What’s on your mind?
Are you happy? Is your mind racing? Are you forgetting something? Now that I’ve asked, are you questioning if you’re forgetting something? What’s stressing you?
Think about it right now. Are you stressed by changes in plans? What about a messy room? Deadlines? Better yet, you’re in a silent room full of people breathing hard and smacking on their food. Jesus, take the wheel. NOW!!!
Imagine this; You’re fully relaxed, laying in bed among fluffy blankets and there’s a candle in the center of the room that fills the air with your favorite scent. Do you feel soothed? Good. Now your dog comes barreling into the room, wet, muddy, and running in uneven circles ALL over the place! Your candle is still on the table and mud is beginning to turn your white carpet a vomity shade of brown. How are you feeling now?
Maybe none of those scenarios stress you out. Some people would be perfectly calm in those situations; they wouldn’t think anything of them. Others would rather walk across a tightrope than suffer through those experiences. Some of those are avoidable, but sometimes they aren’t. No matter what level and type of stress you’re experiencing, there are some cultural lies you’re most likely believing about stress.
Myths about stress
1. It’s just a little bit.
Energy should be budgeted like money. You have a set amount that you can pull from every day. It’s dangerous to ignore the limits on your budget. Everything you say “yes” to equals energy spent, and a shrinking budget. Some yeses are investments. If you’re doing things that give you life, that’s refueling your energy and adding to your budget. You should always have daily investments.
When you’re making too many commitments that continue to deplete your energy without fulfillment, you’re running your budget to the ground. If your mood is your credit score, it’s not lookin’ good for ya!
You know how you agree to take over a tiny piece of a committee that turns into a much bigger role than was initially explained? You and I both know that can easily happen in every single role we play – as wives, mothers, professionals, church members, community leaders, and all the other hats we wear. Light anxiety can come and go quickly, until one day you wonder how in the world you got entangled in so many commitments at once.
“People aren’t doing things to you, they’re doing things for themselves.” Tim Parish
2. Stress is obvious to everyone else…we all deal with it.
We all lead lives with our own perspectives. My daughter loves to dress the dogs up in Christmas pajamas and I think it’s literal animal abuse. Suzie Q’s life experiences lead her to believe that Little Johnny shouldn’t talk to his mom a certain way, while Little Johnny’s mom is just happy he’s in a home much healthier, happier, and more loving than her childhood home. Suzie Q might be stressed, but Little Johnny’s mom isn’t even thinking about it because she never knew any better.
Stress is subjective. I physically cannot function in a messy house. Even if the whole house is deep cleaned and organized, but there’s too much clutter on a table, I need to clean it. My kids might feel the urge to clean once we can barely see the floor. Might. On the flip side, I can easily work and think through noise, but ironically, my kids will have panic attacks if there is too much clamor while they need to think or sort out emotions.
I think by talking and my daughter thinks by writing. Trying to think through things together used to be a nightmare because I thought she was ignoring me when she was trying to sort out her thoughts. Our diverse journies and obtuse approaches to stress can be a strength or a weakness.
3. I can handle it.
Growing up, I was taught to be a strong independent woman. I admire all that the women in my family overcame, and honestly, I can see that it was a protective mechanism that black women across all western nations used during the height of unrest, not just in racial oppression, but also in female inequality. They took on a lot of pressure as empowered women, pioneering accomplishments in the face of the endless prejudices and stigmas that told them they couldn’t.
However, I couldn’t be more grateful for the normalization of prioritizing mental wellness and self-care. Even though a lot of the solutions presented in these spaces aren’t fixing the root problem, we’re having open conversations about it and beginning to scratch the surface. Through these conversations, I’ve begun to expose the toxic and self-limiting beliefs that come with the strong, independent woman persona. Some of those ideas were detracting from my power, not adding to it, as we used to believe.
Shutting everyone out, never talking about how we’re really feeling, and feeling like we have to take everything on ourselves conditions our minds to believe that it’s us against the world. We’re approaching life from a perspective rooted in anger and mistrust. We’re made for community and fulfillment. Thinking we’re the only ones who will take care of us robs us of the connection with the world around us that God designed us for. This mentality creates bitterness which is the weed that kills all hope of joy and peace. We’re enslaved to anger, loneliness, and often, prejudice – whether intentional or not.
What can you do about it?
Monitor your perspective.
You’ve heard the saying “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” It’s true. Your mind has incredible power. How you approach various situations plays a major role in how they will affect you. A lot of stress comes from humans being humans. Remembering that they’re naturally operating according to their own brains and can’t read yours should relieve a lot of tension. Most external triggers aren’t personal.
Open up to the world around you. I’m not saying trust everyone and air all your dirty laundry with everyone you meet. What I am saying is to not assume the worst in people before you get to know them, immediately logging all of their faults. No one’s perfect to include you and me, but some people have beautiful hearts and pure intentions. When you begin to look for those people, you’ll find them.
Respect your time/energy.
The best tip I can give you here is to tangibly organize your life. Write things down in your planner or digital calendar. If that’s too much for my squirrel brainers who can’t remember to finish a sticky note, just tell Siri to add events and times to your notepad. At least once a day, add all of those notes to a calendar.
Analyze which types of tasks and events boost your energy and which ones drain every ounce of it like the IRS does your bank account. Even if you’re a people person by nature, periodic time alone is necessary. The more visual your entire life is, the more unnecessary stress you avoid.
Change your language.
This might be the most powerful thing. A coach once told me to stop over-identifying with my emotions. For example, I’m not suffering with or through stress. I’m not stressed. I’m experiencing stress. I’m not making it a part of my identity, I’m acknowledging that the emotion has shown up in my life for a reason. I’m allowed to approach it, inspect it, and attempt to figure out why it’s present in my life. Is it trying to protect me? Is it truly benefitting me or is it limiting me? This goes for all feelings and emotions. Your heart was made to feel. Your head was made to think. Providing a buffer zone for logic to meet your emotions is invaluable!
Go today reclaiming your power over the stress that arrives in your life, and use these tools to reset your mind, and restore your peace.
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