Finding Balance in Stress: My Steps for the New Year

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Let’s talk about stress. It’s my favorite topic lately. I’m pretty sure we all experience some level of stress and anxiety. And we all perceive and respond to that stress differently. The key is finding balance in that stress to help us LIVE our lives, instead of simply “getting through” them. These are some lessons learned, and my guide to living the New Year in a balanced way.

Before kids, I did not know what stress was. That’s not to say I didn’t have it, but it’s taken time to understand what stress feels like in my body. After this last year, well, let’s just say I found how stress affects me, and where I store it in my body.

The second day into the new year, I woke and couldn’t move my neck. After doing some internet research, I self-diagnosed a large knot in my upper trapezius muscle. I was so tired, I didn’t want to move, and all I really wanted to do was curl up into a fetal position. Anyone else know that feeling?

I let myself simmer in stress and misery for about two days before I decided I needed to change some things. I did some more internet research; how to relieve pain quickly, what to do, exercises, massage, etc. Also, I’m three-quarters of the way through Yoga Teacher Training (YTT)- so my focus shifted to finding balance. Not just work/life balance, but total life balance inside and out. I needed to find myself again, so I could be who I needed to be for myself and also for everyone else- especially my children and husband.

child pulling a sled up a hill in the winter
Finding balance outdoors.

So, this is what I did to begin finding balance in stress:

Step 1: I signed up for a massage to address the knot in my back and my intense headaches.

I finally took that leap to call for a deep tissue massage thinking that would solve my problem right away. My husband took the kids for an hour, and I took my first step towards self-care. Full disclosure, it didn’t cure my pain immediately. I did learn a little bit more about the excessive stress knots in my upper back in general, which the massage therapist did loosen up over that hour.

Step 2:  I scheduled an additional appointment with my chiropractor.

My family and I see our chiropractor regularly, about once every two weeks. I got so caught up taking care of everyone and everything else, I didn’t put time and effort into correcting my posture, exercising, and committing to the supplemental activities to hold my spine in alignment. So, I added an extra appointment in hopes of alleviating the pain. It worked. For the day. That night was the first I physically felt like smiling. I was making progress, but I was not completely better.

Step 3: I signed up for an unlimited month of Zoom yoga classes.

This was my push to stop using my kids as an excuse not to do something for myself. I intended to use these classes to help me find my balance. I signed up for one class a day each week.

Finding balance through yoga.
Finding balance through yoga.

After one week, I noticed an incredible difference. I had a little more energy than I previously had- especially after morning classes. I felt better mentally. I even took a 5 am Zoom yoga class on a Saturday morning before an 8 am phone interview. Let me tell you, that was the best decision I ever made. That morning, juggling the kids by myself and having an hour-long phone interview worked amazing! Who knows if I got the job, but mentally I felt like I was achieving that balance I had been seeking.

Young woman practicing yoga
Early morning yoga finding balance before the big interview.

Step 4: Hydrate.

Thank goodness basic training made me count how many ounces of water I drank, every single day. I’ve tried the “water challenges”, and I just don’t like them. Sure, there are ways to make the water taste better like infused fruit water, etc. but let’s be honest- that requires more work than flipping on the tap, which is as much effort I want to put into my water.

Also, thank you pandemic for requiring masks, because I used to drink the most water when I was in public. Why? Because I never knew what else to do with my hands! I’m socially awkward, so I’d always drink water when I didn’t know what to do or say. With a mask on, I don’t have that opportunity to drink. (Yes, I know you can move your mask to drink water, but who actually wants to be that person in the ballet class waiting room? No judgments to those who do, I’m just uncomfortable moving the mask once it’s on.) Once I made a concerted effort to drink more water at home- my headache finally disappeared. I again felt more energized, more fluid, and more fun. I ran around with my kids again. I even started sleeping a little better, which may have been the key to finding balance in stress. I don’t know about you, but I need that sleep.

Step 5: I prioritized my family again.

I reevaluated everything I “needed” to do. I put my kids and husband back on top of that mental list. Then came work, training, life, etc. I realized that not only did I sacrifice myself at the end of last year, but I also sacrificed them. They spent so much time in front of TVs and screens, it just wasn’t fair to them (my husband included). So, after one month of my journey into finding balance in stress, I can happily say I found it!

Woman with two toddlers
Finding balance for my family.

It wasn’t easy, and there was some pain that I had to address immediately, but my body shutting down was my sign to change my behavior. I wasn’t communicating the way I should. I no longer had the patience to help my toddlers learn. I didn’t have the patience to explain why something was wrong. I yelled, my daughter yelled, my son didn’t talk, and it was chaos and everything felt awful.

Now, after finding that elusive life balance, my patience level has exponentially increased.

My family made some other modifications at home too, and things are so much better. We laugh, we play, we freeze outside, and we’re living again. Sure, that work stress is still there (though possibly it is not as aggressive), but I know my boundaries a little better. Listing to myself and prioritizing my needs has been crucial.

I finally created a framework for me to better cope with my stress levels. It’s not perfect, nor is my path for everyone, but this was how I tried finding balance in stress.

What do you do to help alleviate stress? What is your path to finding balance?

Finding Balance in Stress: My Steps for the New Year

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A born and raised Vermonter, Kelli got her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Vermont, then joined the Vermont Air National Guard, where she met her husband. After that, she got her Master’s Degree in Digital Forensic Science from Champlain College. She and her husband and bought a house in the woods with 30+ acres of land to raise their two kids (4 and 2), three dogs, two cats, six chickens, and three guinea hens. Kelli stays home with her kids and pets while running her own wood crafting business, Tabor Ridge Designs, during nap-times. Kelli occasionally writes for her own mom blog, Calm Collected Mom, because we can all dream. She doesn't always think of herself as a writer, but she often has conversations with people over similar life frustrations and wants everyone to know that they're not alone. Life is full of irritations and annoyances, but Kelli thinks that we’ll get through it with a great story to tell afterward!

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