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5 Stress-Busting Strategies to get You Through 2021

It’s no secret that the last year has been challenging. All of us likely started out the year with optimism and excitement, which gradually turned into confusion, fear and eventually, exhaustion. Many of us have experienced illness ourselves, had a loved one become ill, had the security of our jobs threatened or taken from us, have had to adapt to working from home, work as frontline “essential workers,” or have had to become teachers overnight. It’s truly been a year of unknown twists and turns, resulting in mental health stress all around. We’ve almost made it though and here are 5 stress-busting strategies to get you through the rest of 2021.

Working as a life coach during these quickly changing and unchartered times has given me insight into what strategies and mindsets have had a positive impact in the lives of my clients. While nobody was exempt from feeling the burn, certain strategies did manage to help them. I’ve decided to share those with you in hopes to help you face the new day tomorrow, stand strong, and move forward with strength.

1. Acknowledge and normalize what you’re feeling

Let me be the first to give you permission to allow yourself to feel exactly what you’re feeling. It IS valid, regardless of how you were raised, what others say, or what your negative inner voice has tried to tell you. The many emotions that come with turbulent times exist for a reason, and you’re allowed to feel them.

Put this into action

Start a journal, write what you are experiencing as a narrative, in story form. Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling in the moment, don’t minimize it, don’t judge yourself, and don’t try to force yourself to feel something else. How are YOU feeling right now?

2. Start practicing healthy coping mechanisms

Since you’ve taken the step of writing down how you’re feeling, the next step is to take a moment to write down your stresses. Work? Home life? Missing the gym? Then, write down your current coping mechanisms. When you feel stressed, do you eat? Do you yell? Do you rely on a substance? Be truthful with yourself, and without judgement. Then, start researching healthy coping mechanisms. Make a list of ideas you can try next time you feel stress coming on. Envision what your life will be like should you start implementing that mechanism. Some of my clients use sunny walks, meditation, calling a friend, seeking therapy (or their life coach), and even arts and crafts to help them through the stressful times.

Put this into action

Chances are, you’re like most people and weren’t taught how to properly handle emotion. It’s no fault of your own that feeling emotion may feel like a foreign concept. The good news is that it’s not too late to learn now! What is a healthy coping mechanism anyway? According to the Psychology Glossary at alleydog.com, “Coping refers to the human behavioral process for dealing with demands, both internal or external, in situations that are perceived as threats.” A healthy coping mechanism is one that helps you deal with threatening situations in a way that does not bring you harm.

3. Give yourself grace

Take a moment to write down everything you do – for yourself, for your family and to make ends meet. Then, reflect. How much do you do? How hard have you been trying this year? Now, no matter what you wrote, allow that to be enough. Giving yourself grace looks like “I don’t need to focus on anything else today, I have done enough.”

Put this into action

From what I’ve seen from my clients, the environmental circumstances have impacted stress levels tremendously. Prior to the events of 2020, we were already running in circles trying to balance everything from reaching our personal goals, fitness goals, and establishing some semblance of work/life balance all while trying to meet our own astronomically high expectations.

Add the last year to the mix, and now our “normal” feels out of grasp, and you’ve got the inner over-achiever starving to feel worth anything. Can you relate? Help alleviate some of that self-induced pressure and give yourself room to just be, and to just breathe.

4. Help and support those around you

Intentionally seek opportunity to help someone. This can look like offering a listening ear, buying someone’s food in line behind you, sending a cute meme to someone who’d enjoy it, or asking a friend what they need right now.

Put this into action

Helping and supporting others around you may seem contrary to what’s needed in a time where your focus should be on self-care, but it’s shown to help yourself when you can bring a smile to someone else’s face, or to help someone take care of a need they have. According to Mentalhealth.org.uk, “Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing. For example, it can reduce stress as well as improve mood, self-esteem and happiness.”

5. Make time for yourself, without an agenda

You have so much on your to-do list already, but when do you make time to do absolutely nothing? Setting time aside to do nothing has been shown to increase creativity and better problem solving according to the New York Times.

Put this into action

Allow this inaction to show up in your schedule sometime in the next eight hours. You can take a step towards it by scheduling it though… sometimes we need a push to do something so against our normal hustle bustle life. Focus on a brighter future, but start living today.

Do what you can...

Regardless if you try any of these strategies, know that tomorrow may be better, next year may be better, and focusing on what that might look like will give us grit, strength, and perseverance. Focus on what you CAN control today, and if it boils down to just controlling whether you brush your teeth and comb your hair, then allow that to be okay. Sending you lots of positive thoughts, vibes, and gratitude for your time and wishing you all the best as you conquer the remainder of 2021.

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