I have been STRESSED lately. MAJORLY stressed. Between a tough month at work, pending dance auditions, teaching fitness classes, my relationship, family and so many questions about my future, I have been feeling very, very overwhelmed,anxious and like I'm losing control over my life. Sometimes, it feels so easy to give up and start a new life. And some days I truly think about it and I convince myself that I'll leave Boston in the middle of the night and start fresh with a new name, occupation and hairstyle in the south of France (sound nice, right?).
On the days when I'm about to give up, I do a variety of things to stay motivated and put my mind at ease. I find that staying productive is the best way to overcome stress, but when it's hard to feel productive, I use these tricks below. What helps you when you're feeling overwhelmed? Let me know in the comments below!
1. clean your room
I'll admit it - I'm a messy person. As I've gotten older, I've realized that the neater my personal spaces are, the clearer I'm able to think, which is especially important to me when I'm busy, working towards a goal or just want to enjoy my space. In season 3, episode 8 of Queer Eye, Bobby said something (and I'm paraphrasing here) that really rang true to me - the state of your physical space often reflects your mental state. If your house is in disarray, it's possibly because you're completely overwhelmed with some aspect of your life, and that's completely true for me.
When I'm feeling overwhelmed, the FIRST thing I do is to tidy up the house and my bedroom. For me, it helps to complete small tasks and see almost immediate results in a beautiful house, especially when I'm not seeing immediate results in my long-term goals. It makes me feel like I can accomplish something, even if it is as small as running the dishwasher or organizing my sneakers. Not to mention, it's so much easier to think when your not tripping over last week's gym clothes and can find a clean water glass among the 18 dirty ones on your coffee table.
2. move your body
Exercise is on every list for stress management, but I don't consider hard-core, sweat your brains out cardio to be the form of exercise to cure stress. If I'm feeling overwhelmed at work, the first thing I do is get up from my desk and take a walk - whether it's to the water fountain or a longer mile-long walk around the building, it helps me to clear my mind and leave my problems at my desk for a second.
How I exercise based on stress-level:
When I need mental clarity: North End Yoga class with Shuli Burke or sweat it out at Corepower Yoga
When I feel like I need to scream for an extended period of time: Download the SWEAT app for some HIIT exercises I can do in my living room
When you want to escape from reality: Bounce & Barre at Barre Groove (personal plug) or dance at 305Fitness
When you need to just get up and move: Walk or run along the esplanade
3. Fall Back on routine
When my schedule is frenetic, I find comfort in routine. It might be a small routine, like weekly meal-prep, or a pre-bed time routine, but it's an easy way to stay sane and stay feeling like yourself. Create a daily routine and stick to it, because in times of stress you'll be happy to do something you have control over.
4. make a to-do list
Perhaps it's the Virgo in me, but there is no better way to stay motivated than to create a to-do list. I write to-do lists for everything - a to-do list for the year, for every Saturday, for work, for work-outs, pageants, grocery shopping, etc. I even keep a to-do list notebook in my purse at all times. It helps me to put down my thoughts on a paper and to create a commitment to what I need to get done. I also find that breaking up big, overwhelming tasks (like an audition or pageant) into smaller tasks that can easily be checked off a list (like booking a spray tan or buying snacks for the big day) helps me feel accomplished, organized and productive.
5. cut out coffee and cut back on alcohol
Anxiety and stress can lead to exhaustion. It's so easy to reach for that extra cup of coffee when you're on the brink of exhaustion, but it's one of the worst things to do. Caffeine can lead to exasperated symptoms of anxiety like an increased heart rate, racing thoughts, perspiration, etc. Try to stick to your usual amount of coffee when you're stressed and...
Try to cut back on alcohol. This is advice I have a hard time taking but I promise that a shot of Patron will not solve your problems (it certainly doesn't solve mine). Even worse than the drinking is the hangover and the feeling of unproductiveness that comes with it. To me, there's nothing worse than an unproductive Sunday as a result of a hangover and having to play catch up with your errands for the rest of the week and asking your body to cooperate. It feels great waking up on a Monday morning without a two-day hangover, trust me.
6. If you clench your jaw, chew gum
When I'm stressed, I clench my jaw and grind my teeth while sleeping. It's caused all sorts of dental problems and as a result I now have to sleep with a $650 custom mouth guard (!!!!). Instead of clenching my jaw, I chew gum all day at work and I go through packs of gum like a chain smoker goes through packs of cigarettes. It helps to know that if I'm stressed, I won't have jaw pain on top of it all.
7. When all else fails, Schedule a beauty appointment
I feel unstoppable with a fresh spray-tan, mani/pedi, eye lashes and blow-out. I hold my head higher, feel more confident when speaking with colleagues and even just walking down the street. When all else fails, I take comfort in knowing that at least I look and feel my best.