Sunday, March 9, 2014

College Tips for Crunchy Kids: Sanity

This post isn't just directed at college kids, even though that's what the focus of this series has been.  Most of us could probably use a few extra tips for dealing with stress, right?

Really, this is probably the most important part of a healthy lifestyle.  And you know what?  It's usually the most difficult part, too.  Mental and emotional wellness are inextricably linked with physical wellness.  If you take care of your body, you are taking care of your mind as well.  Similarly, when you do the things that make you happy, your body will respond positively.

I've been putting off writing this post, admittedly, because stress management is something that I struggle with.  In the past few weeks there's been midterms, a new job, family members' health issues, a broken microwave and a particularly difficult round of PMS (too much information?), and I could feel my body responding to my stress with physical tension, difficulty sleeping and more morning shakes (sadly, this sounds all too familiar).

Over-doing things--and then poorly handling the resulting stress--is something I regularly run into.  And looking back, those high levels of poorly-managed stress have significantly contributed to my own health problems in the past.  Psoriasis, digestive discomfort, anxiety and weight gain, anyone?  Hmm.  Yeah, definitely not ideal.

So, what does one do to nourish one's mental and emotional health?  I really think this is gonna be different for everyone, but here is my master list.  Take whatever inspires you, and leave the rest.  Whatever you go with, the most important thing is this:  Do not feel guilty about taking the time to take care of yourself.  If you're in shambles, you're of no use to anyone.  If you are to love others as you love yourself, then you have to be loving to yourself.  The idea is simple, but the execution is notoriously challenging.

1. Make your bed.  Heck, clean your whole room while you're at it.  When I'm feeling stretched thin, I've got a pile of clothes on my floor, a jumble of notes on my desk, and particularly disheveled bedding.  Regardless of which came first, the stress or the mess, an I find that an orderly environment promotes an organized psyche.

2. Get up and move.  Unless you tend to push yourself too far physically, in which case the next season of Revenge on Netflix is just what the doctor ordered.  Or whatever.  (I'm not a doctor.)

3. Seek out heat.  Hot food (yes, I'm lookin' at YOU, broken microwave!), hot tea, a hot bath and a Castor oil pack with a hot water bottle, preferably all in one evening.  During the winter, if my stress starts to show up in the form of physical tension, heat is an effective remedy.

4. Find a creative outlet.  Something that makes you think in a different dimension than everyday logical reasoning.  Creating or appreciating art, playing or listening to music, dancing, singing, reading, writing or cooking (hopefully healthy foods that promote a healthy mindset) are all good options, but by no means the only things to choose from.

5. Spend time with friends and/or family.  Or don't, if silence is your sanctuary.  But personally, I start to shrink when I don't have enough time with friends.  A week without a good laugh, and I'm downright neurotic.  (This is especially interesting, given that I generally behave in a more serious, reserved manner.)

6. Ditch the technology, at least for a little while.  It's only a tool until it's a crutch.  At the very least, look at the person who's talking to you.  You'd be amazed how much more human you feel when you acknowledge the humanity of those around you.

7. Dream.  I mean this in two ways:  First, make sure you're getting enough sleep.  Wind down before bed by dimming lights and avoiding TV, computers and phones for an hour or so before you crash.

Second, day-dream.  Come up with your most compelling list of what ifs, Marie Forleo-style, and journal about them if it feels good.  Think about what you want in your life, and how you want to feel on the way there.  (After all, life is in the journey.  Check out Danielle Laporte's The Desire Map for some major inspiration and direction here.)  When you're actively working toward your dreams, it doesn't feel so much like work--which is, like, healthy cupcakes for the mental/emotional health realm.  Try 'em, they're good.  :)

So, what do you think?  Does your stress ever manifest itself in noticeable physical symptoms?  In what ways do you nourish yourself?