These 7 practical tips will show you how to overcome stress and anxiety when you’re stuck. Most can be done in 10 minutes or less!
A couple of years ago I made a business decision concerning my blog/online business.
In an effort to consider this online space as more of a business and less like a family journal (or even a ministry) I chose to concentrate on pretty DIY projects and thrifty home decor inspiration.
Why this change in direction? Because I took branding advice (a business course to help me narrow down what I do best) and refocused my efforts on the money making side of my job (which is definitely important!) I bought into what was being taught hook, line and sinker.
I even stopped posting family friendly recipes. Oh, the horror!'Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” - Winston Churchill
If you’re on my email list (and you should be!) you know through it all I continued to share my heart and story through emails and on my social media channels.
But my home away from home, Marty’s Musings, somehow changed for me.
I stopped writing as much. Just as some of my most important earthly relationships were stuck, my ability to process through the written word was also hindered.
Oh, I journaled privately. Volume after painstaking volume.
Yet here on the blog I began choosing my words more carefully, trying to protect delicate family relationships while still trying to remain true to myself.
Somewhere along the way I went off course.
I lost my heart.
Don’t get me wrong. I adore a good DIY project and yardsaling is still my favorite thing to do on Saturday mornings. (These tips will knock your socks off!)
Creating fulfills a need deep within me to bring beauty out of nothingness, stretching muscles that often go unused.
But relationships are important to me. My desire to connect with you, my readers, in a more intimate way has been nagging at me for months now.
As I’ve struggled with health issues for the last year I’ve had more time than I’d like to think, pray and question my decisions about my job, calling and purpose.
What I’ve discovered is this: I’m not defined by one aspect of my life.
I’m a wife, mom, nana, writer, business owner, entrepreneur.
I’m also wounded, struggling, fearful, insecure and sometimes heartbroken.
Most likely I’m just like you, struggling to figure out this mess of a life I’ve been given and stumbled into through the choices I’ve made.
Yet I’m an overcomer.
My desire to leave a mark on this world is unchanged. I DO have a purpose and a plan (Jeremiah 29: 11, God’s words!)
Regardless of the roads I’ve wandered down, I still seek to be an encouragement to women who feel alone. It’s why I started this blog in the first place: for community, support and engagement.
So as I rediscover my mission and overcome some of my personal demons, I want to be transparent in telling you how I’m coping with stress and anxiety.
Let’s be honest. We all have it. It’s interwoven in the core of our social media driven lives.
The more we think we’re connected the more we’re actually isolated.
Many of us (raising hand here) pop onto facebook or instagram many, MANY, times a day out of habit, boredom or desperation.
Then the comparison game quickly begins and we feel less than.
Let’s stop the madness. Let’s agree to find healthier ways to fill the longing for relationship in our lives and learn how to overcome stress and anxiety!
We can be brave. Who’s with me?
How to Overcome Stress and Anxiety When You’re Stuck
I’m just going to be honest here and say I hate the trite throw away version of “I’m praying for you!” I don’t say it if I don’t mean it. And if I post it on a social media status I’m praying for you right that minute because chances are I’m forgetting two minutes later.
Prayer is our greatest weapon in the battle against LESS THAN feelings. We have a Comforter who tells us that “he will give us another advocate to help us and be with us forever.” John 14:16 (NIV)
It seems people always say, “I can’t do anything else but pray.” As a woman of faith, this should be my go to tool for coping in the midst of stress and anxious feelings.
Even when I can’t find the words to speak, I know “the Spirit himself intercedes for me with groanings too deep for words.” (Romans 8:26) Thank you God that my lack of words doesn’t lessen God’s effectiveness.
Try not to roll your eyes here. I totally get it. That was me before the beginning of my counseling journey last year.
The idea of being still and meditating was a foreign concept to me. For over 25 years there didn’t seem to be a spare, quiet moment as I raised and homeschooled my children.
What I realize is I didn’t make my own self care a priority, and now I’m paying the price for those years of 24/7 chaos and stress. I can’t go back but if I could I’d tell the younger me to just chill out!
Meditation for me involves piano music with no lyrics associated (can’t be singing in my head!), a comfortable position (but not one where I’ll fall asleep lol) and concentration on my breathing.
From there I just try to empty out my brain. I know. Easier said than done, but the point is to connect with God and listen, NOT TALK. That’s the be still part.
There is no right or wrong but with the stress of the to do list, relationships gone wrong and life seemingly falling apart, the art of learning just to breathe is truly a powerful skill.
3. Get moving
This may seem counterintuitive to #2, but when stress and anxiety build it’s time to unlock that stiff neck and furrowed brow.
Moving around, whether it’s committing to a gym or just a stroll around the block, helps release endorphins in the brain. These endorphins in turn trigger a positive feeling in the body which can help promote sleep, ward off depression and increase self esteem. Sounds like a winner doesn’t it?
(This photo is of my oldest daughter and I, a snapshot of her 80-lb weight loss journey (and two kids later) and my 35-lb weight loss. She’s now an online health and fitness coach, an entrepreneurial spirit like her mom!)
If we know it’s so good for us, then why is it so hard? I’m convinced that I have to include it in my schedule or I will fail.
