An Unexpected Way to Relieve Stress

I was catching up with a close friend this morning when I suddenly told her something that has been bothering me recently. It just slipped out, but the second I vocalized it, I was kind of shocked — I hadn’t realized just how much it was weighing me down. “Wow,” I said, “that feels so good to say out loud.”

I am generally an open book, but I also have the tendency to swallow my stressors, which I think many people naturally do. It’s easier to keep them inside rather than to air them out in daylight, right? Well, after I got off the phone, I tried a little exercise. I started writing down a list of things that were stressing me out right now. It helped in a way that I didn’t expect. Instead of stressing me out more, it grounded me. The little stressors (a parking ticket, a load of laundry, a recent three pound weight gain) became remarkably trivial, while the bigger things (career, love, a loss, an upcoming trip) felt very legitimate and understandable. “No wonder I feel stressed,” I thought, “Those are stressful things.” It was a rare moment of feeling real empathy for myself — not pity, not maudlin, but compassion, a feeling that we often reserve for our friends and loved ones. Writing it all down, I think, becomes a small way of letting it go. It’s like taking the weight off your shoulders and putting it in your lap.

Image via With Grace and Guts.

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