How to organize stress
Mental Health

How to Organize Stress

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I know what you’re thinking from the title: “Sierra, how on EARTH do you ORGANIZE stress?!

I have a little secret. Organizing stress is basically my fancy term for finding ways to identify stress, understand it, and manage it.

The thing about stress is that it’s so absurdly common now-a-days, but most people still get overwhelmed by it. Stress will never not be a part of our lives (let’s all ignore that double negative, shall we?) Taking charge of it is the key to getting through life’s daily struggles!

To me, organizing stress is comprised of 3 parts:

  • identifying it
  • determining why it’s there
  • finding ways to cope with it

Each of these steps is really important to get your stressed organized. It’s a lot more than just saying, “I’m stressed” and moving on. Without completing all 3 parts of this, stress will continuously surprise you. The reality is that stress will never totally go away, but being prepared for it will give you a huge advantage when it comes knocking.

I’ll walk you through different methods to accomplish each of these steps below. 🙂

IDENTIFYING STRESS

This can sometimes be the hardest part for people, especially when stress isn’t something you’ve ever dealt with. When I was younger, for example, I never really made the connection that I was flooded with stress. It took a long time and a lot of self-reflection to understand it.

But you don’t have to pull a Sierra and just deal with stress without a system. I gotchu, boo.

So how DO you identify stress?

Physical Symptoms

There’s a lot of physical symptoms of stress that can be pointed out pretty easily. Some of them include:

  • racing heart
  • shaking hands
  • sweaty
  • exhaustion
  • nausea

I realize that these symptoms are also symptoms of about 800 million other issues. HOWEVER, if you compare any of those problems with the situation around it, the stress can be the obvious solution.

Getting really shaky or sweating without any other known reason should be things you take note of. Random, mysterious nausea is a major symptom, as well. I get nauseous pretty often when my stress levels are elevated, and I’ve heard of a lot of people that go through the same thing.

Stress can also really keep you up at night. I find that I lose sleep the most when I’m trying to pretend that bad feelings aren’t there. But lack of sleep seeps into every other aspect of your life, and sometimes can just make things worse. If you’re tired all the time, but you’re not doing anything else that can be an obvious reason for it, you might need to take a step back and see what the real issue is. (aka YOU’RE STRESSED OUT)

For me, my heart beats like crazy when I get stressed out. It honestly feels like the emotions I’m feeling are transferred as physical problems that just sit in my chest. Sometimes that is the first thing I pick up on when I’ve been ignoring my stress otherwise.

Physical symptoms are something I experience a lot with stress, and I use Valerian Root. It’s technically a sleep aid, but I use it when I really can’t get my stress under control. It relieves the rapid heart beat I get so I can concentrate on the mental side of controlling my stress.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I do not know how certain products would affect you. If you want to try Valerian Root, consult your doctor first.

Mental Symptoms

Stress can obviously wreak havoc on your mental health. But stress isn’t the most helpful thing to look out for when you’re trying to find the stress, lol.

Some other issues that be caused by stress include:

  • irritability
  • lack of concentration
  • easily distracted

Related: How to Acknowledge That It’s More Than Just a Bad Day

I know I get super absurdly irritable when I’m stressed out. Like I’m pretty sure people are afraid to talk to me when I’m stressed because I snap at everything. (I’m small but mighty, folks.) No just kidding, being irritated at everything doesn’t make you mighty, it just makes you scary haha.

If you find yourself getting annoyed by things that normally don’t bother you, changing from one topic to the next really quick in conversation or even in your activities or you just can’t finish a single project, stress might be the answer.

Productivity Changes

I think that this is the absolute beast of stress: you might have a to-do list long enough to wrap around the earth, but if your stress levels are too intense, you won’t get any of it done.

This happens to me all of the time. It did just this week, actually.

When we have a million things to take care of in a million different parts of our lives, it sometimes just gets to be too much. If you don’t have a plan in place to organize stress, it’s easier to not do any of it then try to find a place to start.

And here’s the worst part of that scenario: you just get more stressed out because you’re not getting anything accomplished. 

Keep an eye out for this circle. It can put a huge damper on your productivity.

How to Organize Stress

DETERMINING WHY IT’S THERE

Okay, great! You’ve pinpointed the fact that you are stressed. Now the big question is why. 

This will be different for every person. There are a lot of specific situations that will cause stress: a big class presentation, a performance, long days at work, or a job interview.

But there are other things that can go on that aren’t quite as specific. Those are the things I want to go over, because they’re sneaky and subtle.

Being Busy

First of all can we just talk about the fact that “busyness” isn’t technically a word?! Anyway.

Being generally busy can be a major cause of stress even if the individual causes of the busyness (yes I’m using it) aren’t.

I’ll use an example that has been going on with myself recently. I’m in the middle of preparing for my move, and I’m really excited about it. I’ve been DIY-ing some things and I’m planning color schemes for each room. My blog is also getting started (yay if you’re reading this, I appreciate you.) And I’m working, which is meh but not that bad.

Combine all 3 of those things together? I’M SO STRESSED. 

Seriously my to-do list is so long and I’ve had a couple of days over the past weeks that I just stop doing any of it because I’m overwhelmed.

If you find that your schedule and to-do list is jam-packed, stress can land on your plate a lot sooner than you think.

