Motivation, Taking It On

Ten Tips to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

Do you ever get so overwhelmed with all the stuff you have going on in your mind and on your to do list that you can’t even focus?  Sometimes I get so stressed. I feel like I can’t handle one more thing or I’m going to snap. I feel like the world is closing in around me and like there is no way out, like everything is going to crumble. This is what happens when I try putting everything on my own shoulders. I realize I do this to myself. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this, am I?

Well, I’ve been practicing ways to squash the anxiety and stress that I create for myself and I’d like to share what I’ve learned thus far. If you find this useful, please share and please let me know.

Ten Tips for Minimizing Stress and Anxiety

Tip #1 Do a brain dump. Make a list of all the things that are on your mind. If it crosses your mind write it down.

Tip #2 Go through your brain dump and create categories, sometimes I do this while writing them down. I sometimes create sections like home, work, random thoughts, projects.

Tip #3 Look for the items you can delegate. Is yard work on your list, is it possible to have someone else in the house handle it or what about hiring an outside service?

Tip #4 Identify most meaningful items that are actionable.  It is amazing how much it helps with stress and anxiety to make progress on something important. Thus make sure for each day you have at a minimum one meaningful item on your list, up to three is max. These are items that help you reach bigger goals, not the mundane stuff that weighs us down.

Tip #5 Schedule the mundane items. One example of this is my Saturday morning cleaning schedule. I schedule 7-12 to clean. I use to do this religiously and it made a huge impact and thus I’m going back to it. Having a deadline made me focus more and it was amazing what I could get done. As soon as 12:00 hit, I was free to be with family and do fun things without guilt or nagging chores calling. This method works great with all kinds of tasks, just don’t get carried away scheduling yourself.

Tip #6 Patience, remind yourself that Rome was not built in a day, and the challenges in life won’t be solved in a day either. Take it one task and one day at a time and focus on what you can control right now, not tomorrow.

Tip #7 Make self-care a priority. It is amazing how something as simple as coffee with a friend can help alleviate stress. Make time for you, it is important.

Tip #8 Keep clutter at bay. It makes a difference. Studies have shown that clutter increases stress and anxiety, so do your best to minimize clutter.

Tip #9 Avoid perfectionism. Sometimes we want to obsess over completing a task versus recognizing when we have hit good enough and can move on. It feels good to let go.

Tip #10 Processes and routines. This is sort of related to schedules, but a bit different. If there is something you can create a process or routine for than do it. For example during your scheduled 7-12 cleaning time create a routine for what you will do first, second, and so on. By doing this when it’s cleaning time you will find you are actually more relaxed while doing the task. You might even find you go on auto pilot. This takes practice to implement and to be honest it is something I want to do during my 7-12 cleaning.

These tips have really helped me improve my stress and anxiety levels. I still have my days where I totally freak out, but a lot fewer. I’m still working to master these tips myself. It takes time and practice. I hope this helps!



Motivation, Taking It On

What is Stopping You from Reaching Your Goals?

You know how it is, you set your mind on a new goal and you are really excited to get started. Things seem to be off to a good start. You are making progress. Then…something happens. You hit a wall. It could be something as simple as losing motivation or something way more complex. Either way, bam the progress has stopped, the excitement is fading. Here is the deal though, no matter who the person is or what the goal is, this is going to happen, there are inevitably going to be setbacks. There are going to be to be forks in the road, obstacles that feel insurmountable, and distractions that seem to lure you away from your task at hand. These obstacles and setbacks are going to happen, they are going to happen regardless of the size of the goal or complexity. I know you don’t want to hear it, but these setbacks are part of the process.

These challenges, these rough spots along the way are where growth happens. This is where you decide to persevere or give up, where you figure out what is important to you or what isn’t. These crossroads are where you figure out who you are and what you are made of. This is where you have the opportunity to become your best self, or not, it’s up to you.

These challenges can be scary, but often the fear we are feeling is a fake out. It’s the brains natural reaction to the unknown. The brain likes the status quo, it likes predictability. When you enter a challenge or come to a crossroad you don’t know what is ahead and your brain tries to alert you to that fact.  If you get scared, this is when you have to pause and ask, what happens if I try and succeed versus try and fail? If you think about it, often the worst possible thing that could happen by trying and failing is that you end up a little embarrassed and back where you started. If money is involved, you might end up with a little less than you have today. And the best possible thing? Well, that depends on the goal. I am willing to bet it is something good, or you wouldn’t have set the goal in the first place.

