If I could tell you guys how stressed out I used to be ALL the time, you probably wouldn’t want to talk to me anymore (or read these posts…by the way, thank you for being here). I spent a lot of my time growing more anxious by the minute, taking in everyone else’s actions and words and all of the things I didn’t want or didn’t love to do and internalizing them. I imagine inside my head often looked like lava was erupting. I would let it grow and grow until stress caused me to break down crying, get pissed off and snap at at someone I love, or just shut down. And like any semi-reasonable person, I got so sick of it. Some people around me were just SO HAPPY all the time. Why couldn’t I be?
Probably because of my own actions. It’s so obvious when we realize the answer.
I wanted to stop worrying about little things, having anxiety attacks, and sitting around worrying about other people. I wanted to live and enjoy my life, be able to make it through hard times without losing it, and do things I loved. We all do these things in little ways, but what if our entire lives were lived to bring us joy? Wouldn’t that be something?
Below, the 5 ways I’ve learned to bring joy into my life. (It only took 26 years.)
- Acknowledge anything stressful in your life, send it away, and replace it with something that makes you happy. This sounds silly when I write it out, but I’ve been practicing yoga for years (I just realized it’s been almost 8 years which is insaaaane to me), and letting go of our frustrations, anxiety, and stress is something we work on at the beginning and end of each practice. And the whole time we are practicing, really. Before I begin, I always take some time to center myself, think of what has been bothering me that day, and promise that even if it’s just for an hour, I will let it go. I use yoga to bring joy and light into my life, but I can’t do that if I have a mental block that’s pushing joy and light away. Try to sit in stillness for a moment, with your eyes closed, and think of what’s bothering you as you inhale. As you exhale, let it go. It helps to pinch your thumb to your forefinger with each inhale as well. At the end of this, replace those negative feelings with one or two things that bring you joy or make you happy. This helped me a lot yesterday when before class I was frustrated because a new friend drove all the way to base to join me in yoga, but they wouldn’t let her go to class (just to the gym) when she got there because she didn’t have a military ID. It’s just a little thing, but there’s no reason to hold on to something you can’t control. Yoga has helped balance my happiness with my pain in the hard times during my life, too.
- Learn what is triggering your stress. Is it a job? A person? A task you hate but have to complete every day? One thing I’ve learned in the past year and a half is that if a person is making you sad more than they are making you happy, it’s time to let that person go, no matter how hard it is or how much it hurts. If pain is being brought into your life by someone, begin to take the steps to let that person go. If it’s a job, is there something you could responsibly do to transition into something that you prefer? If it’s a task, can you get it out of the way early, convince yourself it’s not that bad, or give yourself a reward for doing it? A simple adjustment in attitude can help with some of these things, but if that doesn’t work, take the steps to eliminate that stress and better your life. In the words of Drake, YOLO (You Only Live Once, for my readers who are less down with the times…love you, Grandma).
- Change your attitude. I’m a firm believer that you can change your environment if you try. You can change your attitude if you make the effort. Even if you hate something–truly hate it, down to your core–you can convince yourself it isn’t so bad by simply telling yourself it isn’t that bad. For example, I absolutely haaaaate certain aspects of the military. My husband has been in almost six years, and there are some parts of it that literally make my skin crawl. That being said, hating something I can’t control isn’t getting me anywhere but unhappy and sad and stressed the F out. So I tell myself over and over again that it isn’t that bad–it could definitely be worse, and it won’t be this way forever. It has helped lower my stress and change my attitude by leaps and bounds. That’s not to say I’m never bothered by it, but I’ve tried to stop letting it take over my life.
- Talk to someone…but don’t project your stress onto them. I talk nonstop, all the time. I’ve felt in recent years like I’m becoming more introverted, but that doesn’t stop me from running my mouth to anyone who will listen. That being said, I’ve been working hard lately to truly think before I speak. When I’m having a bad day or I’m too stressed to function reasonably, I used to project all of that onto my husband, probably making him feel pretty shitty too. However, lately I’ve been working hard to talk to him about how I’m feeling and why instead of just blurting out word vomit. I tell him what’s on my mind and try to think of a solution. Sometimes I still vent (duh, we all do), but him being able to understand where I’m coming from instead of me just burning all my energy talking shit about life helps to lower my stress (I’m getting it all out in a healthy way) and doesn’t stress him out as much to hear. It’s also easier for him to know how to help me if he knows the why.
- Take care of yourself–and surround yourself by people who do the same. It’s as simple as it sounds. Eat healthy, get some sleep, go for a walk. Take time for yourself each day to do those things that bring you joy. For me, the ticket has been Beachbody, yoga, and barre, eating clean (insane what a world of difference this has made), and getting an hour a day that’s just for me. I pursue projects that I’m passionate about and surround myself with people who love their lives enough to chase their dreams instead of staying stagnant. I read books that inspire me and discover new places to go that will do the same. I try to be encouraging and motivating to those around me so that they might make these changes in their own lives. We won’t lower our stress or feel happy and healthy if we don’t take action instead of just going through the motions.