Too Many Different Things at Once

It took me a long time to realize this can be a problem.

Spreading yourself too thin can be a MAJOR stress influencer. I find this especially prevalent in high students and college students (aka me) because we are at the age when we’re just trying to figure ourselves out and we have to do a whole bunch of different stuff to do that.

That’s great and all, but you’ll have 80,000 things on your plate and you’ll quickly get overwhelmed. When you get involved in time-consuming things, you’ll be struggling to find time to do anything for yourself.

Doing things for you is one of the best ways to help manage stress, but we’ll cover more of that in the next section.

Things That are Too Hard

Okay, that probably sounds like I’m condoning not working hard. Let me say now: that is false. But the key is to not flood yourself with activities that are all super hard.

Finding one thing that challenges you is the best option. Personally, blogging has been quite the challenge lately. But I purposefully pushed my blog launch until the summer when I wasn’t involved with my classes. By the time the fall semester starts, I will have a basic routine down with my blog and I can then concentrate on my challenging school work.

But don’t choose things that are all super tough because you’ll find yourself just drowning in them.

Exhaustion

Soooo I know I said that exhaustion is sign of stress, but it can be the other way around, too.

Classic example: you work 50 hours in one week. You’re so tired you think you could die, but you still have stuff to get done. 

You know the scenario? I sure do.

Maybe I’m alone, but when I get tired, I get very emotional and cry at every little possible thing that could go wrong. Exhaustion makes me absolutely stressed out. When I have a list of projects on top of what’s making me tired, my stress levels go through the roof.

When you get tired like that, it’s important to realize that you need to take a step down from everything else so you can recover and not let the stress take over your life.

HOW TO COPE

Now for the goods, yay! There are so many wonderful ways to cope with stress. The most important thing about it, though, is that coping with stress is a very personal process. How one person copes won’t always be the way you cope. So I want to give you some options to help you find the best method that works for you!

Self-Care

This, in my opinion, is the most important way to cope with stress. I mentioned it above, but giving yourself a chance to worry about nothing but yourself is fantastic.

I’m sure you’ve read and heard a million things about self-care, so I won’t talk too much about it, but I will say this: if you haven’t started a self-care routine yet, you need to. Each routine is different, so making it personal to you is absolutely key!

I have a whole list of self-care ideas here.

Journaling

I realize that journaling isn’t really for everyone. Honestly, it took me a long time to get into it. I have quite a few notebooks laying around that were meant for journaling that just never got used.

But if you do decide to get involved with it, it will be really beneficial!

And that’s because sometimes, getting your feelings and thoughts out on paper can be the fix you didn’t know you needed. If you struggle to talk about your feelings to someone else (this is DEFINITELY something I personally struggle with!) or you just want a way to rant more often, journaling can be a great choice to cope with stress.

There’s so many things you can include in a journal, like a daily recap, gratitude, how you’re feeling, what you’re doing, or just write in it when you really need to rant!

The other thing that I LOVE about journals, is that you can literally turn ANYTHING into a journal. From a simple, 17 cent notebook from Wal-Mart to a fancy planner, it can all be used! I definitely recommend going to Wal-Mart if you want something cheap but also has a cute cover. They have a ton of great options to choose from!

Planning & Goal Setting

I looooooovveee planning. If you haven’t bought a planner yet, check out my reasons why you definitely should.

In all seriousness, though, organizing your life with a planner could be the answer to all your stress issues! Sitting down with a planner each day will organize each part of your life so it doesn’t feel so random and chaotic. I find a big reason for stress is because you feel like everything is going on all at one time. With a planner, you can designate a portion of all of your to-do lists to specific parts of your day.

People go on and on about the importance of organization, and they’re not wrong.

I love The Happy Planner, and they have undated planners so you can start one literally whenever you want. That way you don’t have to wait until January to get your life organized. 🙂

Goal setting (using your new awesome planner!) is really great to control stress, too. I love continuously analyzing and setting new goals because it brings me back to why I’m doing all of the crazy stuff I do. Goals recenter your mind so you don’t get so overwhelmed with stress that you forget why you’re stressed in the first place.

Related: How to Make a Planner Routine

Drop Something

If you’re anything like me, this might be a hard pill to swallow. This coping method connects to what I said above about doing too many things at once. A never-ending I-have-to-get-all-this-stuff-done mindset will drain you so quickly.

Getting rid of something on that to-do list just might be the weight off your shoulders that makes your stress go away. I completely understand that it might be hard to make that choice, but I promise it will be a good feeling down the line.

Finally, a Brain Dump

Oh man, I love brain dumps. If you’ve never heard of them, they’re basically when you just make a gigantic list of anything and everything that’s going on in your head. You write down literally everything that you can possibly think of.

I love brain dumps for this reason: instead of trying to keep everything in my head, I have it all on a tangible piece of paper. Something that I can go back to again and again and I don’t have to worry about forgetting anything or it getting lost among everything else.

I really recommend doing one.

Pro tip: take your finished brain dump and go through it. Organize into things that need to be taken care of right away, a little later, and last. This will help you prioritize.

I have other lists that you can check out here to help you organize stress!

It’s time to go organize your stress, folks

I really hope this guide helps you figure out how to sort out anything that stresses you out. Stress can be way worse than some people let on, and learning to manage it will put you at an advantage over it.

Sierra Mafield Blog

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