Have you ever felt like you could fill a few football fields with the amount of stress and anxiety you are carrying around? Over the course of the past year, I have researched and learned a lot about stress and anxiety–what it does to our minds, our bodies, and even our loved ones. When we are stressed and anxious, it affects every area of our life including those dearest to us.
Did you know that stress and anxiety are not always caused by circumstances? Sometimes these burdens are brought on by other culprits: the foods we eat, activities we enjoy, and how we take care of our spirits.
Today I am going to share with you 10 steps I try to utilize daily to help reduce stress and anxiety in my life. Notice I said try–I try to use these methods but I am only human and more often than I’d like to admit I fail in some of these areas. I allow the busyness of life or the enemy to interfere with doing what is best. Maybe you’ll be better at it than I am. That is my prayer for you today.
10 Steps for Reducing Stress and Anxiety
1. Feed your spirit. Start your day with God. Spend time worshiping Him with music, praise, prayer, and reading scripture. Let Him speak life and encouragement over you. He is waiting with open arms to calm your heart and mind, to speak peace and love, and to carry your burdens. I have recently studied two books that have been overwhelmingly empowering to me in this season of life: God is Able by Priscilla Shirer and Battle Ready and Battle Ready Daily Prayer Journal: A Simple 3-Month Battle Plan to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt & Live Victoriously, both by Kelly Balarie. These books have transformed my spirit and mind, built up my faith and hope, and helped me battle the situations I’ve been facing.
2. Engage in 20 minutes of daily relaxation. I know exactly what you are going to say: the reason you are stressed is because you don’t have enough time in the day. Where are you going to find 20 whole minutes to relax? How are you supposed to relax when the busyness of life won’t allow it? This is exactly what I said when my holistic MD told me that 20 minutes of relaxation and deep breathing each day was a non-negotiable treatment for me in my journey to heal from hypothyroidism and autoimmune disease which was exacerbating my anxiety. I know finding 20 min will be difficult, so start out with just 5 minutes a day. Try doing this at a time of day when there are no distractions. I don’t have small children anymore, but I still try to get up before everyone else to have this time. You could do it during nap time or any time you know you won’t be interrupted. Choose just one worship song that is approximately 5 minutes long. Play it, and as you listen take deep cleansing breaths breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you breathe in, think about taking in His presence and His love. As you breathe out, think about reciprocating that to The Lord. Trust me. It won’t be long before you are hungering for more relaxation and breathing with The Lord. You can gradually increase your time or go ahead and jump to 20 minutes. I have several worship play lists saved that contain approximately 20 minutes with of music. I don’t look at the clock. I simply focus on the words of the songs and my breathing. When the play list stops, I know the 20 minutes is up. And I am really disappointed that it is over! (You can find guided meditation and Christian meditation sessions on your devices, but some are fraudulent, having hypnotic and subliminal messages, so I opted for creating my own. It works better for me anyway, because the songs I chose have meaning correlating with what I’m going through.) Feel free to contact me if you are interested in me sharing my playlists on Spotify.
3. Eat clean. One of the most enlightening aspects of my journey to healing is my awareness of the effects of food, or “food like substances”. I’ve known for a long time that certain chemicals cause my heart to race, cause my joints to ache, and drain my energy. I began eating clean about 7 years ago. I gradually removed certain fake and chemical laden foods from my diet, but recently I learned just how much even supposed “whole foods” affect my body negatively and even cause the anxiety I have been experiencing. An integral part of that enlightenment about food and how it affects my body personally, was Trim Healthy Mama. It is a faith-based lifestyle change (not a diet). It helps you remove sugar and processed foods from your menu. There are clean and pure recipes as well as recipes that help you gradually transition to whole foods if you need a little more time to transition. I lost approximately 50 pounds on this plan and never felt deprived.
