Stress Management in the Shittiest of Times November 09 2020 3 Comments

 My hands have been freezing like a damn corpse for the entirety of Fall, I've had multiple stress nightmares every night this week and a persistent right lower eyelid twitch for nearly a month. Time alternates between zooming past and sluggishly progressing at a glacial pace, neither of which thrill me. When I ask my friends "how are you doing?" I can't help but say it in the "I already know the answer and I wish I could give you a hug but I can't because of a global pandemic that is showing no sign of slowing down" voice. Despite the glimmer of hope for positive change on the horizon (and flip tone aside here, I genuinely do believe there's hope), these are truly the shittiest of times and there's only so much that positive thinking and Zoom therapy sessions can help.

Clearly I have no insight into every individual's response to this year's ever-increasing shittiness factor, but I do have a big heart and the ability to make an easy-to-slide-exhausted-glazed-eyes-over list of small things that can maybe help manage stress in bite-sized chunks. At the very least, here are a handful of things that have helped me and my family survive the eternal cesspool that is 2020.

Note: I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. I'm just one lady who has a few things that make me feel better and might help you feel better. If you have chronic or dangerous depression, anxiety, or general sense of hopelessness, please seek help.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 



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1. Feel Shitty, Look Pretty!


        This is a trick I learned from a former roommate, who was a burlesque performer and oozed fabulousness out of every glittered pore. She also struggled with depression super hard. There were days where she needed to function and had a hard time summoning up the gumption to leave the house. On these days, she'd get super gussied up and take extra time and care to put into her appearance. The fuss over herself and the confidence boost that came with looking a way that made her feel beautiful would trigger a "fake it til you make it" reaction chain, causing her to feel bright and shiny enough to drag her decorated carcass through some semblance of a functional day. I've tried it myself and it's generally pretty effective! Bonus points for showering. Booster mode if you manage to trim and/or dye your hair (as is appropriate for your own head's health, there's really only so much you can do this one).

2. Take Turns Taking Care. 

        My household has two adults and one high school student. We've all had a rough year (so say we all), but when one of us is really low, one or both of the other two tend to be feeling pretty ok. It's not foolproof, but if those who feel energetic enough to function keep up with the household chores and put in that little bit of extra love, then the one who feels down has less of a filth and funk buildup to fight through when they start to feel an upswing. This obviously doesn't apply to every household, and it's rough when everyone is feeling too overwhelmed and shitty to do anything, but we do our best to keep the ship afloat by distributing the weight when a crew mate is down and it really helps.

3. Hey Look, a Three-Headed Monkey!

        What's that, a distraction?! YES! Good ol' fashioned escapism and denial. Put on a slammin track and dance your ass off. Play a video game. Read a gripping novel! Set an alarm and lose yourself in whatever movie, TV show, comic book or other diversion lifts the weight off your shoulders for awhile. I'm saying TAKE A BREAK from it all, you.

4. Take a Lap.

        Honestly, even just taking one turn about the block makes a huge difference. The shift in scene, fresh air and movement legit help break up the mental and physical rut. It's often easier to commit to just one block rather than a general, undefined "I'm gonna go for a walk." The low barrier of moxie, bite-sized option can absolutely still make a difference.

5. Eat a Damn Vegetable.

        You heard me. I know it's so much easier to eat like crap. Believe me. It's super embarrassing how much Pad See Ew I've eaten since C19 hit. My local Thai joint loves me even as my diet of one single item of take-out seems to have stripped my body of its old-timey healthy balanced energy. "Oh but Friday," you may enable, "there are totally all those broccoli pieces up in that tasty tasty sugar and rice noodle mess!"

        Correct! And to be honest, thanks to the regular broccoli infusion, I'm not even that sorry for my worst quarantine habit. That being said. If your body is fueled properly, it's amazing how much the rest clicks together.

        Now I'm hungry. Damnit.

6. Chuck It in the Fuck It Bucket

        I believe I learned this expression from my mother (unless you are my abuela reading this, in which case I certainly did not). A sweet little turn of phrase that rolls delightfully off the tongue and gives an empowering sense of satisfaction. "Chuck it in the fuck it bucket" is designed to be declared as a battle cry when a situation is not serving you. 

        Rando on the internet trying to explain to you your own area of expertise?
        Personal passion project no longer sparking joy?
        No time or energy for laundry?
        Holding on to people in your life who have not shown themselves to belong there?

