive… It really is the thought that counts and when you’re thinking of how to make someone else happy, oftentimes your own happiness grows exponentially, too.
#8: Have a Snack
Have you eaten today? If you’re stressed out, running on fumes isn’t helping! Trust me, there are some days where I start feeling anxious and worried about getting everything on my to-do list done and an embarrassingly LARGE majority of those times, I realize all I’ve had that day was a few cups of coffee and a handful of Cheerios I snarfed down when I poured my son’s bowl. For me, I usually need carbs when I feel like this, so I keep my favorite cinnamon bread on hand or have some pasta for lunch… But figure out what works for you and take a break to have a meal.
#9: Play a Game
While I have often heard that stepping away from your smartphone can eliminate your level of stress, sometimes your smartphone can be used as a tool to help get rid of that stress that’s building. I have four games on my phone – Solitaire, Sodoku, Bejeweled, and Wordscapes. When I’m feeling stressed out or worried or if I’m waiting for something anxiously, I can open my Games folder and play whichever one I’m in the mood for.
For me, I need to be creating words, working with numbers, or matching colors to feel distracted. For you, it might be something else that works… Maybe you’re into sports or roleplaying games… Find something you enjoy that makes you feel relaxed and remember that it’s always just in your back pocket if you need it (or wherever you happen to keep your phone, ha ha!).
#10: Ask for Help!
This is by far my weakest area of expertise, even though I know it is sometimes very, very, VERY necessary to eliminate stress. But I despise asking for help or admitting I need assistance of any kind. I like to do things myself, figure things out for myself, and look back and feel like I accomplished something all on my own.
Let’s face it, we are human beings and we need other human beings to survive. Asking for help does not make you weak (I need to write this down 100 times on a chalkboard) and accepting help will more than likely help you solve some of the stress you’re dealing with. If you’re lucky enough to have people in your life who CAN help, then please don’t try to be a superhero and take it on all by yourself.
So if you’re a parent stressing out about all the things you need to do around the house while you’re pulling your hair out because your kids are sick and they just want to cuddle, tell your spouse or your best friend or your mom that you could really use someone to vent to or someone to throw a load of laundry in… If you’re a teacher worrying about getting end-of-the-year assessments completed before that Father’s Day project and then starting your report cards, walk across the hall and tell your coworker what you’re going through (she’s probably stressed about similar tasks, too!)… If you’re a college student who’s working on top of all of your classes and trying to find an hour a week to have some semblance of a social life, go out with that friend and take a load off… Trust me, it pays off.
I really hope that you can utilize some of the strategies above. I know they’ve helped me out when I’ve been stressed out! If you have some other great ways to de-stress that you’d like to share, post them in the comments.
I’d like to add a little disclaimer here that these are just strategies I use personally… I am not a doctor and if your stress is the type that needs medical attention, please seek it. Best of luck!