About six months into my journey to heal, I was making an effort to eat strictly whole foods, but I just couldn’t commit financially to investing in all organic produce and pasture raised meat and dairy. I was eating gluten free grains about 80% of the time because some of my children are allergic to gluten. When I didn’t eat gluten free I ate sprouted grains, which did contain gluten but were easier to digest. I thought I was doing all of the right things to be healthy, but as my physician found more diagnoses for my symptoms, and I researched to uncover more information about my condition I realized that I needed to eliminate foods that were whole but still not completely clean.
So, even though I can’t afford it, I have been purchasing pasture raised meats and organic fruits and vegetables for myself. I have elected to go on an autoimmune protocol diet to find the culprit of my anxiety as well as some physical symptoms. After my symptoms resolved, I felt great, but it simply is not healthy to eat only meat and produce. So I began reintroducing foods one by one for several days before adding another. This has led to an overabundance of discovery. I simply cannot eat sugar, not even a few bites. It causes my stomach to burn and causes fatigue. Anxiety was caused by eating grains, especially those with gluten. Pesticide laden produce also causes digestive problems. I am still reintroducing foods, so I will have to give you an update as I go through dairies and night shades.
I know it is expensive to eat clean, but trust me, I am so ready to decrease the amount of supplements I’m taking to try to heal my illness. I’d rather put that money toward clean and healthy foods rather than taking pills and powders even if they are natural. I’d also like to avoid another emergency room bill–I’m still paying for that one! Between the anxiety caused by the food and the stress from medical bills, it’s just not worth it to not eat clean!
4. Spend quality time with your family. As a mom, your family is so very important to you. I’m sure you feel the same why I do: like a stretched out rubber band. I feel as if my time, efforts, and energy have been stretched beyond what I can handle and there is just no bouncing back. I feel guilty because I can’t give my family 100%. We have to realize that we cannot do everything. Prioritizing our time to include quality time with our family is a must. Notice I didn’t say “quantity”, but “quality”. Sometimes our circumstances prohibit us from dedicating quantity time, but what matters is the quality of time we spend. Make the most of the time you do have by taking advantage of teachable moments, cuddle time on the couch, reading books on a rainy day, walking and talking, playing a board game, a tickle match, or even just a moment to say, “I love and appreciate you!” Those little moments create special memories that will carry you through the tough times, and they reinforce the love you have for each other.
5. Exercise for at least 15 minutes 3 times per week. This is another step that is going to take time, and I know that is something of which we all have very little. If you want to decease stress and anxiety, you are going to have to creatively make some time. Excessive and high impact exercise actually fatigues your adrenal glands and your thyroid which contributes to stress and anxiety. Low impact intervals of 15 minutes are much more beneficial and soothing to the adrenals. I utilize Christian Yoga, T-Tapp, and walking in my neighborhood. If the weather doesn’t permit walking outside, I utilize an indoor walking dvd.
6. Eliminate toxins. One thing I never realized was how many toxins are emitted by pollution, cleaning products, beauty products, cookware, dinnerware, and even our furniture. These toxins contribute to autoimmune diseases and other illnesses as well as emotional disorders, because these toxins alter our body chemistry and how it functions. We cannot possibly eliminate all toxins from our atmosphere, but we can certainly do our best to change what is under our control. This was a difficult one for me, and I am still working on it. The first thing I did was research types of house plants that purify the air. I bought some for our home. I already had essential oils and a diffuser, but I did not have a salt lamp. That was the next thing I purchased. Salt lamps purify the air from allergens and toxins. I researched recipes for natural homemade beauty products and cleaners. Some of the recipes worked, and some did not. For those that did not, I invested in natural products like deodorant and nail polish for beauty products and a whitener for cleaning. I’ll be honest with you, the natural products last just as long if not longer than the toxin filled products so I don’t feel as if it was an added expense. I am still transitioning our cookware and dinnerware. We are on a tight budget right now, so this will just have to be done gradually. I have noticed a big difference in how I feel after I clean our home, and my skin has never looked more radiant. These gradual steps to eliminate toxins has definitely lifted a huge weight of mommy guilt knowing that our home is safer for my children and my fur babies.
