seasons of stress

Seasons of stress don’t always have to make sense. Sometimes, we’re stressed for other people and their well-being. Sometimes, it’s almost like a chemical imbalance that we can’t control. Sometimes, we just feel overwhelmed – even by the things we want to do. But whatever it is, stress is legit. And apparently, I’m in the thick of it right now.

Hump Day, ammiright?

Over the last week, I’ve felt so far away from the wild abandon I experienced on our short trip to Chattanooga nearly a month ago. It’s rare that I ever feel so free and wonderfully careless in any given moment, and it’s something I wanted to hold onto – something I wanted to maintain and share as part of this blog.

But that’s not reality, y’all. This past week has shocked me into remembering that nothing can be perfect all the time. And those moments of imperfection – of stress, sadness, sickness, and zero motivation – are also very important to talk about and recognize. Sometimes our wild can’t hold up against other influences. And much as we try to rise above and keep it all together for the sake of keeping up appearances, we need to allow ourselves space to be honest with ourselves, knowing that eventually we’ll have to do something about it.

And these are the things I suggest doing about it right now:

Sit: Sometimes, you just need to sit in silence. I’m not saying we should manipulate these seasons of stress as excuses to do nothing, but every once in a while, we need to stop. When you’re feeling like you’re stuck in a constant rush of GO GO GO, the thing your body and mind need the most is a whole lot of nothing. So, for 5 minutes, for an hour – whatever makes the most sense to you – take some time to feel grateful for what’s good. Maybe you’re stressed because you’re busy working a job you truly love. Maybe you’re overwhelmed because your week isn’t panning out the way you’d hoped, but you’ve got big plans for the weekend. Pause and refresh. It’s really okay.

Sweat: This morning, I felt terrible. I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to work, and I didn’t want to have to worry about what I should wear or how I was going to look in it. So instead, I got myself out in the garden, where the 90 degree temperatures and sunshine hit by about 8:30 AM. I let myself get dirty, hot, sticky, and sweaty – knowing that when it was all over, I could take a nice, comforting shower and start all over with my day. If you’re anything like me, you know there’s nothing more distracting than being horribly uncomfortable, and in this case, it was just the ticket. By the time I was done, I felt strong, accomplished, and grateful for my body and all that it can do.

Read: Staring at our phones might seem like a satisfying waste of time, but in my experience, it’s a stress-inducing habit in itself. A seemingly harmless scroll through Instagram draws up all kinds of inspirations, as well as an insistent pressure to do more. So what I’ve started doing is leaving my phone inside, taking a seat out on the patio, and just picking up something to read. A good mystery really draws you into the story and out of your own head. I just finished The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll and couldn’t believe how refreshing it felt to not be a character in that book.

Paint: Due to some illness going on at home right now, my Sunday afternoon was spent on the couch watching hours of Netflix and Hulu. But when you’re not the one who’s sick, lying around can sometimes feel even more exhausting. So I needed something to do. At home, I have a growing pile of intended craft projects (yarn, paint, canvases, beads) and being stuck inside was the perfect opportunity to pick up a paint brush and GO. The painting I had in mind was something simple and abstract – which also became quite therapeutic. A splash here, a swipe there, and I’d begun to create something that didn’t need to be perfect – something that felt free and fun and playful. I love painting because it welcomes imperfection. You can make it intentional, but sometimes it’s even better to just wait and see what it might become.

Treat: You know how they say diets always make people miserable because they’re not allowing themselves to have even the slightest bit of what they really want? Well, don’t let your stress deprive you of things that might make you happier. I mean, also don’t sit there and eat a ton of crap because then you really will feel sick. But treat yourself – to a pressed juice, to an afternoon movie, to a nice dinner out – your choice. Today, I treated myself to an iced mocha. It certainly wasn’t necessary or healthy, but it made the afternoon feel like an indulgent experience. It made me excited to sit down and write with coffee in hand. And that? That’s pretty worth it.

Escape: Seriously, it’s okay to get out. This past week, I was stressed at work, and almost even more stressed out at home. The burdens I was carrying felt endless. We can’t (and shouldn’t) run away from our problems, but sometimes we need a break – and a distraction. Drive around town, go to Target, hit up a park. Just escape, take some me time, and try to return to whatever’s bothering you with a clearer perspective. Heck – sometimes all it takes is some Nashville traffic to make me grateful and ready to get back to my own reality.

Sing: There’s nothing like the memory of how cool you thought you were when you were 14 and knew all the words to Ashlee Simpson’s Autobiography album to really lighten your spirits and put you in a good place. (Hey, at least I’ve grown in 15 years, even if I still know every verse.) Singing, dancing, acting a little silly – anything that makes you laugh (especially at yourself) – makes for an excellent way to de-stress. There’s also something good about youthful memories that can bring you into a new, clearer head space – back to a time when whatever feels so weird right now didn’t even exist.

But most importantly, y’all, don’t stress about your stress. You know you’ll come out of it. You know it will get better. You’re allowed to live in this season, to learn how to break through it, and to acknowledge the things that create it. Don’t feel guilty, sad, or even more anxiety-driven if you’re not living at 100% right now. It’s okay. And you’re not alone. But I hope it gets better. I know the simple act of sharing this truth has already made a difference for me.