As someone who experiences both stress and anxiety often, I felt unqualified to give advice on this subject. Stress isn’t something I’ve particularly conquered. I grew up with overly stressed out parents, so I saw first-hand at a young age how stress can affect not only an individual, but a family. Imagining discussing my current go-to stress remedies with my mother who at the time, didn’t know how to pay for our upcoming rent makes me cringe. I recognize the experience of stress and what we do to address it comes with a certain level of privilege. This coupled with the feeling that I haven’t “mastered” my stress, left me feeling ill-equipped to write this article.
Nevertheless, I turned to Google to see what the internet had to say about stress and its potential remedies. While some things resonated with me, for the most part, I felt like many of these resources forgot to describe what it feels like to be human, specifically a stressed out human. At this point, I felt like I definitely had something to add to this conversation—who better to write a piece about stress remedies than someone who actually experiences and moves through stress often?
Our culture glorifies stress as a measure of success but for me, stress is an emotional hint that something needs to change. We often promote remedies outside of ourselves to help relieve stress, but I’ve found faster relief by addressing the internal root cause of my stress. Read on for the five questions I ask myself during moments of high stress to calm my mind and body.
“What is the root of the stress?”
Identifying what I’m actually stressed out about is a crucial step in navigating my way out of it. Often, when I’m really in it, everything feels overwhelming and it’s hard to pinpoint what is causing my stress or discern what feels like the most pressing issue to resolve. Journaling the answers to this question allows me to see my stress(es) on paper clearly. Specifically, free-writing has allowed me to understand the root of my stress(es) so I can prioritize what it is I need to address.
“Does this make me feel heavy or light?”
Asking myself this question often, regardless if I’m stressed or not, has been one of the more profound ways I’ve been able to stay in tune with my own needs. The more I’ve been able to identify what makes me feel “heavy”, specifically related to people, upcoming events or work commitments, the more I’ve been able to shift into removing anything that feels heavy from my life and allow lightness to unfold in its place. My new mantra: If it feels heavy, I ain’t doing it.
“Am I saying yes when I want to say no?”
For me, in moments of deep stress, there is often a boundary issue involved. Usually it’s an indication that I’ve said yes to something when I really meant to say no. This experience often leaves me feeling the heaviest—see above. Over the years, I’ve learned to get really comfortable saying no. It’s tough in the beginning, but it is a muscle; the more you practice, the easier it gets.
“What can I do to make me light in this exact moment?”
When there are multiple things making me feel “heavy” on any given day, I ask myself what I can do to make me feel light in that exact moment. Sometimes it means canceling dinner plans, asking to push a deadline, hearing the sound of the ocean, cuddling with my puppy or watching some reality TV. I try to not be too hard on myself about what this lightness looks like. Instead, I try to accept whatever it is I need in that moment and truly honor it.
“Where in my body do I feel the stress?”
Focusing on my body’s needs allows me to quickly reconnect with myself and the present moment. I do a scan of my body to see if my shoulders are sore, if I have a headache or a tummy ache. Whatever my stress symptoms are, I ask my body how I can help it: Do I need a massage? A hot shower? A hot water bottle? Some yoga? A nap? Soothing and honoring my body allows me to quiet my mind a lot faster. The mind-body connection is very real.
There is no one-size-fits-all to cure stress. If I were to sum up my advice I would say: Find what works for you and learn to say no. Build a life with more lightness in it and remove what makes you feel heavy. Talk to someone for support, trust your intuition and if all else fails, close your eyes and whisper, this too shall pass. And remember to breathe, always remember to breathe.
Alexandra D’amour is the founder of ON OUR MOON, an online safe space, or digital tent as she likes to call it, out to normalize conversations around shame in order to build a world filled with radical self-acceptance. Visit their website or Instagram.