You've been here before, read a couple of blog posts, and maybe even shared them with your friends (if you haven't, then what are you waiting for?!). So I am not going beat around the bush or sugarcoat anything with you: LIFE CAN SUCK SOMETIMES. Everybody is going through something and even if their face isn't showing it, their body is feeling it. What have I been feeling lately, you ask (dang, you nosy)? Stress and anxiety. Anxiety for those who don't know, is feelings of worry, apprehensiveness, or uneasiness, typically about the outcome of something. Stress on the other hand is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. The difference between the two, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, is that "stress is a response to a threat in a situation", and "anxiety is a reaction to the stress."
Lately, I have been dealing with these feelings, and they can be overwhelming. It happens mostly because I tend to overthink things and play out a million different scenarios in my head, both good and bad. Obviously, these are not feelings that I want to keep recurring. So I have found ways to relieve myself of them, and I wanted to share this for others who may be experiencing this, too.
Turn the music up
One thing that I have found to soothe my anxiousness is listening to music without words. Music is my escape, and there is a song and genre for every situation. For example, when I'm feeling all lovey-dovey or in my feelings, I turn to R&B. For inspiration/spiritual guidance, I look to Christian/Gospel. When I want to turn up, Hip-Hop/Rap is where I go. When I find my mind drifting to anxious thoughts, I don't want to hear anyone talking or anyone's opinion, which is why music without words is ideal. As I listen to this music, I use that time to be present in the moment, and focus on what I'm doing, i.e. blogging, working, studying, falling asleep, or just being still. When I'm done I find that I am more relaxed and calm.
Lately, I have been listening to the Spa, Soothing Waters, and Calm Meditation stations on Pandora when I just want to hear the sound of nature's winds and waters. I have also found solace in the A Soft Jazz Playlist on Spotify. Again, there are no words. Just the sounds of the greats: Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis, John Coltrane, and many more. My favorite jazz album to just let play is Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. Depending on my mood I choose a sound, put my headphones in, and drift away to the sound of music.
LIGHT IT UP
Another go-to is lighting my absolute favorite candle. The Stress Relief (Eucalyptus Spearmint) candle from Bath & Body Works is the truth! Its blend of essential oils work together to help slow my mind down from running a mile a minute. Eucalyptus can increase energy, brainwave activity (by reducing mental fatigue), and more. Essential spearmint oil relaxes you as it works to relieve stress, and alleviate headaches. I love this scent so much that I have it in a hand sanitizer on my desk at work, and the air freshener in my car. Yes, it works that well! Candles not your thing? Cool. You can try adding aromatherapy oils to a diffuser, or an oil warmer around your home or office.
Don't Wait To Exhale
I close my eyes and my mouth, and breathe in slowly and deeply through my nose. Then through pursed lips, I exhale. I repeat this at least five times. Deep breathing helps to diminish anxiety, and lessens the occurrence of a panic attack. You can find some breathing exercises, here.
Work It Out
When I can't listen to music or burn my favorite candle, one thing that always works is taking a walk. This is especially helpful at work. My job can be stressful at times, and I have found that taking a nice long walk downstairs to get some water or walking around the perimeter of the building and soaking up the sun helps me to take my mind off of the issue for the time being. Going to the gym and taking a spin on the elliptical or a session with my trainer also helps to lessen the stress of what is bothering me at the time.
Talk About It
Guess what? I've been in therapy for almost two years now, and I love it. When I started, I found myself at a place where nothing I did, said, or thought about would help with the way I was feeling. So I took a deep breath, and searched for a therapist on the Psychology Today website to find one in my area. What I love about therapy is that I have this person that I can talk to about anything (and I do mean anything). I love being able to just get what ever is bothering me off my chest to someone who is unbiased, and genuinely wants what's best for me. If you are interested in therapy but you don't know where to look, of course you can do a search like I did on Psychology Today. If you want less formal therapy sessions, you can try out Talkspace. They offer virtual therapy, and you can text your therapist. Then there is Therapy for Black Girls, an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. There are so many ways to find a therapist in your area to help you with whatever you are dealing with, and these are just a few options to get you started on your journey.
I know it gets hard in life, but I also know that it gets better. If you are still looking for other options to relieving stress, the ADAA also recommends getting more sleep, exercise, eating well-balanced meals, and limiting alcohol and caffeine intake to cope with feelings of stress and anxiety. All I'm trying to say is: take care of yourself.