Recently, I read an article about how “busy syndrome” is wreaking havoc on society. Being overly busy has become a way of life that leaves people stressed and wrung out. I know I can relate to this. So, I’ve done some research on how to handle my own personal stress. I’d like to share what I’ve learned. I’m not an expert. I didn’t invent these tips, but I’ve adopted them. It’s made a big difference.
Here are eight stress-busting tips I’ve taken to heart:
Think ahead and get ready the night before. Pack lunches; locate keys and cell phones; lay out your clothes; have kids pack backpacks; etc. Even if you’re exhausted, push through (or plan ahead) to get it done the night before. Anything you can do ahead will help you sleep better and get your day off to a smoother start.
Avoid negative people. While it’s not realistic to purge all negativity from our lives, you can make up your mind not to react to drama. One of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t have to attend every argument (or battle) to which you’re invited.” People are different. What works for one might not work for you. Or some people just might not like you and you don’t have to feel bad about that. Usually, it’s their problem and not yours. So, stop trying to please everyone and don’t spend too much time worrying about what people think of you. Another thing that’s helped is I’ve adopted a key word that I say (sometimes aloud, but usually in my head) when my mind is wandering down dark, pessimistic paths (usually spurred on when someone hurts my feelings or I allow something someone says to get under my skin). My word is STOP! It’s my mind’s cue to curtail the negativity, reframe and refocus in a more positive direction. It really works.
Lose the all-or-nothing attitude. This is a hard one for me. I like to complete things in one go. But I’ve learned I accomplish a lot more when I allow myself to do tasks incrementally. Five or ten minutes of exercise is better than none at all. I’ve learned to write in twenty minute sprints, or on days when life makes sprints impossible, my bare minimum is 100 words per day (and usually the words flow so that it ends up being more.) You’d be surprised at how the words will accumulate. When College Girl was in elementary school, I’d over-committed myself to volunteering. It felt impossible to write in long sessions. I stuck to the 100-per-day minimum and ended up amassing 60 pages during this time when I thought I might accomplish no writing at all. On the house cleaning front, I follow the Fly Lady‘s advice and “swish and swipe” on most days and take five minutes daily to clear “hot spots” where clutter tends to accumulate.
Go on a news and/or social media fast. This is another difficult one for me. I was a journalism major. It goes against my grain to not be informed. However, there’s so much bad news out there (and so much “stuff” on social media), sometimes it weighs too much to carry. When you’re stressed, it doesn’t hurt to put down the news (or Facebook and Twitter) for a while. It’ll be there when you get back.
Breathe. As basic as it sounds, this can change your life. I’m not talking short, shallow, hyperventilating breaths. Take slow, mindful, deep belly breaths. I’ve heard that deep breathing can lower your blood pressure, and I know for a fact it can stop the mind squirrels from commandeering your sleep. When I’m stressed and anxious (especially at night), I practice the 4-7-8 method. Breathe in for a count of four, hold it for seven counts, exhale for eight counts and repeat.
Get plenty of sleep. Life always seems off kilter when we’re tired. So, when you’re stressed, don’t skimp on the sleep. Studies have shown that being sleep deprived will not only cause fuzzy-headedness, but it can compromise your immune system.
Learn to say, NO! I suffer from a condition called FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. Sometimes this insidious disorder tempts me to take on way too much. And then I hate myself. I’ve learned that while saying no might be difficult in the short-term, in the long run it makes life so much easier.
Finally, schedule downtime. Read a book, take a walk, play with your kids or your friends, or your pets or your spouse. Did I mention read a book?
How do you handle stress? I have a grab bag of books by several different authors for one person who shares a stress-busting tip below. I’ll announce the winner Sunday.
MY FAIR FORTUNE
Mass Market Paperback Available April 21 ~ EBook Available May 1
In the business world, Brodie Fortune Hayes is known as a man of no mercy. The all-work, no-play PR consultant is sure he’ll have no trouble correcting the image problems plaguing the Cowboy Country theme park. There’s just one complication: the green-eyed beauty sitting behind the boss’s desk who makes his pulse race like a roller coaster!
Caitlyn Moore never imagined working side by side with Brodie after sharing a most out-of-character night of passion with him a few months before! And now, thanks to her dad’s absence-by-illness, she’s his boss? Brodie’s bottom-line mentality is as infuriating as his blue bedroom eyes are intoxicating—but Cait is convinced that there’s a heart lurking beneath his designer armor. Perhaps she can prove to him that love is the greatest Fortune of all…
As a full-time writer who works from home, I’ve become somewhat of a workaholic. I love what I do and I’m always working – on my work in progress, on proposals for future projects and on planning and promotion. If I don’t have my rear in the chair and fingers on the keyboard, I’m working in my head. My brain never willingly turns off the light and hangs up the “closed” sign.
I’m not complaining. However, sometimes I forget that I’m so much more productive after a short break. Here are my top ten ways to refill the creative well:
10. Play on Pinterest. It’s my happy place. There, everything is beautiful and the food is calorie-free.
9. Exercise. Okay, maybe this isn’t my favorite thing to do. You might say, I enjoy having exercised. Well, except for walking. I do love my walks and sometimes I forget their therapeutic power.
