Back to School: Stress Management

Hold on a moment while I brush the cobwebs out of here…

I’ve not been posting much the past week or so because I’ve been (ironically, as you’ll see) taking my own advice.  Life is busier and more stressful than usual, and some things had to go on the back burner.  And now that most folks are back into the thick of it with school/work and preparing for the holidays, it’s easier than ever to get stressed out, frazzled, and drained.  Trust me, I’ve been around that block a few times.  (My wolfpack will tell you that I am nothing if not tightly-wound, high-strung, and neurotic.)  And I know, as I’m sure you do, that it’s not a good place to be.  So today, I’ll wrap up the Back to School series with some suggestions for better stress management during the chaos of school, work, the holidays, and life in general.  If you want to catch up on what we’ve covered so far, check out Back to School: Fitness and Back to School: Nutrition.

Don’t screw around with your sleep.

When life is stressful, it’s more imperative than ever to have your sleep habits up to par.  Read this post for more about how (and why) to get better sleep.  In short, inadequate sleep – in either quantity or quality – will negatively impact your ability to handle stress, along with every other facet of health.  When you’re exhausted, it’s so much harder to CTFD when things get crazy.  So be consistent, create good sleep habits, and remember that all-nighters are rarely ever necessary.  That’s a fact.  (Or at least it’s my professional opinion, as someone who made it through college without ever working on school work past 2300.)

Honor your priorities.

Not everything can be a priority all the time.  Not everything that is urgent is a priority.  Not everything that can be done is something that should be done.  Know your top priorities and honor them.  You’ll find it becomes easier to say “no” to the things that detract from those when you are focused on saying “yes” to your greatest priorities.   One of the greatest tools I’ve found for prioritization is Covey’s time management matrix.  The two-axis matrix provides a way to priorities tasks/activities by the measure of their importance and urgency.

covey's time management matrix

Out of all the things I learned in college, this is one of the few that I still consistently use.

Incorporate restorative fitness practices.

Psychological stress can manifest itself physically.  You know how some folks say they “carry their stress in their shoulders?”  That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  When we are stressed, it can also be much more tempting to become lax about keeping proper form in training and keeping up on stretching, foam rolling, and other rehab/”prehab” exercises.  All of a sudden, knotted muscles and tight tendons seem to have cropped up overnight.  This is why it’s all the more important to incorporate restorative fitness practices into your routine during the more stressful seasons of life.  Days when you’re rushed and have to choose between your usual training or a more restorative workout, you’ll do better to choose the latter, at least some of the time.  In general, make a point of paying attention to your body and taking care of tight muscles/tendons as soon as they begin to show up.  The nice thing is that stretching, yoga, and self myofascial release (whether with a foam roller, lacrosse ball, jack knobber, or other tool) can all be fairly relaxing, so you can get a little extra bang for your buck by making this habit part of your pre-bed routine.

Schedule fun.

It’s easy to become completely immersed in deadlines, projects, and to-do lists.  Those are all important, but so is creating space for fun and keeping up on your relationships…and it’s taken me only about 24 years to learn that. Treat “fun” like any other item on your task list and block off a specific time for it. Invite friends along, or make it a solo adventure.

60 minute reset at coffee repulic

Whether it is getting a cup of coffee and enjoying a change of scenery, or a night out dancing, or a weekend spent hiking, if it’s something that fits your definition of “fun,” you’ll come back refreshed and more ready than ever to tackle your projects and deadlines and to-do lists.   Just get out there at least once a week and do something purely for the sake of having fun.

 Here’s to a season filled with less stress and more productivity, adventure, and joy!


What are your favorite ways to de-stress?

Do you have to schedule fun for yourself?



6 thoughts on “Back to School: Stress Management

  1. When I’m sleep deprived – nothing is right. I really do believe it is one of the most important elements of a productive, healthy lifestyle. I also think it’s super important to take time to yourself and do something you really enjoy. I love to go to the movies by myself or to a coffeehouse with a good book. It’s so refreshing!!

    1. Agreed on both counts! Especially the sleep part. I’ve never been able to understand how some folks can function (although perhaps that’s relative…) on only 4 or 6 hours a night. Still got my fingers crossed that you can catch more sleep before the baby arrives! 🙂

  2. The one thing I always do is schedule at least half an hour of “me time” every night. Even if I don’t get home until 2am (has been happening recently, haha!), I will still spend half an hour with a cup of tea and a book. My sleep may suffer but at least I feel relaxed. I hate the feeling of rushing around all the time!

    1. Yes, that constant feeling of being on the go is the worst. Sometimes a little stillness is good for the soul. Of course, so is dancing all night… 😉

  3. Covey’s Quadrants, lol.

    I don’t use them, but I described them when asked in an interview: “You have conflicting priorities and deadlines for projects. What do you do?”

    Citing these earned me points.

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