        You know what to do. CIITFIB. It doesn't have to be your problem, friendo! Obvious life obligations and rent-paying necessities aside, if there's no reason to keep something or someone around, repeat after me: "I don't need to be doing this. This isn't serving me. There's no reason to hold on to this." Chuck. It. In. The. Fuck. It. Bucket.

        It's really amazing the sense of power and satisfaction that comes from declaring this one. I highly recommend it!

7. Sweet Sweet Fantasy, Baby

        Daydreaming may seem like the same as distraction on the surface, but there's a fine distinction between numbers three and seven on this list. While earlier I recommended escapism to take brief breaks from reality, I am now speaking of positive manifestation. Visualization. Putting it out there into the universe. Yes, all woo-woo what have you, fully The Secret blah blah blah. Note: There is nothing wrong with speaking your desires and fantasies out into the ether. Literally no harm to anyone and you are absolutely going to help your brain feel more hopeful by engaging in setting form to the fantasy.

        Additional note: For us Type-A personalities who feel better when we have some control over our lives, write this shit out! Color-coded lists and reverse-engineered five year plans are my absolute fantasy fuel. Free-form or structure as much as you like. It's all about you and what makes you feel hopeful and direction-oriented.

8. It's All About Control.

         Speaking of control issues! Have you tried tiny, arbitrary goal-setting? Focusing on one itty bitty part of your day where you are absolutely in charge? I'm talking about ritual here, my friend. It's a truth universally acknowledged that humans possessing an insecurity regarding their place & direction in the world are generally control freaks in want of authority over literally anything that gets them grounded. This is obviously self-referential, so roll with me if you feel yourself drawn to control and fixation when stressed.

        Rather than going full-on nervous breakdown over the shelves not being organized just so (yeah, literal diagnosed OCD here, I understand) or getting trapped by the food control slippery slope (my dear fellow eating disorder recovery pals, I see you), find healthier, more tightly-focused outlets. My go-to method for a healthy control impulse outlet is pretty predictable: tea! 

        When I choose to shrink my world down to just the act of making and drinking tea, I can easily spend as much or as little time as I have available in a state of perfect control and peace. Within the ritual of picking out my tea ware, the leaf I want to drink, the temperature of the water and every other minuscule detail, I have created for myself a side quest and paused my primary story line. In this mini-game of tea preparation, I am the master of the universe and am able to regain a sense of self that carries through to my regular day. For you this may be bullet journaling, crochet, fishing or running. I don't know. Whatever that positive alternative to destructive control behavior is for you, try really leaning into it and making it your ritual.

9. Meditation Station

        Meditation can look like so many things. The classic concept of lotus position and mantra chanting is a gorgeous approach that is helpful to those who practice it. Meditation can also look like watching your tea or coffee brew while slowing your breathing. It can look like counting up to ten and back down again. It can look like taking a long walk with no other purpose than to breathe outside or like dancing ecstatically without worrying about how you look. Honestly, meditation can look like screaming into a pillow in a rhythmic fashion. I've literally done that and it was amazing. Anything that brings quiet to the mind and has a rhythm or flow to it can be incredibly helpful in lowering your stress levels, and regular meditation practice has been shown to have a bunch of health benefits, but my favorite is honestly just feeling refreshed in the moment.

        See also: Medication Station. Those of you that take meds, have you remembered to do so today?

10. Have You Talked to Someone?

        Oh hello, it's me! Your old friend "Maybe Therapy is a Necessity!" Honestly, I'm a major believer in just having somewhere to process your thoughts and feelings. A pocket universe away from your day-to-day. Whether this is a literal therapist, a journal, a series of paintings or a video diary, you gotta have an outlet. Even internal processors can only smash so much through the brain before offloading some data. I find that having a place to express and process that is just for myself and won't involve my friends or family is vital. It helps me get my brain right so I'm moving through the world in a more clear and grounded fashion. Seriously. Talk to someone. Even if that "someone" isn't an actual human.

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Again, I want to make very clear that these are just a few things that help myself and my family get through shitty times. Please always listen to yourself when it comes to your own care. Love you much, want you to be safe and healthy!


PS, if you want to stock up on teas that are bomb for headaches, anxiety and cognitive function, check out this previous blog post with a list of recommendations and their specific applications!