How I Keep Myself Happy (Or Try, At Least)

Friday, March 25, 2016

I am prone to stress. I know, I know: Aren't we all? But truly, I think one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to recognize the signs of our own stress & to identify ways that help us cope with it. Of course, that looks different for everyone. My cousin's stress management, for example, includes running marathons on a whim, which is not a method that's probably ever gonna make it into my repertoire.

Lately, I've been a little bit more stressed than usual, so I'm revisiting some of the ways that I best deal with whirring thoughts, high blood pressure, & the physical ailments that stress so kindly brings along with it.
  1. Writing in a gratitude journal

    I bought a little journal from Marshall's awhile back that has just a few lines for each day, just enough space to write down a few notes of gratitude. A use it to list, whether in complete sentences or not, the things that have made my day good, even if my day wasn't, well, very good at all. Trying to focus on the positives keep me appreciative of all that's right in my life, even when much feels wrong.
  2. Reviewing my "gold star" folder

    I keep a folder in my Outlook labeled "Gold Star," where I store any & all emails I receive that include a compliment, be it about my work, my personality, or something nice I did for someone. When I'm feeling particularly bad about myself & struggling with self-destructive thoughts about how much I suck, I turn to this folder as a reminder that I am good at what I do & that, gosh darn it, people like me.
  3. Letting something go

    When I'm stressed about one thing, I end up being stressed about everything. I run through my mental to-do list over & over & over, wondering how on earth I'll finish everything (or anything, for that matter). I've discovered that it's important for me to pull apart each little element & to figure out which things can wait, what can be done to a lesser degree than originally planned, & what I can, frankly, pay someone else to do for me, when possible. If I can weed out some of the less-important items on my list, I can focus on the ones that are truly giving me grief.
  4. Practicing hygge

    In English, the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced "hoo-ga") translates as "coziness," though apparently this Danish way of life goes far beyond our typical understanding of that word: "The idea is to relax and feel as at-home as possible, forgetting life's worries." For me, hygge means eating my favorite foods, wearing my comfiest pajamas, lighting my best-smelling candles, relaxing in a clean apartment, cuddling with my cat... whatever it takes to just feel that deep sense of comfort & contentment that helps everything else fade away.
  5. Moving my body

    I'm admittedly not great at this, but when I'm stressed, I feel it in my body, especially in my shoulders, neck, & upper back. Turning to yoga as a means of releasing the physical impacts of stress can really help calm stress's effects on my mind. And if I'm not in the mood for yoga (lately, I haven't been, though I want to get back into it), I'll just take a walk around my neighborhood. 
  6. Zoning right the hell out

    Maybe watching TV isn't the healthiest way to cope with stress, but sometimes, I find that my stress is a direct result of firing on all cylinders for too long. Focusing on one mindless thing, like catching up on a favorite show on Hulu while not using my phone or doing a zillion other things, helps me normalize a little bit & gives my brain time to settle down.
So tell me: What else should I be doing to deal with stress? How do you handle it?  

PS: Now I have a new way to destress, too - hanging out on my new deck. I sat out there today & read a magazine, & my God, it was glorious. I may never be stressed again.

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