Hi, friends! How are you? I’ve got a post for you today about something that I feel like we all need to be having more conversations about: stress-management. I’ve written about the changes I’ve made to manage my anxiety and improve my work-life balance in the past and many of you have reached out saying how much these posts helped and how much you can relate, so I wanted to share some more things that have helped me. A little background…
I’ve always been somewhat of a worry-wart, and I know that many of you share the same personality characteristic. Most recently, as most of you know, 2017 was a rather stressful year for me. Unforeseeable delays in launching the Designed to Fit Nutrition software, coupled with balancing working on CNC and being a mom, led me on a downward spiral of crying, sleepless nights, stress-eating and wine-drinking (it happens!). Needless to say, the unhealthy habits I was using to cope with my never-ending to-do list just resulted in a whole host of physical problems like eczema, acne, weight gain and – yep – more anxiety! It’s a vicious cycle that I knew had to be nipped in the bud before it became even worse. I experienced something similar when I had Quinn – so many sleepless nights with a non-stop racing mind, dreading how exhausted I would feel the in the morning… then rinse, repeat, and do it all over again. Not only was my anxiety taking a toll on my health, it was also impacting my family. I am not the best version of myself when I am overwhelmed, and sometimes the people who are closest to you bear the brunt of your bad moods. Ugh, I wasn’t happy with who I was becoming. In addition, I absolutely love my work, and I while I know all jobs have some level of stress, I definitely did not want CNC to become another task I dreaded rather than looked forward to. Something had to give!
Let’s fast-forward to the present. After taking a time-out to do some much needed soul-searching and making positive changes to benefit both my physical and mental well-being, I am happy to report that I am living life (mostly) stress-free. My anxiety is under control, I’ve stopped the incessant worrying, and I’ve learned to let go and just live. I can truly say I’ve never been happier!
Getting myself to this place didn’t come easy. At. All. I know that many of you, like I was, are moving at 100 miles per hour, juggling a million things, and constantly worrying that you can’t do it all, while somehow managing to do it all. There are tons of resources out there for stress-management, but the problem is that we don’t all have the time to sift through the jargon and pull out the actual actionable steps that we can take to get ourselves to a healthier mindset. That’s why I wanted to share with you a few tips about what helped me to, both physically and mentally, adopt a much more “YOLO” attitude.
One of the first steps I took towards letting go of stress was overhauling the negative thoughts and endless to-do lists that were keeping me up at night. I now appreciate the present moment where I am and for what it is, rather than always thinking about the next item on my to-do list or the next goal I need to achieve. Ok, it still happens, but I’m MUCH better about living in the present as much as possible. I’ve confessed my love for 10% Happier before, but can’t say it enough: this book has truly changed my life. One line that really resonates with me is:
“Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment. And imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one. That is continuous stress.”
This. So much this. There were sooooo many nights where I tried my hardest to fall asleep, and just couldn’t because I kept worrying about what needed to be accomplished the next day, or worse, how I was going to do it all running on nothing but fumes (because I wasn’t sleeping). Now, when those kind of thoughts creep up, I pause and think about how fortunate I am to have the here and now, including the opportunity to do what I love for a living, the good health to move my body, a wonderful family and friends that I get to spend time with. Counting my blessingsis something I do daily, especially because throughout my journey with Ulcerative Colitis, there have been many times where I was too sick to even take Murphy for a walk around the block. I don’t take anything for granted anymore, even the ability to complete the most mundane of daily tasks. I literally thank God (in my head) every time I walk into CrossFit or start a run. Positive thinking works and practicing gratitude always lifts my mood, which saves me from whatever funk I am in before I get totally stuck there.
Another change I’ve made that has helped tremendously is the simple act of talking – who knew! When I’m anxious, I have a tendency to deflect all of those thoughts inward and keep trucking along without telling anyone that I feel like I am falling apart. During a particularly rough patch last year, Mal suggested that I see a therapist. Guys, this was a game-changer. Going to therapy a few times made a HUGE difference in the way I perceive stress. My therapist helped me to realize that I was putting a ton of pressure on myself to “do it all.” The problem is there just aren’t enough hours to wear all of my many hats in one day. By scrambling to check every last item off of my to-do list, I was never giving work or my family 100% of my full attention (which they both deserve) because I was constantly distracted. Talk about a major “Aha” moment!
