Here’s one thing everyone can agree on: Stress sucks. We all experience bouts of it from time to time, and managing stress (or at least remembering to inhale-exhale) can feel like an exercise in futility. “Stress is an emotional experience when the circumstances in someone’s life are more than the individual can comfortably manage," says psychologist Jennifer Gentile of LiveHealth Online. No matter how long our to-do lists or how annoying getting ghosted is, there are ways to bring a little bit of Zen back into our life. But it's not going to happen overnight. That's why we worked with a handful of experts, as well as the brand we turn to when stress wreaks havoc on both our lives and our faces — Murad. With the skin-care brand's holistic approach to beauty and wellness in mind, we built a 30-day plan to keep stress in check and keep us at our healthiest. The best part? Instead of tackling it all at once, we can start by addressing just one common stressor per week. We've got this.
Week 1: Take Your Relationship To Bootcamp
Relationships, whether casual or committed, can be fun and fulfilling. But easy? Not so much. When we're not deciphering the meaning of texts, we're dealing with all the emotional baggage that comes with relationships old and new. So how do we keep these feelings from overwhelming us? This month's challenge kicks off with a few simple ways to stay on track.
1. Banish The Idea Of “The One”
Hopeless romantics want to find a soulmate — like, yesterday. Stress-management specialist Debbie Mandel says putting this kind of pressure on our relationships only sets us up for failure. When someone doesn’t meet every criteria on our internal checklist, we either try to change the other person or we try to change ourselves. Or we simply call it quits and move on to the next one. Sounds healthy, right? Instead of jumping to the "easiest" solution, learn to communicate as problems arise. It may be easier said than done, but it'll save you and your partner from even bigger stressors in the long run.
2. Think Positively
We know this sounds like a "duh" suggestion, but hear us out. Changing your perception changes the game. “I think at the core of any difficulty — whether it’s with a coworker, a family member, or a lover — it’s about reframing negative to positive,” says Mandel. Take a step back to reevaluate the situation that hurt. Is it worth an argument? Is it worth reliving over and over again? It takes so much energy to stay angry, so try shifting your focus to positive experiences instead. There might be a way to fix whatever disagreement is going on, or it might be a sign that a relationship just isn't working. Either way, adapting your thinking will only bring clarity.
3. Love Yourself First
Cliché? For sure. But it's also true. Both Dr. Gentile and Mandel agree that we set the standards for how others are suppose to love us. “If you’re happy and you’re upbeat and you’re becoming resilient and looking for solutions — because that’s what people who aren’t stressed do — then you can have a great relationship,” says Mandel.
Week 2: Put Down Your Phone
Technology rules our lives. We are constantly connected but, strangely, in the most isolated ways. (The FOMO is real, friends.) Though we're not going to tell you to throw away your phones and laptops, we do suggest loosening your grip.
1. Unplug Once A Day
Living in a world of constant notifications is not conducive to relaxation. And we promise you won't miss much by unplugging for at least an hour a day. Mandel suggests creating a “technology-free zone" at home, like in the bedroom. Relax — your Likes will be there in the morning. You should never feel guilty about devoting time to your personal life, says Darby Saxbe, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California.
2. Find Time For Hobbies
If you're busy in your real life, you'll easily forget the distractions in your virtual life. Take an art class, learn a new language, or hit the barre (or bar). Once you get into a routine, you won't even notice that that your phone is nowhere in sight. Plus, you'll have built-in time to socialize with friends new or old.
3. Connect With Friends & Family
One of the best ways to feel less isolated is through human interaction. We're talking about face-to-face activity. “Physically connect with people who make you happy,” says board-certified dermatologist and author of Conquering Cultural Stress, Howard Murad. “Reach out to a friend who shares a passion of yours and do something together.” And no, scheduling, canceling, and rescheduling drinks does not count as social interaction.
Week 3: Kill It At Work
Shattering the proverbial glass ceiling every day can be exhausting. Putting in long hours to chase the next promotion or a bigger raise leaves us constantly tired, and our skin (and, more importantly, mental health) can begin to suffer.
1. Take Care Of The Skin, Body, Mind, & Soul
To remedy the physical and mental effects of work stress, do things that are good for your well-being as a whole. For starters, deal with those pesky breakouts that pop out of nowhere in times like these. Using a multi-step regimen, like Murad's Acne Control System, can help minimize the breakouts and prevent new ones. Also exercise, meditate, or find downtime to unwind to take care of your mental state. When you look and feel healthy, you have better control on how stress affects your life.
2. Find A Mentor
Mandel suggests finding a professional mentor who can give guidance and advice. Having someone who has already gone through the things you’re experiencing helps put them in perspective. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to have an ally in your corner when the going gets tough.
3. Try Out New Tasks & Projects
With every job, there will be tasks you like and tasks you don't — that's life. When you figure out the aspects of your work you enjoy the most, ask your higher-ups to take on similar projects in the future. “You can create your niche at work and become an expert by honing in,” says Mandel. Specializing your skills could even lead to a promotion further down the line.
Week 4: Control Your Cash Flow
Does your money seem to go *poof* after each paycheck? Talk about the world's worst magic trick. Whether it's a nasty shopping habit or the result of student-loan debt, we've got some tips to keep your finances buttoned up.
1. Set Goals
You'll need to keep track of how you spend money on a day-to-day basis. And remember, “You don’t have to meet your goals 100% of the time,” says Dr. Gentile. Write down what you spend each day in a journal, or use a budgeting site like Mint to help identify where the majority of your money is spent. Then adjust your spending habits from there.
2. Ask For Advice
It's okay if you don't totally understand finances — Roth IRA, 401(k) — it can seem like another language. Saxbe suggests getting a financial planner (if you can afford it) to help you decode the jumble and help you set up short- and long-term goals. Can't afford a planner? There are plenty of finance 101 guides online for you to read. (We swear by Stash Wealth.) You can also turn to a finance-savvy friend or a loved one for free help.
3. Save, Save, Save
Do you really need that $5 coffee every morning? Take a look at how you're spending, and see where you can save some extra bucks. Whether you want to go on a nice vacation or have a just-in-case fund, regularly setting aside some cash helps in the long run. Plus, you'll have peace of mind knowing you have a little nest egg to fall back on.