We all know these times when the situations life throws at us are simply… hard to handle. Especially those of you who follow me on Instagram probably know that the end of 2016 and the beginning of the new year was one of those episodes for me. However, dark or stressful times also often teach us valueable lessons. So today I would love to share with you guys my learnings on how to take care of yourself when things are going not quite right.
1. Have a relaxing playlist ready
Let’s start with something easy you can adopt right away! Binaural beats and nature sounds have proven to be calming and to ease stress. During times when even getting out of bed in the morning feels wrong I love to start my day with some relaxing music while brushing my teeth and doing my make up. It tends to brighten my mood and makes me feel so much more alive and ready for the day. Also, it makes getting ready feel like a little spa treatment 🙂 You can of course choose whichever music you like best – for me personally it’s usually one of the Spotify relaxation or sleep playlists.
2. Take some time for yourself
Did I just say that? Most of my friends call me a total workaholic as I usually pursue a „The best don’t rest“ philosophy. And that’s perfectly alright as long as we feel comfortable doing so. What’s important though is to be aware that everybody needs a break every now and again and to notice when that time has come for you. Taking time for yourself could be anything you enjoy doing that recharges your batteries – reading, playing video games, going out with friends, working out. Whatever floats your boat really. Don’t beat yourself up about not being productive 100% of the time. The time is well spent if you feel refreshed and more energized afterwards. A good time to relax and to do something you enjoy is usually at night before going to sleep. I love to have a cup of tea, take a hot shower and curl up in bed with a scented candle and A Song of Ice and Fire. And my relaxing playlist of course.
3. Trick negative thought loops
This is an important one. I can’t be the only one who frequently finds herself stuck in negative thought patterns, especially during stressful times when we don’t feel well in general. We might assume that thoughts don’t really have an impact because they come and go and don’t even seem like anything „real“. In fact though we create our own reality through our thoughts and they influence how we feel during the day on a large scale. So I decided to pay attention to my own thoughts and ring the alarm every time I start getting into negative thoughts. Every time I caught myself I would simply interrupt the thought telling myself: „Nope. Positivity.“ Then I would consciously prompt myself to think of something positive such as a vacation I’m going to go on or weekend activities. This simple trick makes me feel so much better as my base mood throughout the day is a lot more positive.
An especially ugly specimen of negative thoughts are anxiety and panic attacks. And believe me, I’ve had my fair share of these little f**** in my time. Especially if the thoughts and fears are irrational thinking them through over and over again only makes matters worse. What does help is pretty much blocking the thoughts from your brain by occupying it with something else. I found this little mindfulness exercise very helpful: whenever negative thoughts are about to overwhelm you, consciously go over everything you are seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, tasting in this very moment as if you were describing it to someone on the phone who’s not there: „Oh there’s someone with a white jacket running up the hill outside the window. I admire these people who get up early to work out. And a couple with a dog, what a cute little guy, he’s all black with some tiny white spots. Man, that window is dirty, it really has to be cleaned. I’m wondering when the cleaning staff is going to come in again to tidy up the office? Wait, it smells like… … is that pizza? Is somebody having pizza? Hmmm, I might get something for lunch as well… maybe Thai, am I in the mood for Thai? … … …“ It might sound a bit silly but while you’re doing this your brain is simply to busy to start the negative thought loop again. At the same time it gives you a whole lot of starting points for other thoughts to distract you.
4. Get comfy and stay healthy
It’s not exactly news that our physical and metal health continuously influence each other. So during times when you feel down or not at the top of your game mentally be sure to also take care of your body. This also ties into some of the tips I mentioned before. Be sure to get comfy – during the day if possible but especially when you get home at night. Literally the first thing I do when I get home from work or uni is taking off my clothes and throwing on something seriously cute and comfy such as this set consisting of a top, a cardigan and shorts *. On top of that I’ll throw on the fluffiest socks I can find to make sure I’m super comfy and snug for the rest of the night. Food plays such an important role in our well-being, too. During stressful times we should make sure to give our body an extra dose of vitamins and all the other goodness nature has to offer. So I love to stock up on heaps of fruit, veges and healthy snacks such as nuts. Ditch the fizzy drinks and treat yourself with some delicious hot tea. Make sure you’re drinking enough of the right stuff! And I know there are these days when that take-away pizza accidentially happens. Be forgiving with yourself. Also, sleeping well is incredibly important for our physical and psychological well-being. I have a whole blogpost on how to sleep better for you guys.
5. Teach yourself some self-love
This tip is huge in case you weren’t aware of it before: of course we all observe other people and draw conclusions based on their behavior. But did you know we also observe ourselves and draw conclusions about our own personality? It sounds strange but that’s really (and scientifically proven!) the way our brain works. So make sure you teach yourself that you are a self-loving person. Dress nicely, even if you’re just going to the supermarket. Treat yourself to some luxury every now and again. Cook something nice, even if there’s nobody else there. Don’t get angry with yourself if things don’t always work out as planned. All these behaviors will create a consistent image in your head that you are a self-loving person and this will in turn reflect on your future behavior and the way you feel about yourself. If you tend to be too harsh on yourself, try this little thought experiment: whenever you’re about to get angry with yourself and tell yourself that you’re completely useless / stupid / never get anything done, imagine someone you really truly love standing right in front of you. This could be your partner, your sibling, your parent or grandparent or best friend. And ask yourself: would you say this to your loved one as well? Would you hurl these accusations at them as well? Probably not because even if they have a bad day every now and again you still love them. And that’s exactly what self-love is: treating yourself the same way you would treat a loved one during stressful times.
6. Escape for a while
Science, once more: going for a little walk in the forest or alongside the riverbank helps us de-stress considerably. Nature is calming and distracting and often provides us with some quiet time to actually listen to our thoughts. I personally find going for a walk in nature one of the most beneficial rituals we can establish in our everyday lives. Plus, getting some fresh air is always a good idea, not only during stressful times. If you can, try to get away from your source of stress on a regular basis. Physical distance also creates mental distance. For example I will usually visit my parents on the weekend. That way I have established the fact in my mind that my parents’ house equals no office, no uni etc. As soon as I’ve boarded the train to my hometown all work-related stress will just disappear. Try to find such a place that can flip the switch for you.
Hope you found these tips helpful! What are your recommendations for taking care of yourself during stressful times? Anything I didn’t mention that you’d love to share? Let me know in the comments!