When Stress Kicks Your Butt

It’s been a wild ride the past few weeks, with class, work deadlines, travel and generally running around like a crazy lady! I’m long over-due for a good butt-kicking at the gym, to help me mitigate the stress I’ve been feeling recently. So, I figured, why not share some of my tips to handle stress, in exchange, hopefully, for some of your tips?

Leave it all on the track. I’ve found that when I’m stressed, I usually need a good, long run. Granted, about 3 miles in, I’m about done with the run, so it doesn’t have to be THAT long of a run. Either way, my motto is, “leave it all on the track”, meaning you should run, lift, cycle, swim, or generally exert yourself until you’re physically too tired to care about the stress of the day. I don’t mean hurt yourself, but get to the point that you’ve got to focus on your breathing, leaving you zero focus for your stress. Currently, I’m very wound up because I haven’t had a good work out in almost 2 weeks! I’m going to spend at least 4 nights in the gym during my two week hiatus from class before summer school starts.

Give yourself some space. You ever notice that you’ll stare at the same paper you wrote, trying to find typos and grammatical errors, only to have a peer take a quick glance and find a ton of mistakes? When you work on something for too long, you start to lose perspective. It seems counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that sometimes it’s best to walk away, and give yourself time to focus on something else (like breathing while running, see point above!). Sometimes we just need to let our minds have a little room to work out a problem, like the “aha” moments in the shower. It’s not that the shower imbues magical analytical skills, but it does allow your mind to “roam”. During the “roaming” process, you might just stumble on a solution. I’ve found that when I’m stressed, it’s helpful to physically walk away from my work to allow my mind time to roam and re-focus for better productivity when I return to a project.

Health, it does a body good. I’m terrible about not sleeping enough or eating properly when I’m stressed, which makes me feel gross, which leads to lower productivity, which causes the cycle to start all over again! While you may think that using every minute of every day to finish your projects will reduce your stress, taking time to let your body rest will actually improve your productivity in the long run, which reduces your stress level. Also, drinking plenty of water and eating a balanced meal will improve your focus. Further, when your body feels good and operates efficiently, you’ll feel like you’re making more progress throughout the day. Good ‘ole sleep and nutrition do wonders for my stress level!

So, while I attempt to follow my own advice, maybe you have found some other helpful hints. I’ll be hitting the gym and going to bed early, will you?

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