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Struggling with anxiety? This small action could yield big results

WOMAN ON PHONE
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It’s simple, but adjusting this one thing has helped reduce my stress level and re-prioritize my life.

A few years ago, I learned that making my bed every morning improved my day by about 98 percent. Before that, I had been an enthusiastic anti-bed-maker, convinced that it was both a ridiculous waste of time to make a bed you were just going to mess up again later, and aware that unmade beds collected fewer dust mites and thus were less likely to trigger an allergic reaction. I used the latter to justify the former, but the truth was I just didn’t see the point.

Until one day, when for some odd reason I made the bed. And it left me with a lasting feeling of peace, for that entire day. No matter what was happening elsewhere in the house, every time I walked by my room and glanced in, I saw the neatly made bed and it was like a tiny oasis of peace in a life full of chaos.

Making Bed
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It sounds dramatic, but at the time I had four kids 8 and under, so it was actually kind of true. I clung to that little oasis of peace for many years, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that making my bed in the morning got me through some tough times in my life as a stay-at-home-mom.

These days, I’m still a stay-at-home mom who happens to have a full-time job. My job allows me the flexibility to be home with my kids most days — but it’s still a full-time job, requiring full-time hours. These are uncharted waters for us — my kids are older, so the chaos in the house is significantly diminished from my bed-making days. But the chaos of schedules, school, activities, work, and the stress of trying to find the balance among them all is a new and different challenge altogether … one that I’ve found myself reeling beneath again and again.

One of the hardest parts is managing the necessary use of social media (particularly Facebook) for work, without letting it spin out of control and suck up all the errant minutes in my days. I spent a few weeks feeling chained to the constant “ding!” of notifications, and my heart rate shot up anytime the red notification bubble broke double digits. I could barely have a conversation with my kids without pausing several times to check a message, respond to a comment, or upload a picture. Eventually, my kids just started wandering away when I looked down at my phone, leaving me with a collection of half-finished stories and unanswered questions to stew over later, after they were in bed and I finally remembered that I had interrupted our conversation.

Something had to give, and it couldn’t keep being my kids. So I did something drastic (or at least, it felt that way) — I turned off my notifications. According to the Huffington Post’s mental health community, both turning off social media notifications and making the bed are small but significant actions that help many people manage their anxiety — along with limiting social media generally and (the killer) learning to say no.

“I limit my social media. It seemed my anxiety would rise every time I went on, because I was comparing my life to everyone’s highlight reel and it was doing a number on my self-esteem.” — Jen S…

“Being honest and telling people no. Saying ‘maybe’ doesn’t help … I’m telling you no for a reason, respect that and don’t come back at me for it. I’m trying my best, but I have my limits on what I can do. If I can do it I will do it.” — Saige D.

To be honest, I kept telling myself that limiting social media was impossible because I was using it for work. And while I was using it for work, I wasn’t using it only for work. There was a fair amount of mindless scrolling, exactly the kind of thing that ate up time in my day, distracted me from my kids, and raised my stress level.

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Turning my notifications off helped, but what helped even more was telling myself no. No clicking on the news feed after you checked the notifications, Calah. No scrolling through most recent. No nothing except what you came here for, which was to answer this question. Now put the phone down and back away, girl!

Like everything, limiting social media is a work in progress. But at least I’m working at it now, instead of letting it overtake my life. And once I started re-prioritizing and saying no to myself, it was easier to maintain those priorities by saying no to others. I don’t feel guilty about not volunteering for something if my kids need some time with me. I don’t feel guilty about letting a text message or an email sit for a few hours while we’re having family time. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting closer to and closer to finding that balance by making small choices to reduce my anxiety and help me focus on what’s most important.

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