Oh my goodness! I was so overwhelmed by the positive responses I received on my last Wellness Wednesday post. Actually I’m beyond excited that many of you could relate to what I wrote and also that you’re eager for me to continue the series. Thank you, thank you for all of your emails! I am working on responding to them, but have been a bit crazy with the recent move.
This week I’m choosing to focus on something that has been life-changing for me: Learning how to relax and stress less. I know it seems simple, but many people actually struggle with learning how to relax and enjoy time to themselves because they’re chasing success, happiness and perfection without even realizing it. Over the past few years, I valued my ambition and success as a feeling of contentment. I drove myself into the ground keeping busy by perfecting every project I took on and basically just being an extreme overachiever. I’m not sure where it all began; I actually think I might have always been this way however it magnified once I began working on both my blog and a corporate job.
You see for me everything needed to be the best, it had to be. Then after work, I’d head to the gym so I could work on achieving a perfect body. Then I’d get home with barely any time left in the evening, make myself dinner, and sit back down to work and/or blog. Often times, I’d stay up until 2am just to finish a project or to edit a post. On the weekends, I never allowed myself a break; I would develop recipes, write and edit until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer. Then get up and do it all over again. It felt like I wasn’t experiencing my life or being kind to myself.
This cycle was becoming a problem. One that slowing spiraling out of control. I was emotional, stressed and wasn’t prioritizing well. With being both mentally and physically exhausted, my anxiety became increasing strong. I started to recognize that I hated feeling overwhelmed because it literally made it seem like I couldn’t breathe. It also felt like I didn’t know where to start; I knew that I had a million things to do but my brain was so overpowered with lists and tasks, I couldn’t think of a single thing or understand where to start.
All of these symptoms were as a result of my desire for perfection.
After a while, I started researching and reading articles online. This article on perfectionism from Women’s Health Magazine described what I was experiencing quite well. It talked about things like the need to feel in control, which for me is so true. I feel as though if I am in control, then everything is safe for me. It ensures my personal survival. The article also spoke about how perfectionists can experience workaholism. Again, another thing I was going through. After this, I purchased a few books on perfectionism and checked out some videos on YouTube that were recommended by a friend. Eventually I stumbled upon a Ted Talk featuring Brene Brown, which really spoke to me as it emphasized vulnerability and living wholeheartedly. After watching the video, I really knew that I needed to reexamine how I was living my life.
I was setting extremely high standards for myself that I wasn’t able to meet. And yes, while goals are fantastic, not meeting them was devastating to me and induced anxiety and pushed me to control every aspect of my life even more. What I needed was a little self-compassion and kindness in my life. Thus I began on a journey to heal my body, soul and mind. I knew that I’d probably always have perfectionism in my personality, but I wanted and NEEDED it to be flexible. Now this wasn’t an overnight change for me, I had to practice being better to myself every single day and had to let go of things I knew I just couldn’t do.
Really, it was small steps towards becoming a better person and having a true understanding of myself. To realize that I needed basic essentials to live and that I didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. I am who I am, a human that makes mistakes, learns and grows through experiences. And that’s exactly what I was doing; I was experiencing something new and different in my life. I was challenging myself to change.
Below I’m explaining what I’ve done to help myself step away from control and perfectionism so that I could relax and stress less. I realize that many people are going through huge life changes, especially around my age. I also know that these tips might not work for everyone and that it’s always best to do what’s right for your mind and body. I’d love if you share your thoughts, experiences, recommendations, etc in the comments below.
1. Schedule time for yourself and step away from the chaos. I know this seems silly to make time for yourself but it’s actually helped me quite a bit, especially when I have a crazy busy schedule and what feels like a to-do list that may never end. Scheduling an hour for yourself during the day means that you dedicate that time to you and only you. This is your free time to step away from the chaos of your life and do something that genuinely makes you feel good. It’s always a great time to reflect. When I first started scheduling time in my day for myself, it was incredibly difficult; I wanted to keep working and chugging along in my controlled state of mind. I had deadlines to meet! But sure enough, taking an hour for myself a day really began to pay off. I got used to it! I would walk for an hour around the lake or beach listening to my favorite music. Sometimes I would treat myself to a massage or a pedicure. If I felt up to it, I’d go to a nice yoga class. Other times I would lay around in my PJs and watch Netflix. This was really a time to turn my brain off from all busy things I felt like I needed to do. During this time, I started feeling more positive, had a better outlook on things and made time for what was important in my life. To begin, ask yourself what you need and how you feel in this very moment. What do you need in your life? Give yourself that kindness. It will provide you with a fresh set of eyes.
