Whenever I get really stressed I get itchy. My skin breaks out in a rash, my mind turns into total chaos, and most overwhelming I feel the need to flee the country. I always find myself scouring Skyscanner looking for the first flight out of London. The destination always remains the same: everywhere. Many beautiful, spontaneous holidays were born from this coping mechanism, in fact I just returned from a magical weekend in Menorca. For me travelling is like hitting a mental reset button. I find solving simple problems like figuring out the local bus system or finding affordable accommodation refreshing. My current worries seem to melt away and I can later reflect and re-evaluate their importance from a different perspective. I’m trying to learn that these short escapes, however sweet, aren’t the key to maintaining a low stress life. After countless phone calls with my mother I’ve realized that taking preventative measures are the real secret. Here are the recommended practices I’m currently testing to avoid reaching my breaking point:
1. Don’t be a sponge.
I vividly remember coming home from my first semester of University feeling more high strung than ever, my emotions were completely out of whack and I had absolutely no idea why. At school I was sharing a teeny tiny room with two girls who constantly moaned about everything. When I got home, I headed straight to my physical therapist, more accurately described as a voodoo doctor, to help me sort out my aching back. Her fingers are magical, but it is her insight that’s other worldly. I was laying on the table whilst she was trying to work out my back and she told me, “Emma quit acting like a sponge. Your body is saturated with other people’s emotions and that’s the pressure that is making your back kill.” It might take some practice, but it has worked for me. Put up some boundaries. Try your best to not allow friends to constantly dump all of their problems on you. More importantly reevaluate negative relationships. Life is too short to let other people’s stress weigh you down.
2. Open communication.
I am a one of those people who says yes to everything. I frequently schedule multiple plans at overlapping times and even say yes to things I’m not interested in figuring I’ll cancel later. Later, when I realize what I’ve done I start to panic figuring out how I can go to everything, but also sad because I don’t have time for the things I really wanted to do. Imagine how much easier life would be if you were just honest? In Sarah Knight’s TED Talk, “The Life Tidying Magic of Not Giving a F*ck”, she urges people to re-evaluate their lives and realize that the amount they care care about things is finite. ‘Time, energy, and money’ must be poured into everything you choose to do. Keeping that in mind, she broke it down simply, “If you don’t care about something, don’t spend your time doing it. Focus your time and energy on what would make you happy.” Next time a friend asks you to do something before automatically replying yes think to yourself – do you actually want to do it? If you don’t politely decline, it’s much more courteous to be straight forward than to come up with some last minute BS!
3. Find an outlet.
When I get really stressed my energy levels go through the roof. I feel like I’ve just had the equivalent of two back to back espressos and sitting still or exerting any sort of patience feels nearly impossible. Rather than waiting for the energy to pass or allowing it to build up in the first place, find your creative outlet and channel it. Whether you’re into painting, running, or stand up paddle yoga, find what your love and make sure you prioritize it. If that means waking up early, or saying no to a friend, do it! Your mental health will thank you.