In my life I have had periods of high stress and low stress. Stress is a part of life. We have an amazing reaction that our bodies perform that is called fight vs. flight. In short, our bodies shut down certain functions in order to enhance others. In times of need we can use this reaction and choose to fight or flee the situation with greater zeal.
No matter how small, stress happens for a variety of reasons. For example, speaking in public, competing in a race, and sometimes something as simple as showing up to school. Learning how to manage stress took years for me to learn and never came naturally. One day I had an epiphany: it doesn’t matter if these things come naturally! If I wanted to feel better and be happy I needed to start doing things now that would help me better manage stress.
-Exercise – In high school I hated going to the gym. I felt insecure hopping on a treadmill in front of (what felt like) everyone in my high school class. I didn’t like the way I ran and was also not comfortable in my over sized t-shirt and shorts. I did the bare minimum when I worked out and never wanted to sweat. I was in and out in less than 15 minutes. Later, I updated my workout ensemble, switched gyms, and tried different methods of exercise. After these changes I truly found joy in pushing my body beyond its current limits.
If you don’t like to run, don’t! Find what works for you. Try kickboxing, yoga, tennis, or tai chi. Pick the one you enjoy doing, and do it well! How does this work? Here is the simple answer: endorphins make you happy. However, this chemical reaction does not happen until you truly push yourself. Your body first needs to feel tired before the endorphins are released. So sweat! Get your heart pumping and the reward will come. Endorphins make you feel happy and release stress in the most natural way.
-Eat healthy – Recent studies have shown that there is a direct correlation between our stomach and our attitude. When our stomach is upset, we become upset. Think about the last time you were hungry, really hungry. Were you happy and chipper? Probably not.
Every body is different. We each have individual needs. In college I decided to give up caffeine completely. For my specific body I couldn’t handle the rush I received when drinking it. My body would react to caffeine in the same way as a high stress situation. My heart would begin to race and my stomach would become upset. I did not like the way my body was reacting, so I quit drinking caffeine and soda in general. When my stomach was no longer upset, I was happier! I worried less about my stomach and had time to focus on more important matters.
Our Father in Heaven gave us the most incredible bodies. We are capable of running ultra marathons, climbing Mount Everest, dancing on pointed toes, and having children (which is such a miracle)! We have a greater capacity to do these marvelous things if we are eating the proper diet. We have a divine resource on how to eat healthy in Doctrine and Covenants Section 89. Take time and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. When we eat healthier we can become happier!
-Remove clutter – On an average day we see 5,000 ads showing us things we “need” in our life. It is no wonder we want 50 pairs of shoes! The summer I lived in Europe I learned one very important lesson: they live simply. They own less and still find joy in their lives. They don’t need a closet full of clothes to bring them happiness.
When we have less in our lives we are less cluttered and cleaner. This eliminates stress. When our environment is less cluttered our mind becomes less cluttered. And let’s be honest, would you rather put away 50 shirts or 5? When we have less, we have less work to do. Start today! Go through your things. Create three boxes: donate, trash, and undecided. Look at every item and ask, “Do I love it?” “Does it make me happy?” “Will I use it within the next year?” Then decide, trash, donate, undecided, or place it back where it belongs. When you are done going through your room give the donate box away, trash the second one, and on the undecided write the date in a big black marker. Throughout the year if you find you need one of the items in the box, pull it out. At the end of the year tape the box (without peeking inside) and donate what is left. If you haven’t used it in a year, you won’t miss it.
-Don’t compare – For a while in my life I became confused why other girls had a boyish figure and why I wasn’t a size 2. When comparing ourselves to others we often compare our weaknesses to their strengths. One person may be a great chef but have a hard time with chemistry. We are all unique and have different talents. Strengthen yours and appreciate them! Could you imagine if everyone was the exact same? What a dull life we would live in. What if there was only one type of art or music? What if everyone had the same thoughts and ideas? How would we learn? How would we grow?
Comparison often results in resentment rather than good feelings. On social media we are putting our best selves forward. We are taking time to find the best picture in the best outfit and position with the best lighting and saying just the right thing. Can I let you in on a secret? Everyone else is too. If you find you are comparing yourself to another unfollow them! Make your social media a place of happiness and joy!
-Turn to Christ – When we come to better understand Christ’s Atonement our stress can be relieved. When we recognize that the Atonement is there for us, because we will make mistakes, we can feel peace. In this life we are meant to learn through our mistakes. Because of the Atonement, we are allowed to make those mistakes. Imperfection is part of His plan. When Christ suffered in Gethsemane, He not only suffered as we do physically, but mentally. He knows how we feel in times of stress and uneasiness. If we can turn to Him in these times we will realize that we are never alone.
Through prayer we can communicate with our Father in Heaven and ask for patience, understanding, or help in letting go. When we turn toward our Father in Heaven in times of stress, our relationship with Him grows. Take time to study Christ, His Atonement, and build a relationship with your Father in Heaven. As we do this we will know that our Heavenly Father loves us just the way we are.
Guest Post By Nicole Carpenter
Nicole graduated Summa Cum Laude from ASU in Educational Studies with a minor in U.S. History. She is a licensed cosmetologist and a lover of dark chocolate brownies. Nicole currently resides in Los Angeles while her husband attends UCLA Law School. They have a beautiful baby girl named June who has sparkling blue eyes and a full head of dark hair.