I had a conversation with a friend who didn’t know that I completed my life coaching certification last year, and she had a lot of questions about exactly what a Stress Management Coach does and how someone decides to become one. After sharing some background about what I’ve been up to since we’ve seen each other (it’d been 15 years!), I detailed some of the time I spent battling grief and chronic illness and how I faced a pretty serious decision between giving up or teaching myself how to get better. We talked about all of the tools I added to my arsenal as I learn how to heal myself from years of chronic stress and dis-ease, and then she posed a question that I absolutely loved she said, “How would you help me get started?” I want to share my answer with you because I think it is an opportunity to help many of you who may just be getting your self-care footing. Below are my top three methods for lessening stress in my life, and I hope they help you do the same:
- Meditate – This probably scares some of you, but I promise you there’s nothing scary about it. In fact, if you can just muster 1 to 5 minutes to sit in a quiet room by yourself and pull up a short video on your phone to listen to while you close your eyes, you my friend, can meditate. When I was first trying to figure out what this whole meditation thing was all about, I used guided meditation as my training wheels. It did eventually lead me to certify as a teacher of seven different types of meditation, but I started with what was accessible and comfortable to me, and we all must start somewhere. Try listening to a few short ones until you find one that resonates with you and make time to use it every day for a week. Then repeat the following week with a different meditation. Practice for as long or as short a time as you wish, as long as you give it your all and remain committed to doing so at least a few minutes a day, every single day. If you are consistent, you’ll begin to see and feel results quickly. When things get crazy in your life, you will be tempted to quit because you think you need the extra time, but this will be the most important thing you do all day. Show up for yourself. You’ll never be sorry that you took time to meditate.
- Get Outside – I struggle with my day job. It’s not especially in line with my soul’s purpose and it drains me to the point of total exhaustion sometimes, but I still need it to pay my bills right now. Sometimes the only thing that gets me through my shift is stepping away from my desk and taking a lap around the building. There is something about nature, even the small patches of flowers and grass in the shopping center where my office is located, that grounds me in an instant. If you can’t spend all afternoon hiking, or you don’t have a backyard with a lovely garden that you can tend and get your hands dirty in, sit outside with a book on your lunch break or sip some tea on your apartment balcony. Make it a point to get outside once a day and be present in nature. As I’ve made the effort, yes even in the rain and snow, I’ve witnessed it change the energy in my body in a way that’s allowed me to handle whatever I have to do with more grace and ease. It can do that for you too, if you let it.
- Gratitude – If you’d said this to me while I was on my descent into chaos several years ago, I would have a digitally signaled my contempt and probably used some colorful language to make sure I’d made my point. Gratitude is everything, though. Make yourself, and I mean force it if you must, write down three things to be thankful for each day. Do it at the same time every day, and don’t plan to move on to the next thing until you’re finished with the exercise. This is why I like to do mine at the end of the day as part of my winding down process before bed; nothing can get in the way. It might feel a little insincere at first, but even if all you can find to feel thankful for is the ability to write, a pen, and a piece of paper to write on, then start exactly there. More will come. That’s the beautiful thing about gratitude. If you are consistent about practicing it, it begins to bubble out of you. You’ll find more and more things to feel thankful for until one day, thankful is all you feel. I mean sure, you’ll still have other emotions, but the pervasive one will be gratitude. A thankful person is a happy person. Trust me on this. When I started, the only thing I had to feel thankful for was the fact that my illness hadn’t killed me, and now I have no trouble spouting off 100 or more things that I feel a deep sense of gratitude for. You can do this.
I could easily expand on any of these topics and add about 16 more tips, but these are the absolute basics that I started out with when I was finally ready to stop letting stress control me. If it were any more complex I’m not sure I would have tried and that’s all you have to do. Try these methods for one week at a time and before you know it, you’ll have conquered stress and people will be coming to you for advice. That’s exactly how I did it, and you can do it too.
Wishing You Total Well-Being (and Lots of Success),