Women almost always have to juggle an immense amount of responsibilities, which is why a lot of the time, it feels like being a woman and stress go hand in hand. Some would actually say that we’ve got more things to take care of than ever before — not only are many of us in possession of demanding careers, but we still take care of the majority of the work at home, from vacuuming to feeding the kids to managing the bills.
And wives and mothers aren't the only women with a lot on their plates: Women are more likely than men to reach the upper echelons of higher education — though we end up getting paid less than men, we're actually more educated. Recent research has also shown that when women get involved with peacemaking leadership, we make a huge difference in conflict resolution and management. So, yeah, turns out that song was right — we pretty much run the world.
This is all why it’s totally normal to feel the heavy burden of stress on your shoulders every now and then, to worry about whether you can handle it all and still come out on the other end, sane and put-together. You’re not the only one who feels the pressure. But what matters is how we handle it. Sometimes it's easy to throw in the towel and just hole up with a bag of potato chips and some Netflix. But there are more useful ways to face stress — and unlike vegging out, these methods will propel you forward in all your meaningful endeavors.
Here are nine things to do when you feel like life is getting out of control:
1. Get Off The Internet
When you’ve got heaps on your plate and a long to-do list, social media may feel like a good way to relax. Although it can offer a nice break every now and then, staring at your favorite celebrities’ Twitter accounts for an hour isn't going to help you manage all your duties.
And it may even cause you to feel depressed. Studies show that people who look at their friends’ pictures on Facebook and other social media often tend to feel more insecure about themselves than people who don't. This can lead them to adopt an unhealthy tendency to engage in "social comparison" (i.e. comparing your actual life to your friends' expertly curated social media feeds, and feeling bad about yourself as a result). You’re too awesome for that, so close your Instagram! I like to call this "intermittent electronic fasting."
It's good to get in the habit of only getting on social media for a few minutes at a time, but if you're feeling particularly stressed, give it a complete rest. It will be there for you later when you've got your stuff in order.
2. Take Some Alone Time
Being with a big group of people in times of acute stress isn’t always the best idea; for me, it usually results in an anxiety attack. Instead, consider a little “me time.” Spending an hour alone doesn’t make you a loser, and it definitely doesn’t mean that you’re anti-social. Studies actually show that flying solo for a short amount of time can do wonders for your relationships, up your level of creativity, and make you more productive.
So go for a stroll through the park. Take a journal and jot down all the things you don’t feel like saying out loud. Whatever it is, clear your mind and have fun with yourself.
3. Drink Chamomile Tea
This hot beverage has been used for centuries throughout the world as a sleep aid and a natural way to ease anxiety. Today, it's still used to calm emotions linked to stress, worry, and anger. Studies even prove that it's a nerve relaxant, and, unlike some prescription medications and over-the-counter products used to treat anxiety, it can't lead to any nasty side effects.
Instead of boring old tea bags, buy some all-natural loose-leaf chamomile tea, and go through the soothing process of brewing it for yourself at home. This will also give you a little downtime and prepare you for whatever tasks lie ahead.
4. Eat Some Almonds
When I get stuck in a worrywart phase, the first thing I want to do is shovel down some sugary processed food. Cookies, brownies, chocolate-covered peanuts, you name it. But as much as you might be craving them, it's best to avoid these junk foods when you are feeling really stressed out; they can cloud your thinking, make you sluggish, and hinder you from getting things done.
Rather than hitting the sugar, try eating some almonds. They boost serotonin levels, stabilize blood sugar, and elevate selenium, a mineral that instantly boosts your mood. You can even get creative and make some almond-based treats, like a glazed snack with raw honey and cocoa powder. YUM.
5. Listen To An Inspiring Podcast
These days, it's incredibly easy to find new podcasts on a variety of subjects — from science and technology to women’s health issues — right on your mobile device. You can learn a boatload about obscure topics — or you can choose a podcast that totally pumps you up and reminds you how badass you are.
So carve out 20 minutes for yourself, browse podcasts through iTunes or a podcast app, select a topic that appeals to you, and inject yourself with some immediate inspiration.
If you're looking for some podcast recommendations, let me say: If you’re not a regular TED Talk listener, you're missing out, man. There are some great ones out there on self-esteem and the importance of self-care, for example.
6. Tap Into Your Creative Side
Countless business leaders today recommend that businesses and entrepreneurs regularly engage in creativity exercises in order to boost productivity. Being creative does more than just provide you with a sense of personal satisfaction — it also helps you tackle big problems, and it can reduce our fear of failure.
Take a break from your workload to paint a pretty picture, or try your hand at writing poetry. Nobody is going to grade you on your attempts, don't worry, so they don't have to be masterpieces that will be passed down through the generations. Any small (even silly) attempt at tapping into your creative inner self will help you manage other aspects of your life.
7. Give Yourself A Massage
Professional massages feel great, but you don't need to spend a couple hundred bucks to have a professional masseuse help you relax. Here's a ridiculously easy solution: take two tennis balls (they can be old and tattered), pick a spot on the body, and just roll away. Might I suggest underneath the back of the neck or behind the calves? Um, delicious.
I've recently adopted a nightly routine that has added oh-so-much color to my life. I spend about 15 minutes massaging my upper arms, wrists, feet, and calf muscles. Sure, it's not as sweet as having a masseuse do it, but it's definitely cheaper and it still helps me unwind after a long day.
8. Cuddle An Animal
Seriously, what could go wrong in the world when you’ve got a kitten in your arms? Or a floppy puppy? I mean, it's just basic human psychology: having a cute animal around reduces stress. Playing with a pet has also been known to lower blood pressure and reduce risk of heart disease. Plus, they just make you forget about all the other adult things you have to do this week.
If you don't have a pet of your own, there are many other ways to bring some fuzzy buddies into your life. Animal shelters can always use more volunteers — most shelters are already dealing with a huge number of homeless pets that need care and attention. Devote even an hour of your time to help look after some cute fluffy creatures, and you'll suddenly find that your problems aren't nearly as bad as you thought them out to be.
9. Consider Seeing A Therapist
Do you feel like things in your life are out of control more often than not? You could be facing a bigger issue than just a busy schedule; you might have an anxiety disorder or simply a habit of taking on too many responsibilities, and it’s leaving you drained. If you’ve never considered it before, now might be a good time to think about finding a professional you can work with.
Therapists aren’t only reserved for people who are “crazy,” which is a horrible stereotype that needs to be put to rest. They can actually help you with a number of important issues that impact the quality of your life, from time management to long-term life planning. Not everyone has to have a shrink, but don’t rule out the idea just because you’re holding on to some negative and outdated stereotypes.
Even if you take all these tips to heart, you'll still feel stressed out sometimes. But knowing that you have these coping strategies in your back pocket may help you remember that even if life feels out of control, you have the power to make yourself feel good again.
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