I get stressed out very easily. If you are like me, you have tried everything from meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, taking walks to being in nature. Those things do help and I still do at least some of them on a regular basis. But recently, I have been getting overwhelmed by all the tips people have. I wrote down a list of all the things I can do to become less stressed. This is my list:
All of these activities can help. But seeing this list may be completely overwhelming. So, I will share with you what actually helps me de-stress without adding more stress.
The first mistake I made was in writing a whole list of all the things that I have to do to de-stress. Yes, all of these things help. But they will not help if I make myself do all of it every day. So take it easy on yourself and don’t worry about it. Remember why you’re doing this in the first place. You want to worry less, not more. What helped me is picking one or two of these activities that I want to focus on. You could pick a different one every day or choose one that you would like to make a habit out of and practice that one every day. But do not try to make twelve new habits, or add twelve things to your to-do list for the day.
This has really helped me de-stress. I like to make a to-do list every Sunday for the following week. When I don’t get enough done in a day, I feel like I have failed. I worry about how I am going to get everything done that I need to be done in the week. So, now I tell myself to do only one thing a day. If I can do more, great, if not, no worries. I set myself the goal of doing one of the things on my to-do list and I can be proud of myself if I do that one thing. This was a tip that one of my professors gave me. I immediately protested that my weekly to-do list usually has more than seven items on it. So I would not be able to get everything done if I only did one thing a day. But I decided to try it anyway. It gave me a feeling of peace. I could go to bed without being disappointed in myself or angry at myself. Because I managed to do one thing a day. And as it turns out, I ended up being able to do more than one thing a day on most days and still feel proud of myself on the days that I only managed to do one thing. I still do this. I did three things today. Yesterday I only did one thing. I am equally proud of myself because on both days I met my goal.
My morning routine used to be: get out of bed. Maybe brush teeth or get dressed. Done. Now, I wake up a bit earlier, brush my teeth, wash my face, get myself a cup of coffee, get dressed, eat some yoghurt and start the day. This has really helped me to start the day feeling relaxed and it helps me get out of bed. I like to stay in bed for hours after I wake up just to procrastinate starting my day. But now that starting my day is enjoyable and calm, I don’t mind getting out of bed and actually look forward to my morning coffee (you could swap this with tea, or any beverage of your choosing, of course). It doesn’t really matter what your morning routine is, just slow it down.
Now, you might protest that this too is another thing you need to do, that it takes time, that you will have to get up early. But, to go back to my first point, don’t worry. I don’t do this every morning. If I have an online class that starts at ten a.m., I’m rolling out of bed at 9:45 (that is at least one benefit of classes being online). Do this if and when you want to. If I notice that I don’t want to get out of bed because I know I have that daunting essay to start today, I will have myself a nice slow morning. If I know that I don’t have much to do today and that I can take some time to relax, I will have a cup of coffee AND a cup of tea (I know, I’m spoiling myself).
Plus, if you want to have a slow morning, but you don’t have much time: don’t worry. There are no rules. A slow morning can take fifteen minutes or an hour. Have it as slow as you want.
You can do the same thing with your morning routine. Instead of brushing your teeth, putting on your pyjamas and jumping into bed, take it slow. Thoroughly brush your teeth, floss, wash your face, massage your moisturizer in, meditate before sleep (or pray if that’s your thing), brush your hair. I have personally noticed that I fall asleep much quicker when I do this. I go to bed feeling calm and relaxed.
But again, don’t worry. Is it already 11 p.m. and you just remembered that you need to get up early? Slowing down a little might help you fall asleep quicker, but don’t feel like you need to take an hour for your bedtime routine. Don’t do it at all if you’re not feeling it. Living slowly is not about forcing yourself. It is about truly finding your inner peace.
Seeing a pattern here? You can do anything slowly! When you’re on a walk, stop to look around. Smell the flowers. Are you having dinner? Do it mindfully. Really taste every bite. Taking a shower or a bath? Add five minutes to your regular time. You will find opportunities for mindfulness and living slowly everywhere. Instead of having your tea in front of the tv or computer, just close your eyes and drink it, slowly, without any distractions. Having a slow day, or even just a slow meal or a slow bath is perfect to do on a day off.
There are two things that I have always done. I never really thought about them until I saw how stressed out people get who do not do these things:
So, generally, get comfortable with waiting. It will save you a lot of stress. And, as always, don’t worry. Do you feel more comfortable running for that train? Do you have a class on the other side of campus that starts five minutes after your last one ends? Run for it. Or don’t. Just make sure not to worry.
Of course, you can still do all of those things that help you. Sometimes meditation, exercise or journaling can really help. Sometimes you may want to push yourself a bit when you don’t feel like doing something but you know that you’ll feel better after you’ve done it. These methods are just general guidelines that you can implement if and whenever you want. So, don’t worry. Be happy. And live slowly.
Written by Merel Melchers
Merel is an undergraduate studying English with Creative Writing at the University of Aberdeen. She enjoys reading, writing and playing with her dog. She mainly writes about personal development, student life, and mental health to motivated and guide passionate young women.