While there are many books and blogs on stress management, most typical solutions work for most when truly under pressure. Here are a few practices that can lessen internal stress by limiting external noise and taking actions to enable informed, structured responses.
Choose what you expose yourself to
Limit exposure to things that are not helpful or comforting. If you were left by a spouse, do not read about how married people live longer and singles have more diseases. It does nothing to help you navigate the pain and confusion. If you cannot afford a home in the area you want, do not spend hours scrolling through real estate listings out of your price range.
Sleep on it
The old saying is true. If you feel over-stimulated about something, perhaps angry, upset, or sad, try writing out an action plan or draft an email, and then save it. Do an activity to distract yourself, then turn back to the problem the next day. If it is hard to stop focusing on it, try setting a specific calendar time for it and remind yourself that there is a set time to deal with that issue. It is hard to do this, but with practice, it can help lessen rumination.
Improve the moment
This is a tip from the book Worry by Edward Hallowell. In the back of the book there is a good list of 50 ways to handle worry. This is one of them. If you are feeling bad or frustrated, do something to improve that current state of being. Put on music. Make a joke to lighten the mood. Make a cup of tea. Anything that takes it to a slightly better place.
It can help to make a list of trusted people in your life who are there for you, and keep it posted or tucked somewhere easy to see or find. If you are craving support, scan the list for ideas of who to call or set up social time with. Gratitude lists are often recommended to enhance appreciation of the good in life. List three things a day that you are thankful for, for example. Or list your goals for the next year, month, or quarter, with tactical plans. List your milestones mapped to those goals every few months.
Have your “one little thing”
It could be wiping down the counter or clearing the sink each night. It could be a spiritual practice or kickboxing, a certain beverage, a stretch, writing in a journal. Any small ritual that gives you a sense of composure or closure at the beginning or end of the day. If there are others in the household, explain to them how important your one thing is to you and ask for support if needed to make it doable daily.
“Go to the literature.” -Joan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking
Ms. Didion, a nonfiction author, wrote about this as a life practice when she is curious or in turmoil. She wrote about how she studied grief after losing both her spouse and child unexpectedly in a short time period, as a way to understand what she was experiencing. Read existing quality sources to understand the topics, and the options and tools available. Read what the past and prominent thinkers are saying. The literature may not work for every situation, but it is certainly more constructive than some other coping mechanisms. I have a habit of locating and buying all the literature, starting a handful of the books, then letting them sit untouched on a shelf. Then at some point I look at them again. There is a comfort in having them, in skimming the contents, catching words or helpful tips. It feels a bit like completing a class, rather than blowing in the wind. It is smart to limit how much you read, especially online. Picking out a handful of respectable publications, especially if you can get professional references, is best. One should also limit the amount of time spent on literature that is negative or upsetting. Whether the topic is weight loss, grief, parenting, or anything weighing on your mind, gathering baseline quality resources to use as reference points is generally a good idea.