The fact is you have to try.  If you try and fail you have at least faced the fear of trying. That may not sound like much but it is. It makes facing the fear next time that much easier. And that in itself is an accomplishment. Giving into the fear and not trying, letting fear win, that gives fear strength. You do not want to give fear strength, you want to give you strength and you gain strength by trying and doing.

I’ve been on all sides of this equation. I’ve tried and succeeded, tried and failed, and not tried at all. The only regrets I have are the ones where I didn’t try. When I went after my goals, I didn’t always know how things were going to work out, but hell or high water I was going for it. If I made a little mess along the way, like when I tanked my credit in college (a story for another day), fine. It didn’t matter to me. All that mattered was reaching my goal. I’d figure it out, I always did. I was often scared, but not trying wasn’t an option I would even consider. When I went after my goals I felt a sense of accomplishment, I learned I could rely on myself, I grew as a person, I built self-confidence. The more I pushed through hard times, the more I grew into a person I actually liked and was happy to be.

As things in my life got easier, more comfortable, as I started feeling like I had things worth losing fear saw an opportunity. Fear reminded me of all I had to lose and I started to give in and not try. I was scared to rock the boat. I would tell myself I was trying by making little gestures of effort, but I wasn’t giving my all. That is what happens when fear is allowed to win. It gets harder to try, harder to get past the setbacks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

What I ultimately realized is that regardless of life’s situations fear is still nothing more than a fake out. Regardless of our situation in life, we have to go after our goals. We need to take risks, we need to face fears, and we need to keep growing. For me, yes, I have more to lose, so the kamikaze approach of my youth as fun and freeing as it was, is no longer the best path forward. But there is still a path, multiple paths, there is never just one. And fear, it goes away when you confront it. The obstacles, the challenges, they may not be easy, but pushing through and finding a way is always worth it. There is only one way to move forward on any path and that is trying. The act of trying is a win in itself, so don’t hold back. Go for it. Recognize when you are at a crossroad, when the hard part is coming, when the distractions are luring you away and pause. Then brace yourself, remind yourself what you want to achieve, and keep pushing forward. Keep trying, that is how you will reach your goals and that is how you grow.



Parenting, Relationships, Taking It On

Are you brave enough to say YES?

I am always super quick to say, “No” and I think there are a lot of other people who can relate. Do you do it or know someone who does? I’ve come to realize it’s my armor for protecting myself when things feel out of control…which is pretty much always. This is especially true as it relates to parenting.   I can’t speak for why others do it. Interestingly enough, saying “No” all the time really doesn’t keep things from getting out of control, it just limits joy. Thus, I’ve been working on saying, “Yes” more often.

It’s kind of hard sometimes and I can feel the anxiety swelling up, but for the most part I can’t think of anything bad that has happened as a result of saying yes. Most of the results of saying yes are fun and happy times.  Such as letting AK and her friend go play on the slip and slide when it’s raining. It’s not thundering or lightening, it’s just raining. Why say no? They are going to get wet anyways. Turns out they had a blast and nothing bad happened.

Sure, go paint unsupervised! Ok, go bake some cupcake and add all the “secret ingredients” you want! As it turns out, saying yes to these kinds of things are actually quite liberating and quite good for my daughter too. She is learning to depend on herself. Saying yes to painting unsupervised doesn’t mean, yes you can go spill a gallon of paint on my carpet. It means you know the rules to painting unsupervised and I trust you enough to follow them, now go have some fun and create. Which is exactly what happened! As for the cupcakes…not one person died from eating them. In addition, I think my daughter got a little more comfortable in the kitchen fixing things for herself…heck yeah! I’d consider that a win.

There are other aspects of life I’m working on this whole yes thing…work, relationships with friends and family, and finding time for myself.  Some days and weeks are more challenging than others, but overall learning to say yes is a HUGE step in finding joy and oddly in feeling less anxiety.

Have you had any experience with this? Any tips or suggestions?