For most of us, it just starts with baby steps, even if it means just GETTING UP from the computer and stretching. Really. JUST DO IT.
4. Ask for help and accept it
My husband and I always taught our kids that a smart person asks for help. However, fear of rejection and judgment can keep us from reaching out.
To illustrate this, let me confess how truly hard this is for me.
I’ve always been the caregiver in my family. When my sister passed away in 2000 (right after we adopted a sibling group of three children, along with our two bio children) I jumped in as a substitute mom figure for my then 20-year-old niece and as caretaker for my elderly parents.
The next almost 17 years were spent thinking of others, putting my own life on hold for the greater good. I was needed, folks.
I thought it was a heroic, sacrificial act when in reality it caused me to eventually become bitter and resentful.
My learned behavior from my childhood was not to ask for help. So how does God reveal all this to me? Two carpal tunnel surgeries and gall bladder removal in a year’s time.
The morning of my gall bladder surgery last year I was literally panic stricken at the thought of having to ask my husband for help. Our marriage was falling apart and both of us had recently started individual counseling.
Yet I didn’t trust him to be present for me because it was opposite the pattern and foundation of our entire relationship. He rowed out to his island when things got hard emotionally and I never asked for help.
Oh, dear friends. God loves us so much He graciously gives us opportunities to learn and grow at our most vulnerable moments.
(These ladies are my dearest friends, a relationship that spans 20 years. They are the ones I call when I need help!)
Thankfully I survived my surgeries. I got better at asking for help and realized I didn’t have to be super woman all the dang time. My husband learned to ask how he could serve me.I'm no less strong because I recognize I'm not able to carry a burden alone.
Was it easy? Heck, no. We still struggle because there are just some patterns that develop over a lifetime that take time to heal and intentionality to overcome.
Is there hope? Absolutely but it’s often a hard, painful heart work. Isn’t that true of everything that’s worth fighting for?
5. Count Your Blessings
Although it may not seem this way right now, there is someone, somewhere in the world, that has it worse than you. We get tunnel vision when life is so hard and it takes every ounce of will to just get out of bed.
Last week my therapist gave me a gut check when she said I needed to realize parts of my life WERE hard but parts were NOT.
I love her ~eye roll~
No, really. She’s absolutely right. I needed an attitude adjustment. We all have areas of our lives that are challenging. Sometimes it’s because we’re reaping the consequences of our own choices and we need to “woman” up and own them.
Sometimes it’s just the fact we live in a fallen world and are surrounded by sin and brokenness.I believe the choice to embrace gratitude may be what separates overcomers from victims.
How can you do this simply? Keep a small journal handy by your bed and list a couple of blessings each night before you go to sleep. Nothing fancy, just the development of a positive habit.
Another way could be the beginning of a new tradition. One of our own most beloved traditions is our Family Blessing Jar and although it looks different now that our children are adults, it’s still a special part of our Thanksgiving Day tradition.
You are dearly loved and cherished because you are a child of God. “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
6. Do something for someone else
Our lives are all about patterns of behaviors. What we like to eat, who we like to hang out with, habits that make us comfortable.
Yet these behaviors may also be what keep us locked in feelings of stress and anxiety.
Let’s embrace intentionality and think of someone else for a change. What opportunities are right in front of you where you could make an impact in someone else’s life?
How about the cashier at the grocery store who is struggling? A word of encouragement might turn her day around. Is there a mom you know who is overwhelmed by motherhood and just needs hope that she will survive? Be that person for her.
(Giving my oldest daughter a break while I played in the dirt with my two grandsons!)
The ideas are endless once you stop focusing on your troubles and start looking “otherward.”
7. See a trained counselor
I will never forget the first day I sat in my counselor’s office. Even now I remember the nervousness and anxiety, and even a little fear.
Yet mixed in with all the apprehension was one surprising emotion.
I was no longer a helpless victim whose life was spinning out of control but a woman making a choice to take back her own life.
No longer sitting in counseling sessions for my children, I was telling MY life story, MY hopes and dreams, MY struggles.
It was a beautiful, terrifying place.
I am forever, gratefully changed by the experience. My marriage has been reconciled. Transformation has trickled down not only to my children and their relationships, but to those I’ve shared with both online and in real life.
So I leave you with this thought. There is no shame in needing help. You’re not weak or less than.
You are worthy of love.
Don’t do life alone, believing lies that are grasping for a foothold in the goodness of your very soul.
There IS hope and any one of the tools listed above will help you for this moment, this second, this hour.
I’m rootin’ for you, sweet friend!
Resources that have helped me in the last few months:
(I’ve included some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.)
Resources that have helped me in my journey:
Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes by Robert McGee
Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James
Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown
Have these tips on how to overcome stress and anxiety resonated with you? If so, what’s holding you back from making a change in your own life today?
If you want to read more about my journey through grief these posts will get you started:
When Should You See a Therapist?
Living with Grief and Heartbreak
Clutter and Grief: Are They Connected and are You Stuck?
How to Declutter After a Death or Loss
What No One Wants to Talk About at Christmas
How to Overcome Stress and Anxiety When You’re Stuck (you’re here)