As a society, we’ve become somewhat numb to stress. It often feels as though we’re being applauded more for bearing a heavier load. And, the wild part is that this seemingly harmless emotion has become so romanticized that, at times, we actually like when it rears its ugly head into our lives because we are feeling more accomplished, more productive, more badass, or whatever else our minds are telling us. Perhaps we’re being hyperbolic. And, maybe stress can actually foster some semblance of good, but the ever-present truth is that stress is real. It’s universal and it’s triggering. In some cases, it’s debilitating.
Bleu has always been and will always be a space for fostering real and honest conversations, most importantly about the things we are all experiencing as women. Today, five of our editors have decided to put the fashion must-haves and beauty reviews on the back burner to discuss some real-time emotions, specifically stress, and the ways we’ve managed to navigate its presence in our lives. Of course, everyone is different and everyone handles things differently. If you have something to add to the discussion, we’d love to read about it in the comments below.
Thirty-something, Los Angeles Contributing Editor, Kelly McIntosh
“Stress is never the same for me, really. Sometimes it gently tugs on my hand to get my attention, whereas other times it’s trying to run me over with a car. I’ve found meditation has really helped me control my mind by helping me pinpoint when my thoughts turn negative/stressful, and if I can pinpoint them, I can oftentimes redirect them. Yoga, walks outside, and reading have also helped me center myself.
Attitude is really key, but also being mindful of stressors that are optional. I’ve become mindful of friendships, work environments, and even relationships. If it doesn’t add to my life, I subtract.”
Forty-something, Contributing Editor, Sarah James
“Living with generalized anxiety disorder, stress management has become a huge focus for me over the past few decades and what I’ve found is that everyone has their own thing. However, these three actions do wonders for my worrying mind… maybe yours too? (I’m pretty sure one of them wouldn’t be recommended by a therapist, but hey, whatever floats your boat.)
Get out in nature: When my mind is spinning like a vortex of doom, a 30-minute walk creates an instant reset. And, it’s hard when you’re in the midst of stress; sometimes a walk is the last thing you want do. Just make yourself do it. Trust me.
Connect with a loved one: Put the phone down, close the laptop, look at someone you care for in the eyes. We are so programmed to be head-down these days. If you can, grab a coffee with a friend. Or if an eye-to-eye meeting isn’t in the cards, connect via WhatsApp or Voxer with your voice. Sometimes verbally expressing your stress and anxieties is enough to lighten the load.
Shop/browse online: Okay, maybe not the most healthy advice, but when my brain’s going 90-to-nothing and my plate is super full, just taking a few minutes to look at the newest collection by my favorite brand or retailer gets my mind off the current situation and calms my overactive nervous system. They don’t call it #retailtherapy for nothing.”
Twenty-something, Senior Managing Editor, Tiana Lewis
“Stress and anxiety are somewhat new concepts for me. This isn’t to sound naive; I’ve always known what they are. I didn’t always know, however, how to identify these emotions within myself. I’ve always been a ‘forge forward’ type of girl. It’s easier for me to not think about the things that are hard — to suppress feelings — than to face them head-on. It wasn’t until this year, when I had my first full-on, identifiable panic attack that I realized the severity of these concepts in my life and just how imperative it is for me to find some sort of release when experiencing them, no matter how ‘strong’ I believe myself to be.
I haven’t found a secret formula or solution. I wish I could tell you that I did. All I’ve come away with thus far is bits and pieces on how to manage day by day. Starting with not letting my emotions fester; not allowing them the time contort into something uncontrollable. When I do, I slink into a really dark place that’s not quite as easy to come back from. Also, breathe. Counting my breath and inhaling/exhaling deeply has been a true game-changer for me. It’s so simple, yet so effective. Finally, surrounding myself with people who allow me to feel big feels from a place not necessarily of understanding, but of love and grace and support.”
Thirty-something, Editor-In-Chief, James Kicinski-McCoy
“Stress is something that I am constantly trying to tame. With our fast-paced lifestyles, juggling work, kids, relationships, the dog that refuses to go to the bathroom outside when it’s raining, the relentless chase for success, the pressures of social media; these prevalent things cause some level of strain, whether it be big or small. And, just like a hot plate of pancakes, they stack up and bring forth what feels like an unmanageable, heavy load, which lands me personally drowning in a pool of anxiety. While I am no expert on the subject, I have found a few things that work pretty well for me.
Pause: Sometimes, I just need to stop for a moment — hit pause on the workload, change my mindset, go for a walk and look around to notice and appreciate my surroundings, read a chapter or two from a good book or flip through a magazine with a cup of tea, take a shower, or even a midday catnap can feel like I’m hitting the reset button. This simple act of ‘not doing’ always helps.
Organize: I keep a running list, both via Google Docs and handwritten in my journal, that I sit down with, sometimes several times a day to keep me sane and organized. There are three columns: Priority, To-Do, and Delegate. Spending 15 minutes in the morning before I dive in to sort through the day, week, or month’s obligations has made me more productive, less crazy, and a nicer person to be around. In my opinion multi-tasking is bullshit. Take one thing at a time, do it thoroughly, cross it off the list, and move onto the next.
Move: I find when I am active, I just feel better. Starting my morning with an early pilates class, a Bounce sesh on my mini trampoline, or even a good stretch if I don’t have a lot of time gets the endorphins going and puts me in a better headspace to conquer the day ahead.
Unplug: Social media can be a real drag. When I recognize that it’s causing me to feel bad, which it often does, I shut that shit down. Instagram is a breeding ground for comparison and self-doubt. I take control of that by moving onto something real.
Self first: The ultimate stress reliever/preventer is to take time for ME. To take care of myself. To practice all of the above. To get a full night’s sleep, eat often and well. Do the things that I enjoy be it cooking, reading, watching Sex In The City, going on a date with my husband, or getting brunch with my friends. Penciling in mandatory me-time is so important and keeps me centered and feeling normal. I am a better parent, partner, friend, and boss because of it. When I don’t, I suffer.”
Twenty-something, New York Contributing Editor, Meghann Stephenson
“I’ve always naturally been a perfectionist and very hard on myself at times. I was on a shoot with a photographer once, who told me she has a ‘no stress’ policy, which completely changed my view of stress. This is, of course, not to say I never feel stressed, but that when I do, I try to look at it objectively and understand why I’m feeling stressed. A constant source of stress for me was just caring too much about everything. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that I can only control so much and that I can only truly care about a very small number of things, so I should choose wisely.
I also realized there is no benefit to stress because my health and work both suffer as a result. I do my best to give myself time to relax, take Sky Ting yoga classes a few times a week, have a grounding morning and nighttime routine, delegate what I can, break things down into actionable steps, and just generally try to go with the flow as much as I can. I try to work smart not hard. This way everyone wins because I get to show up as my best self for myself and everyone in my life.”