What are the life events that can leave you stressed out or assessing your life as a whole? Presently for me, it’s the milestone birthday quickly headed my way. It has caused me to dwell on the concept of time and the warp speed at which it seems to be running.
Based on recent conversations I’ve had with others on the cusp of milestones or new seasons, I know I’m not alone with this realization. It makes no difference if we’re referring to the actual seasons of the year, a particular age, or the seasons by which we categorize our lives (think of labels such as singlehood, parenthood, empty nester, divorce, illness, etc.). A by-product of living in our modern age are seasons that are fluid, dynamic, busy, and in constant motion.
Busyness Without Balance = Stressed Out
None of this is a bad thing, per se. But often, we may not recognize how busy and stressed out we are in the moment until we look back over our lives—just as I’ve been doing as of late—and saying things like, “2015? Hmmm, why the heck can’t I remember what went on that year? Oh, that’s right…I had a newborn and preschooler, and I was solo-parenting; I was grieving my grandmother’s death, sleep was obsolete, and I felt like someone was feeding me crazy pills on a 24/7 basis.”
Yes, everything from our daily rhythms, schedules, and outlooks to our stress and resilience levels ebb and flow within each new season we encounter. It might seem counter-intuitive to slow down, especially amid busyness, kids’ activities, or our career-building. There’s just so much to do. And yet, the effects of nonstop schedules and accumulated daily stressors can wreak havoc on our well-being.¹ The challenge lies in balancing these dynamic seasons with self-care and intentionality.
The great news is that you can practice the art of slowing down in bite-sized chunks no matter what season you find yourself. The keyword here is “practice,” and the question becomes: How do we stay grounded, present, and fully show up for our lives no matter what we may be facing?
5 Tips to Stay Calm When You Feel Stressed Out and Overwhelmed
The following stress reducers have helped me navigate seasonal changes when I was overwhelmed and the need for recalibration was at its peak. I hope they help you do the same:
1. Deep breaths.
Perhaps one of the fastest ways to slow our racing thoughts down, ease tension, and experience momentary bliss is by simply focusing on our breath. Breath work can be done anytime, anywhere, and the obvious bonus is that it’s free.
When we’re feeling tense, we tend to take shallow breaths in our chest regions. Or, if you’re anything like me, we’ll hold our breath and won’t even realize it until we start to feel a little light-headed. Breathing with awareness—inhale, hold, exhale—sends a signal to our brains that we can calm down and relax. To learn more specific breathing exercises, check out these here or here to try for yourself.
2. Calm commute crazies.
Years ago, our family lived in Washington, D.C., and it was during that time I formed a strong disdain for standstill traffic. I can say with utmost confidence that nothing drives me to a state of Crazytown faster than being stuck in it (cue the cranky kids in the backseat, and, well, I become the worst version of myself at the drop of a dime).
Two subsequent geographical moves to equally traffic-heavy areas of the country have taught me a thing or two since then: I optimize the aspects in my control, which look like doing the tip above (breathing), playing music that soothes my nervous system, listening to an audiobook that will engage the kids, and focusing on minor stretches like spinal twists or neck rolls (because movement can be a great antidote to stress).
Several years ago, I started training my (early morning-adverse) body to wake up between 5:00-5:30 a.m. to allow my mind to clear the fog before I jump into my day. I write; I read; I pray; I meditate; I unplug, and I am still. I’m protective of this sacred time because I know I’m a better wife, mom, and woman when I start my days this way.
Maybe the early morning isn’t your magic hour, but instead, it’s at night or during the day. Because many women can battle guilt around caring for themselves, you might experience some internal pushback. But, it is only by being connected and aligned with our most authentic selves—who is the self we get to know during our magic hours!—and with our Creator that we can confidently show up for our lives.
4. Practice presence.
There are countless resources out there if you want to learn more about practicing present awareness, but try the following at your next event: put the phone away, ignore your to-do list or the next thing on the agenda, and activate your senses by honing in on what you can see, feel, smell, hear, and taste.
Why does the present moment matter? Because it’s when we can actively engage in our lives instead of staying in past or future-oriented thinking. It takes deliberate action on our parts to practice presence and focus on the world around us, yet doing so will reduce stress and anxiety levels.
5. Create a nighttime environment that promotes sound sleep.
Sleep is something we often undervalue, but even if we think we’re accomplishing more by skimping on sleep, we’re not. Adequate sleep is an essential pillar to navigating our active, bustling lives with our full potential. Just as our kids thrive on bedtime routines, we also need that transition time to shift from hustle mode into sleep mode. Experiment with some of these ideas to see what ushers in a sound night of sleep for you:
—Cool, stable temperatures
—Charging devices out of the bedroom
—Reflecting over your day and journaling about what you were grateful for
—Diffusing essential oils or spraying oils on your pillows
—Wearing an eye mask or earplugs
Showing up for life, whatever season we may be facing, with less stress and more calm requires intention and some planning on our parts. Yet, it’s so worth the effort. Just begin somewhere and remember to take it all in bite-sized chunks. I promise you’ll be thankful you did!
Looking for more balance? Don’t miss this episode of our podcast This Grit and Grace Life: Is Your Life Out of Balance? – 011!