Since attending therapy, I’ve become a lot more relaxed and – wouldn’t you know it- a lot more efficient! When I’m working, I do my best to stay “in the zone.” (I am a big fan of “blocking,” which I learned about in The One Thing.) And when I’m with my family, I make sure that I am present and engaged by disconnecting from work-mode. One way of doing that has been to just force myself put my phone down. Easier said than done, I know! While I absolutely love my job and the ability to stay connected to all of you, all of the time, it does contribute the feeling of always being “on.” I wrote a post about my love-hate relationship with my iPhone and some of the ground rules that our family has laid down for decreased phone time. Meals have been declared a “no phone zone,” and I’ve scheduled a specific time in the evening to check-in with clients/emails/social media just to make sure nothing has exploded. (You might have noticed that my IG Stories sometimes die in the evening for this reason.) What I’ve found is that stepping away is actually refreshing, and it makes me that much more excited when I return! As a blogger and influencer, social media is a big part of what I do and it can be hard to just say no to one more picture, one more story, etc. But I try to remember that taking a break is necessary if I want to give my 100% and work will always be there when I come back.
While all of these mental stressors were coming my way, I was also dealing with some pretty significant hormonal issues. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, after having Quinn I began experimenting with different kinds of birth control to see what worked (I was on the pill for many years before trying to get pregnant). I tried the Paragard, which didn’t work for me, and after taking a short break to let my hormones regain balance with no success, I ended up back on the pill – and then jumping around between different brands. I started with super low-dose Lo Loestrin Fe, before progressing higher and higher up the ladder of hormones. Without even realizing it, I had upped the level of hormones in my body significantly over the course of only a few months! Cue all the side effects, including acne, mood swings, weight gain, and fatigue. Eventually, I decided that enough was enough, and I quit hormonal birth control completely.
I was worried about getting my cycle back on track naturally, and if I would experience even worse side effects as my wacky hormones tried to regain balance. I had heard many good things about seed cycling and decided to give it a go. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, but I’m glad I took a leap of faith and tried it because, hey, it worked! I saw serious improvements in my mood and energy levels, my gross night sweats were significantly reduced, and I lost a decent amount of weight! Like, what?! My crazy hormones were definitely contributing to an already stressful situation, so I am super happy that they are now (mostly) under control and that seed cycling helped to ease the transition. Seriously, as soon as I stopped taking the pill, it felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders! Hormones can really mess with you! It’s been 9 months since I stopped taking the pill, and I feel so much better.
It’s pretty apparent that reducing the amount of stress in my life has been a labor of love, but it’s been so worth it. It definitely did not happen overnight, and I am still constantly learning about different tricks I can keep in my “anxiety toolbox” to pull out whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed. I’m actually just starting to get into Stoicism, which is both super interesting and super helpful. For those of you who don’t know, Stoicism is an ancient Greek philosophy that teaches you how to be more in control of your emotions. For me personally, I often fear the worst possible thing happening, and this fear can be more debilitating than anything else. It causes me to become paralyzed and stuck in my own head, and that’s just no way to live. Stoicism encourages you to visualize how you would feel if the thing you fear the most (like losing your job, etc.) were to actually happen. Putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation takes away the “unknown” aspect of it. The philosophy also teaches you to see obstacles as opportunities. For example, the next time someone cuts me off while driving, instead of getting mad, I just remind myself that this person is teaching me patience. Changing my perception seemed like such a small, inconsequential thing to do, but it has really helped to reduce stress and get me out of my own head, and I love that Stoicism encourages you to face your fears rather than shy away from them.
In hindsight, I can now see that no matter how much time I spent worrying or stressing, those sleepless nights or frustrated outbursts never actually changed anything. In fact, they often just worsened the problem. What has helped has been slowing down and taking the time to assess the challenges that I am facing, instead of just plowing ahead without giving my feelings a reality check. I know that so many of you are just as busy, if not more busy, than I am, and you might feel like you don’t even have the time to pause and check-in with yourself. But, take it from me, you can’t burn the candle on both ends and expect to show up to your life ready to kick ass everyday. We all need to take breaks from time-to-time and reflect on what aspects of our lives are overwhelming and what changes we can make to reduce stress. Sometimes it’s reading an encouraging book or opening up to a loved one, sometimes it’s a physical issue that we need to take the time to resolve. And, sometimes, its just pausing to appreciate the current moment with all its beauty and its flaws, and to remind yourself to worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes.
And when all else fails, at least there’s always wine! 🙂
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