7. Limit use of electronics. I have a feeling this is probably a toughie for all of us. Technology has taken over almost every aspect of our lives. It is difficult to live in this age without it. And, I am not saying we need to eliminate it but we do need to restrict it. Different wavelengths of light, like blue light, can alter circadian rhythm and release of melatonin in the body. Rather than taking yet another pill, like melatonin, I have attempted to restrict my use of electronics, particularly at bedtime. Not only has this helped with my circadian rhythm, but it has also helped me set a good bedtime routine. As parents, we know our children need a good bedtime routine. They need to be given relaxing baths, lights turned down low, limited noise, and a routine that is drastically different than their daytime routine. Otherwise, they won’t settle down and go to sleep. The same is true for us as adults. Limiting your use of electronics at bedtime will cut down on the effects of blue light, but it will also help you to decompress after a long, hard day. You can also purchase blue light blocking glasses. My daughter has these blue light blocking glasses, and she loves them. Reducing the amount of blue light you absorb, decreases the effects of overexposure. You’ll be able to get a better quality of rest, which in turn will help you cope better with what comes your way the next day.
8. Get plenty of sleep. GO TO BED! Don’t stress your body by expecting it to function without proper rest. No one wants a cranky child, so what makes us think a cranky adult is a good idea? Our bodies need proper, quality sleep to get through the day. Don’t burn the candle at both ends. You will eventually wear out your adrenal glands. I know this first hand. I have worked from home since 1998, and during those years I have raised four children from birth. There were nights I slept for only a few hours. Instead of taking advantage of sleeping while my child slept, I chose to work. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is done in moderation, but I took it to the extreme by going to bed after midnight and getting up at 4:00 a.m. I should have been a little more creative by finding things my children could do while I worked during some of their wake time. We didn’t have the luxury of parents who could watch our children so that wasn’t an option, but I could have taken turns with a friend who could watch them. I also could have chosen to live a simpler lifestyle, living within my means rather than working extra hours to have certain things. I have to admit, we had very humble beginnings so it wasn’t like we were driving expensive cars, and our first home was under 1100 square feet, but we can all find ways to pinch pennies. I was an exhausted, stressed, and anxious mommy for many years and it just wasn’t worth it. I also am still trying to increase the amount of sleep I receive. I’m still no getting as much as my doctor would like me to have, but I am doing better. Of course, I am still in a phase of natural treatment that is regulating my thyroid, hormones, and stress level so I still have trouble getting my mind to settle down at night. My internal clock still wakes me up in the middle of the night occasionally, and it causes my mind to wake up like I’ve had 8 hours of sleep even though I’ve only slept for a few hours. One way I relax and rest at night is to use relaxation essential oil blends or lavender oil in my diffuser at my bedside. I am also more like to get a regular, full night’s rest if I have chosen to do the steps I’ve mentioned above.
9. Do something selfless for someone else. It is a well-known fact that giving of yourself for the benefit of someone else always blesses you more than it does the other person. It puts life and your stressors into perspective. The things you are anxious about seem small compared to someone else’s problems. It will make you feel good to light up the life of someone else, which melts away all of that stress and anxiety.
10. Participate in activities for personal growth. Seek the positive. Listen to encouraging podcasts. Read powerful devotionals. Follow encouraging bloggers. Get out of your comfort zone and try something new. As you accomplish new things, as you experience refreshment and renewal from these resources, you will feel empowered. You will no longer feel like you are at the mercy of your stress and anxiety. You will be able to visualize and actively participate in your growth instead of succumbing to and wallowing in the stress.
Reducing stress and anxiety doesn’t happen over night. It is a slow process of making choices in the right direction. I have created free printable wall art for you. Please download this special gift below, print it, and display it on your mirror, desk, refrigerator, or wherever you can refer to it often and utilize the steps to reduce your stress and anxiety.
As always, I’ll be praying for your journey.