8. Clean house. I know. That’s weird. But some of my best ideas and breakthroughs come when I’m up to my elbows in dishwater.
7. Watch TV. Yes, I have been known to take in a series or several during the course of the season. And when the season is over, I may or may not turn to Hulu and Netflix… Gotta love a good binge session.
6. Read. This is one of the gems that tends to go by the wayside unless I consciously make time. I’ve been making time.
5. Cook/bake. I love to try new recipes. Sadly, when I bring them out from behind the Pinterest veil, the dishes are no longer calorie-free…no matter how I try to pretend. ;)
4. Play with my dog. She grounds me and helps me remember what is right in the world.
3. Get together with/talk to friends. This is another one that gets neglected. I try to make time at the end of my deadlines to see friends.
2. Work in my art journal. This is yet another love for which I have to consciously carve out time. I’ve made a deal with myself that I will take fifteen minutes that I might otherwise spend on social media and play in my art journal. I set a timer. It’s like a daily mini-vacation. If you’re attending the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in New York, Kathy Garbera and I are presenting a workshop on using art journaling to foster creativity. I hope you’ll join us.
1. Spend time with my family. In fact, when College Girl was home for spring break earlier this week and she and I spent some quality time together in the art room. We made our own journals. Here’s the one I made:
What do you do for fun or to refresh your spirit?
The Norwegian had to work on Valentine’s Day (we celebrated in the evening). It gave me a wonderful opportunity to spend the day with my other best guy, my father. We went out for lunch and then we did our favorite thing — we took a long walk — about three miles in all — around a lake not far from his place.
My dad and I have always been close and we enjoy walking together. When he and my stepmom lived in North Carolina (before she passed away), he and I would make time to hike on the Appalachian Trail each time I visited. Now, he’s back in Florida and closer to us. We don’t have the gorgeous wooded trails down here like we did up there (at least not in our area), but we do have each other’s company. However, now that we’re living in the same town again, we talk on the phone nearly every day, but we don’t walk together as much as we should. Isn’t that crazy? He’s busy, and sometimes I get so wrapped up in my deadlines and other demands that I lose sight of what’s truly important.
After our Valentine’s Day together, I spent some time reflecting on how lucky I am to have this time with my dad — time to walk and share our thoughts on the large and small things that make up our lives. He has such a great outlook and he’s fun to be around. Our walks are filled with great conversation and laughter and just the right amount of companionable silence. I’ve made a Valentine’s Day vow to make sure we do this regularly. I guess it simply took a walk with my father to remind me of what’s really important.
What’s important to you? I’ll give a $5 Amazon gift card to one person who comments.
P.S. The two landscape pictures are from our walk around the lake.
When I was young, my mother used to bake the most delicious red velvet cakes. Even the icing was from scratch. She’d stack it high and sprinkle it with flaky coconut. It was heaven on a plate. Mostly, she made it for special occasions like birthdays and Valentine’s Day, but every once in a while she’d surprise us and make one just because. Maybe that’s why I always associate red velvet cake with comfort, happiness and love.
I associate other foods with love, too: My grandma’s pumpkin bread; my mother-in-law’s snickerdoodle cookies; and just about every meal the Norwegian prepares. He really is a fabulous cook. As a family, we put a lot of time and thought into our weekly meals and we make a point of sitting down together for dinner every night. We like to cook together, too.
The two of us have passed on our love of cooking to College Girl and when she feels homesick, she’ll fix some of our family favorites. She says it’s the next best thing to being home.
Given my love affair with food, it’s no wonder it usually plays a starring role in my books.
Do you associate certain foods you with good memories? If so, what are they?
I had lunch with one of my oldest buddies yesterday. She and I have been friends for thirty-five years. Hard to believe. Because it seems like only yesterday we met and formed that bond that (little did we know then) would span the years. Sadly, we only get to see each other once or twice a year, even though we live in the same town. Juggling work and family and other obligations, life takes over and before we know it another year has passed. That’s when we put on the breaks and carve out time to sit down and catch up. Of course, when we do get together we pick up right where we left off. Isn’t that the mark of a good friendship?
On my way home from lunch, I was thinking about the power of girlfriends and how lucky I am to have so many wonderful women in my life. The connection I share with them runs deep and rich. In addition to my friends who go way back, there’s a group of moms I grew close to when our kids were in school. Even though our daughters are in college in different parts of the country, we’re still in touch. I have a small group of trusted friends who are also writers and we know we can count on each other for advice, inspiration and to be there through life’s ups and downs.
I love this quote from Elizabeth Foley, “The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.”
That’s so true and so important. Even though miles (or even cross-town traffic) separate some of us and we don’t get to see each other often, what’s important is that we always pick up right where we left off and we feel good and uplifted by our time together. Which reminds me of another quote: “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart, and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.“
Isn’t it wonderful that we have girlfriends who inspire us to keep singing?
Tell me about your best friend. I’ll give one person who responds a $5 Amazon gift card.