I have struggled with stress and anxiety since childhood. As an adult, practicing healthy ways to manage and reduce my stress is a priority.
Growing up, I obsessed over neatness and became overwhelmed by loud sounds and by any kind of disorder around me. My parents' separation—and subsequent divorce—when I was ten led to a series of major changes in my life. My familiar surroundings and everyday routine were overturned abruptly when, along with my brother, I was sent overseas to live with relatives I didn't know in a culture I wasn't familiar with.
At this point, my anxiety became even more pronounced and led to depression. The years that followed brought on more traumatic events which would mark me for life and ultimately resulted in a complete mental breakdown.
Thankfully and by God's grace, I have come out of that dark place and am in a much better place now.
However, anxiety and depression still exist in my life today. Like bullies who delight in taunting me and testing my limits daily, they are always present and ready to conquer if I allow them to.
Time has helped me to heal enough to recognize that there is a lot I can do to help manage my life so that it's less stressful for me.
You see, when you have traumatic things happen in your life at an age when you are at the mercy of others, it takes a long time to learn that you no longer have to be a victim.
As an adult, I have learned to help myself by taking small steps forward and leaving the past behind.
Today I understand that the choices I make impact how I feel and the course my life will take. I am no longer at the mercy of others. With God as my captain, I can make good decisions that allow me to be at my best. This enables me to experience joy and freedom because I am living my life the way I was intended to.
5 Ways I Cope With Anxiety
1. Stay off the news.
2. Turn off the sound on my phone.
3. Keep my space clean.
4. Simplify my life.
5. Do one project at a time.
1. Stay off the News
One thing I do that helps me stay calm is to not read the daily news often. Have you noticed how negative the news is? Yes, there are happy, feel-good stories but they're almost always outnumbered by the sad and depressing ones. I don't need to look at the news to know there are bad things happening in the world every day.
When I read the news, I almost always feel discouraged.
I still keep up with what is going on in the world because that's important. But I don't read the news every day, and when I do, I limit my exposure. Instead of reading it for one hour, I may read it for 20 min.
When I stay off the news, I can focus on positive and productive things to make my world a better place. For example, right now I'm writing this article to hopefully help others. This makes me feel happy because I am doing something constructive which I can control instead of reading about events that have already happened and over which I have no control.
2. Silence My Phone
I don't know about you, but most phone calls I get are not emergencies. I actually don't recall any recent call I received that was urgent.
Now, if I have applied for a job and am hoping to get called for an interview, I will by all means make sure the sound on my phone is turned on. I don't want to miss an opportunity to get a job I want. I will answer the call as soon as it rings.
But I am currently not expecting any calls for interviews. Nobody in my family is in the hospital and I can't think of anybody who may need to reach me right away.
The same goes for all phone notifications, like emails and texts. Most are insignificant and a nuisance.
When my phone is silenced, I can still see who has tried to reach me. If it looks important, I'll check for a voice message or call back. Usually, it's not important so I let it go.
Keeping the sound on my phone off helps me focus on whatever I'm doing at the time. I'm more productive because I can work on my projects continually rather than constantly being interrupted by trivial calls and messages.
Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Live in the present and make it beautiful.” - Anonymous
3. Keep My Space Clean
Another way I keep my stress and anxiety at bay on a regular basis is to clean up after myself. This means that I make sure the space I use is neat after I use it.
For example, if I'm in the kitchen making my breakfast, I wash my cereal bowl and spoon or put them in the dishwasher right away after I eat. All the ingredients I used to make my morning oatmeal are also put away, and I wipe off the counters.
When I cook my dinner, I often clean as I go. For example, as I'm waiting for my pasta and sauce to cook, I wash and dry my wooden cutting board (which I used to chop vegetables) and put away any extra ingredients. After dinner, I put my cookware, dinnerware and utensils into the dishwasher.
When I take a shower in the evening, my clothes go in the hamper unless they're not soiled. For example a skirt or pants may be able to be worn again before washing them. In this case, I hang them in the closet.
Making my bed in the morning makes my bedroom look tidy. It's a simple effort that makes me feel ready for the day.
When there is clutter or mess around me, I feel distracted and it's hard for me to focus on what I need to do. Keeping my space clean relaxes me. It's an easy way to reduce my anxiety.
4. Simplify My Life
I keep my life simple by not buying a lot of stuff. Stuff takes up space which creates clutter. Stuff also needs to be cleaned and maintained which takes time and sometimes costs money. With less stuff, I feel lighter and less stressed.
I buy things I need, like a toaster oven for my kitchen and a weighted blanket which helps me sleep at night.
I don't own a TV because I don't need it. I can read the news on my laptop. I can find books I want in the library so I don't buy them.
With fewer posessions, I have less clutter and more space. This makes me feel relaxed because I have fewer distractions around me.
I can also simplify my life by being intentional about choices I make.
For example, if I know it's hard for me to properly care for plants, I buy artificial ones instead. They often look just as nice and I don't have to worry about watering them or moving them to a larger pot.
If I have errands to do, I create an itinerary and do my errands on the same day. This saves me time, which I can use for other things.
If somebody asks me to volunteer for a cause I love but don't have time for, I say no and may make a donation instead.
With fewer things in my home and fewer committments, my mind feels clearer and I'm better able to focus on the things that are most important to me.
5. Focus On One Project at a Time
Something else that greatly helps reduce my stress and anxiety is focusing on completing one thing at a time. I'm talking about home chores and projects that seem to scream at me.
I recently moved and am still getting situated. If I think about everything I need to do in my new home, I become very overwhelmed.
Currently, I'm working on assembling a new desk for my home office. Because it's a complicated task, I'm completing one part at a time. A few days ago, I put together the legs and surface. Yesterday I assembled the drawers. Today I plan to finish the project.
When I break down a difficult task into steps, I feel encouraged after I complete each step successfully. This motivates me to keep going until I finish the whole job.
Sometimes, I make a list of the things I need to do, and as I complete each item on the list, I check it off. I feel good when I look at the list and know I accomplished something.
Home chores and projects may include:
- organizing a closet
- gathering clothes and items to donate to charity
- weeding the yard
- cleaning a bathroom
- doing laundry
Sometimes I don't make a list because I know what I'm working on at the time, and when I finish that particular job, I will move on to another one.
The main thing is, focus on one project at a time and ignore everything else until you finish that one task. When you complete it, reward yourself with something you enjoy. I like to make myself a cup of iced coffee or run to the bakery for a slice of my favorite cake.
One Small Change Can Make a Difference
Sometimes we are so used to doing things the same way, we don't realize we can change our behavior. Not only is it possible, it can be life-changing.
To keep my anxiety and stress at bay, I have to be intentional every day. The good news is that once you begin to take steps to reduce your stress and anxiety, it gets easier and eventually just seems natural.
If you are struggling with anxiety and stress in your life, please know it can get better. Even making one small change can make a difference in how you feel.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Madeleine Clays