We all have stressful days from time to time: the days when nothing seems to go right, or the days we spend counting down the moments until we can finally relax for the evening. Feeling stressed is a very normal response when life feels overwhelming, but we should still address it when it comes up.
Stress is our body’s natural response to a threat (whether it is real or perceived). Think back to a time when the entire human experience was strictly survival – humans had to constantly be on high alert to identify any potential threat as one wrong move could have been a matter of life or death. In certain situations, stress can be a helpful and motivational tool to accomplish tasks quickly and effectively. However, it can also cause us to be our worst critic by noticing (or seeking out) threats about ourselves that the rest of the world would likely not notice.
What we find stressful is determined by our reality, which is subject to our interpretation. Have you ever watched a movie with a friend and thought it was a cinematic masterpiece, but they hated it? We all have an entire lifetime worth of events that directly shape how we interpret the world around us. Two people could go through virtually the same event but come out with two different experiences based on their past. Before anything else, we need to remember how we feel should not be based on how other people may be feeling. We may find something stressful, whereas someone else may find the same thing perfectly fine. When we stop basing our feelings on how other people perceive something, we can better process what has happened to us and respond in a way that meets our individual needs.
A lot of people throw around the expression “take a breath” or “take a lap”. The idea behind this is pretty simple – it is used as a reminder to take a moment of clarity before you proceed, react, or respond. When we are in the moment, or when we are unable to sleep in the middle of the night, we may find ourselves feeling consumed by stress. During these times, we need to take a moment to S.T.O.P. and shift our focus back onto ourselves. Yes, the acronym is quite literally the word stop, and it stands for stop, take a breath, observe, and proceed. This does not need to be a long or strenuous process, but it does give you an opportunity to quickly pull yourself out of the situation to evaluate what is going on. Firstly, when you notice that you are feeling stressed, remember to stop and pause. Then, take a breath – without noticing, when we are stressed, our breath may be getting quicker, or we may even hold it, which can contribute to our stressful or uncomfortable feelings. Next, observe what is going on, how you are doing, and how you are feeling. Finally, allow yourself the opportunity to proceed while feeling a little calmer and a little clearer. This can be done quickly and in the moment as a way to check-in with yourself to see what is really going on.
We may find that we end up bringing home a particularly stressful day with us. When this is the case, try doing these five things.
5 Things To Do After A Stressful Day
1. Log Offline
We know social media is a collection of highlight reels – we actively choose what we want to share, whether it is good or bad. With the tap of a button, we can suddenly live our dream life. We can be the happiest we have ever been, the most successful, the most financially stable, the most beautiful, etc. – or, at least, we can edit our lives to appear that way. We can edit our lives in a way to share our fancy new job without the months of unemployment and financial strain that lead to that moment. Or we can share our new home while ignoring the years of rejected offers. Naturally, we want to put our best foot forward and appear like we have life figured out, and there is nothing wrong with that. But we need to remember this is common to do on social media. We may be able to remind ourselves that social media is not real on a good day, but it may be more difficult on a stressful day. On days when you are not feeling 100%, you may find it beneficial to step back from social media for a bit. Turn your phone off, and spend some time in the real world.
2. Get it Off Your Chest
When we bottle things up as opposed to working through them, those feelings will eventually release, and not always in the healthiest manner. Therefore, we need to find a safe space to work through and release our thoughts when necessary. An effective way to do this is through journaling. Journaling allows us to slow down our thoughts and work through our feelings by taking the time to put pen to paper. If journaling is not for you, another way to get something off of your chest is by confiding in someone you trust. When choosing somebody to confide in, bear in mind that we live in a society where we value happiness and feel uncomfortable by negative emotions. Sometimes, the people we love may want to try to help us work through whatever we are stressing over. While their intentions are most likely loving, we may find excessively positive responses (such as: “at least you have ____”, or, “well _____ has it so much worse”) to be difficult when may just need to vent. These excessively positive responses are part of this new conversation of toxic positivity, and we recently wrote a blog post about it that you can find here, but as a baseline, if you feel like you need to vent after a stressful day, try making your intentions clear from the start. “I’ve had a pretty stressful day. I’m not looking for any solutions, but I need to get this off of my chest – do you mind if I vent for a few minutes?”
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3. Evaluate Why
After you have had a chance to get it off your chest, give yourself some time to evaluate why you are stressed. Sometimes we get caught up on the surface level and fail to get to the root of why it is we are feeling that way. If this is a one-off feeling, try asking yourself why a couple of times. The only way this will be effective is if you give yourself space to be vulnerable and dive deep into your feelings. If you struggle to work through your feelings regularly, if you are constantly feeling stressed and overwhelmed, or if you need someone to talk through things with, you may want to speak with a professional. There is absolutely nothing wrong with speaking with a licensed therapist or counsellor. It is important to remember these professionals have dedicated their lives to understanding why you are feeling the way you are feeling, and are there to help you unwind and make sense of the thoughts in your head.
4. Practice Gratitude
Hearing the term gratitude practices may feel a little intimidating if you are new to it, but it is essentially the idea of dedicating time to focus on the good in life. Gratitude practices differ from toxic positivity as they act as a tool to help evaluate the bigger picture and to remind you of the beauty you already have, as opposed to masking negative emotions with positive feelings. For example, if you are feeling stressed about a massive project at work, and you have taken time to vent about it, as well as evaluate why it is stressful, you may find it beneficial to shift your focus onto something that is going well for you. From your favourite TV show to visiting with an old friend, pay attention to something that you are grateful for in your life. If you are new to the world of gratitude practices, check out this blog post with seven daily gratitude practices to try today.
5. Do Something For Yourself
Go for a walk, have a bath, take a nap, read a book, paint your nails, practice yoga, meditate, sing, dance: do you, for you. It does not mean you should be blowing off every little responsibility you may have for the rest of the day, but it does mean you should allow yourself to do something for yourself. Even if all you have in your day is 5 minutes, fill those 5 minutes with something for you.