2. Nourish yourself properly. We need the basic essentials in order to exist. When our bodies and minds start lacking these, we get off balance. It’s important to eat good foods, connect with others, move your body and sleep properly. But remember not to overdo it. You don’t need to work out every day or eat clean 100% of the time. Just try your best each day to make good choices. Go for a walk if you have a 15 minute break. Grab a healthy lunch with a friend. Pay attention to how you are feeling. When I was really struggling, I realized I wasn’t actually eating wholesome foods, meaning that I was eating a ton of protein bars and skimping out on real veggies and fruit. I hardly ever slept either. I told myself that instead of a protein bar or a cookie for a snack, I was going to have real whole food every single day. I started cooking more, even if it was just for myself. I even set a bed time which meant I had to turn off all electronics and be in bed by midnight. Slowly I noticed that my anxiety diminished when I was providing my body and mind what it needed. Be kind to yourself by being kind to your body.
3. Take a warm bath. I know this seems silly but I have fallen in love with baths. I love adding a little lavender bath salt and coconut oil then soaking in it for a good 30 minutes. The best part about baths is that you can listen to relaxing music, read a book or even enjoy a glass of wine. I always take mine before bed because they make me sleepy and help encourage a good night rest. They’re also wonderful if you run or workout a lot. Baths are probably one of my favorite ways to promote wellness; I usually take them 3x per week.
4. Experience your passions and/or hobbies. You all know that I believe that following your passions is one of the most important things you can do in life, so please don’t neglect your interests, gifts and talents! Responsibilities can make our passions seem like they’re often times a burden, but in reality they are what makes you unique and special. Perhaps you love antiquing, crafting or writing. Or maybe you love playing sports or running. Whatever it is, do it weekly! Doing what you love will ignite a fire in you and most certainly put a smile on your face. This whole blogging thing and creating recipes is my passion and I’m lucky enough to call it my job as well but that’s only because I did it weekly for the past three years. Don’t give up on something you enjoy or have a vision for, you never know what will become of it.
5. Learn how to say no. You really can’t do everything. I promise. At one point, I thought I could say yes to everything but all it left me with was anxiety and more things to do. People would ask me things and I would automatically respond with a yes without thinking it through; it was over scheduling my life. I wasn’t able to have my ‘me’ time either which was upsetting. Now I tell people I will get back to them, or take a day or two to respond to an email. It helps me prioritize, look at my schedule and take the time to think about if I actually want to do it or if I have time to. I’m super curious if you have any ‘learning how to say no’ tactics to share.
6. Spend quality time with others. When I was in my perfectionism work mode, I would often times isolate myself because I thought I had too much to do. Yes, I absolutely LOVED being alone – everything else seemed like a distraction. And while I was able to get a lot done, I ended up with a lack of meaningful connections. Other times I would just communicate with others via social media which isn’t real at all and nothing like a good heartfelt conversation. It’s amazing what a friend’s advice, a mother’s hug or a loved one’s kiss can do for your spirit. What’s funny about all of this, is that I’m a huge extrovert; I love being with people! As soon as I started making time for important relationships, I noticed my perspective opening up and a more positive outlook on certain challenges in life. My best friend and I would meet for lunch and go on long walks. I would meet up with friends for happy hour and dinners, knowing that my work would be there for me when I was ready for it. My mom’s advice never ceased to amaze me and make me feel like I could handle anything that was thrown my way. Above all, my friends and family help bring me back down to earth and keep me grounded. I now cherish my relationships and connections as I know this is part of me living whole heartedly.
7. Be flexible. It’s okay to set high standards for yourself and to want to do a good job. What’s not okay is being self-critical and setting standards so high that you can never achieve them. This leads to disappointment and guilt. Allow yourself to be flexible in your greatness. Not everything has to be perfect as we know that it is our human nature make mistakes. However the wonderful thing about mistakes is that they encourage learning and growth. I’ve learned so much from my failures and experiences that I truly believe it has helped me learn how to be more compassionate, relatable and understanding. So do things to the best of your ability, but make sure you know that the world requires flexibility.
8. Do yoga. I can’t tell you how much yoga kept my spirits lifted in times when I was down, or how after a long day at work it helped me to regain my mental strength. Most of all, yoga can teach you a lot about yourself. It taught me to be vulnerable, to love and cherish harder, to find a journey that was important to me and most of all to relax. I realize that yoga is not for everyone but I certainly recommend giving it a try. It will open your heart, teach you how to be independent, and my goodness does it help you channel your stress. Most of all, I think yoga has helped me hold myself to a more realistic standard.
Question for you: What helps you to relax and stress less? Have you experienced perfectionism in your life? Leave a comment below!
Thanks for being here! xo