Election week stress got you going back to unhealthy habits? I’m raising my hand here. I noticed that I was checking the results every few minutes on Wednesday morning. I didn’t think we’d have results Tuesday, so I didn’t really check that much before going to bed. But, Wednesday, I was ready to see how things were going. So, I checked the results. Then, I checked them again on a different news site. Then, I ate some dark chocolate Bark Thins (one of my favorite chocolate treats). Then, I checked the results and ate more Bark Thins. It wasn’t healthy. I wasn’t able to be present to anything else happening in my home. And a couple of chocolates are good for you – they have good antioxidants – but, 10, not so good because chocolate also has sugar and caffeine.
So, what do we do when we find ourselves stressed out and reverting back to unhealthy habits?
- The first step is to notice. This is pretty big – being able to recognize that you are stressed and not managing it in a healthy way is significant because once you notice it, you can do something about it.
- Pause. By pausing and taking a breath you help to break the unhealthy cycle (for me – checking results, stressing, eating chocolate, repeat). Take a breath in, and then a long breath out. It also helps you to step back and get a little perspective.
- Next, do something that you enjoy. Checking the results over and over just perpetuated my stress. So, I played baseball with my son for an hour without checking the results. I was able to stop the cycle of election stress and just be present with him and enjoy myself. What about you? What do you enjoy? Baking, gardening, running, hiking, yoga, creating art….? What can you do that makes you feel good? Once you have something, do that, make a promise to yourself to stay away from what is stressing you… like checking election results or seeing what other people are saying on Facebook. Be present for yourself.
- Eat healthy & exercise. Think about the things that nourish you. Eating too much chocolate won’t make your body or brain feel good. The caffeine will make you a bit jumpy and might upset your stomach. So, have a cup of herbal tea, eat something that you feel like nourishes you instead of reaching for the junk food. Add in a little exercise if you haven’t already when you did something that you enjoyed. Take a walk, join an online exercise class, dance around your living room… do something to get your body moving. When you exercise, you release natural endorphins that help to reduce stress so you feel better.
- Meditate. Turn off your phone and sit for a few minutes. You can do traditional meditation where you sit quietly with your eyes closed or soft. You can watch your breath or sing as you sit. You can look out your window and notice what you see… watch a bird, a tree, the sky. You can also walk slowly and mindfully, placing your foot down slowly and with purpose as you step for a walking meditation. Do what works best for you. When you are done meditating, take a moment and think about what you are grateful for. Remembering the good things helps to lift our spirits.
- Reach out & connect. Connect with someone on the phone, video chat, or meet up with masks on for a social distant chat. Make a promise to whoever you are chatting with to talk about something else other than the election. When you reach out, you feel like you are not alone, lost in your own stressful thoughts. Make that connection, maybe tell funny stories and make each other laugh. The saying goes… “Laughter is the best medicine.”
- Breathe & breathe again. If you feel like you are getting caught up in stress again, breathe. Your breath is always with you. Take a calm breathe in and slowly exhale. Then see if you can notice your muscles and have them release and soften as you breathe. Maybe this is all you can do today. This will be enough.
These are my go-to stress relievers. I’m so glad that I stopped eating all the chocolate and followed my own advice. I’m feeling a lot better. I hope these tips help you to relieve a little bit of the stress you might be feeling this election week… or whatever you are dealing with this week. Now, I hope that the picture of a baby penguin also made you smile.
May you have peace within.