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Life Update + 3 Tips for Staying Grounded When You're Stressed

MindfulnessAly HaebigComment

I don't know about you all, but when I am stressed, all nuance goes out the window. All of a sudden, the world becomes black and white again (at this time of year, think "It's a Wonderful Life"). All choices are either good or bad, right or wrong, epic triumphs or catastrophic disasters. I lose the ability to see the grey as the world twirls me round and round leaving me disoriented and harried.

Quick life update: I am graduating next week! Exciting stuff, right? Right. But also...utterly terrifying. Nearly every sphere of my life feels like it is in flux and, as someone who enjoys being in control of her life in general, this is downright worrisome. On the horizon are BIG life things such as finding a job, taking (and passing, God willing) my boards exam to become an official registered dietitian,  and settling into my new apartment. 

In these moments of stress, I am tempted to do a lot of things that I am sure we are all familiar with. I snap at loved ones or friends, lose my sh*! over the most trivial things, and drink too much coffee which truly only amplifies my anxiety (why coffee, why?). When faced with a world out of my control, my default setting is to try to control what I can. Which, in the past, meant falling back into patterns of restricted eating.

However, with the principles of Intuitive Eating under my belt (I promise a post on this is coming!), I can better counteract those restrictive thoughts with gentle self-compassion. But more than that, Intuitive Eating gives me the freedom to develop more effective ways to cope with the stress life brings. And this brings me to my 3 tips for staying grounded when I'm stressed:

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1. Make a list. (and, because it's the holidays, check it twice)

List-making has always been in my wheelhouse when coping with stress. Sometimes I end up creating many lists with various sublists. What I find to be most helpful, however, is to start by making a stream of consciousness style master list. I write down everything I'm worried about or every task that needs to be done that is associated with those worries. Then, I look at the this "master list" and categorize the items. Maybe one category is "Financial Woes" and another is "Gift Giving for the Bereft" (just a few hypothetical examples...). Point is, I break my big list down into smaller lists and begin attacking my to-dos this way. This makes everything feel a lot more manageable. 

2. phone a friend.

It seems like the more stressed I become, the more hermit-like tendencies I exhibit. Holiday party? Nah, I need to sit at home and wallow in my anxieties. Night out at a local bar with friends? Sorry, I have a night of stress-eating peanut butter while watching The Great British Bake Off planned. Humor aside (although seriously, you need to watch that show), I tend to isolate myself more when I am stressed. And while time alone can be necessary to recharge my batteries, spending time with a few friends gives me this wonderful thing called perspective.  And at the end of the night, that feels a whole lot better than a jar of PB at the bottom of my tums. 

3. do something with your hands.

Laugh if you want, but I have recently taken up knitting again and it has given me a wonderful outlet for my stress. Doing something physical - like coloring, writing, knitting, drawing, cooking/baking, can help take my mind off of whatever elephant is sitting on it. Also, repetitive movements like kneading bread dough put me in a quasi-meditative state. 

While these methods do not take away my anxiety, they do allow me the space to quietly observe the stressors with a new lens. And when the world is twirling you round and round, those moments of quiet peace can make a big difference. 

How do you cope with stress? Share your tips below!