Feeling better begins with managing stress well. Not all stress is bad. In fact, at low levels, stress is motivating. However, too much stress is toxic and impairs our physical, mental, emotional, and relational health. Extreme self-care is about learning to manage stress well. It involves stacking simple coping skills together, turning them into daily habits, and tuning toward our loved one. This way, we can get back to living healthy and feeling better!
The journey to feeling better with extreme self-care begins with understanding how stress works. There are two types of stress, eustress and distress—the slight differences between the two matters.
Feeling Better by Understanding Eustress
Eustress is sometimes called positive stress because it’s connected to events that make us feel good. For example, completing a test that is neither too easy nor too difficult can boost one’s self-esteem. In fact, the prefix “eu” literally means “good.” Other examples of eustress include buying a home, planning a wedding, getting a raise at work, and the birth of a child. Generally, people view these events as positive, yet they are also stressful.
Eustress can be motivating. A career we care about carries a certain amount of eustress. This stress motivates us enough to get out of bed on cold winter mornings when sleeping late would feel more satisfying. Yet, the overall stress level is not overwhelming.
Strength training is another example of eustress. The physical stress of lifting weights tears our muscles down, so they build up stronger. The first step toward feeling better by managing stress well is understanding that not all stress is bad. Low levels of stress are motivating, make us stronger, and are connected to positive life events. Because of this, the goal of extreme self-care is not to eliminate stress but to feel better.
Ultimately, extreme self-care is about becoming a happier, kinder person who is able to encourage and support others.
Feeling Better by Understanding Distress
Distress is what most people picture when they think about stress. Physical, psychological, and emotional signs of stress include feeling overwhelmed, tense muscles (especially in the neck and shoulders), irritability, restlessness, lingering anxiety, an upset stomach, trouble sleeping or too much sleeping, and difficulty concentrating. Stress overwhelm can exacerbate mental illness. It also leads to poor life choices and escalating arguments in relationships.
High levels of stress are also called toxic-stress. Stress is cumulative, which means it builds over time. Once toxic levels are reached, the human body enters into high alert. If you’re a fan of Star Trek, the Next Generation, picture The Starship Enterprise floating peacefully in space. By all outward appearances, everything is calm and smooth. Then, the camera zooms in, and we glimpse what’s happening inside. Lights flash, alarms sound, and crew members dutifully scramble to their stations. The ship is on red alert!
This is what toxic-stress looks like—calm on the outside and hypervigilant on the inside. Toxic-stress is pervasive, which means the feeling of being on edge doesn’t go away. Feeling better by managing stress well involves eliminating toxic stress (those stressors that completely overwhelm our bodies sympathetic nervous system), decreasing distress (the negative stressors in our life), and managing eustress (the events that feel good but also contribute to stress-buildup).
Is Stress-Buildup Impacting You?
Too much stress causes people to act in ways that are outside of their character. Because of this, it’s important to learn to manage all forms of stress well—even eustress. Most of us are familiar with the term “bridezillia,” and the 1960’s song, It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I want to. Tears at a party (something that parents who have thrown a bash for their young child will be familiar with) and brides who go on a verbal tirade are symptoms of eustress.
Not all stress is bad, but all stress can reach levels where it becomes more than we can bear. The first step toward feeling better by managing stress well is learning to monitor our stress build-up. So, how stressed are you?
- Are you having trouble falling asleep at night or difficulty getting out of bed in the morning?
- Do you feel irritable, short-tempered, or constantly on edge?
- Is your neck or shoulders tight? Or can you feel the stress in your gut?
- Do you find yourself arguing more and smiling less?
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, then extreme self-care may be for you!
Feeling Better by Managing Stress Well
Coping skills are simple ways of managing stress. Stress is a lot like gunpowder. We can pack it inside until it builds up and a tiny spark causes us to explode. This explosion might manifest though a river of tears, a flood of angry words, or an emotional breakdown.
A second, healthier option is to release our stress in small doses through appropriate self-care. This is like taking a barrel of gunpowder and spreading it out over a large parking lot (Warning: Don’t actually try this at home). Then, when the powder is lit, there is only a sizzle and a poof.
When unexpected twists and turns in life cause you to “sizzle and poof” you will know that you are managing stress well.
This is where extreme self-care comes into play. During our Thriving at Home Virtual Summit, Jenny and I had the privilege of interviewing Sara Thingvold. Sara is an ICF and ACC Certified Executive Coach, the author of Daily Drive – Living A Flourishing Life, and an expert on extreme self-care. During our discussion, the three of us dove into the topic of feeling better by managing stress well through extreme self-care. Some of my key takeaways from our conversation are below, and a few of my thoughts.
- Extreme self-care is about taking a deeper dive into mind, body, soul and spirit.
This statement resonated with me because I have long said that people are a lot like spaghetti; our minds, bodies, and emotions all intertwine. Attending to any of these areas impacts the rest. This is why the simple act of smiling can make us feel happier. But of course, extreme self-care goes even deeper than using a smile to get a quick mood boost.
Self-care for Leaders
- Self-care is especially important for leaders because leaders tend to be nurturers. Caring for others can increase stress and lead to compassion-fatigue.
- Leaders often have a difficult time saying “No.” They give and give and give until there is nothing left. This is why it’s so important to learn how to say “No.” This is also called setting good boundaries.
This statement reminds me that leaders, parents, and spouses cannot impart to others what they don’t possess themselves. A common myth is that self-care is selfish. In reality, caring for ourselves allows us to feel good so we can better care for others. From this perspective, appropriate self-care may be one of the least selfish things we do!
- Be aware that saying “No” may feel countercultural. The word “No” is sometimes perceived as conflicting with Christian values. This is why a mindset shift is so important. The reality is, “I’m a better me, and I can serve other’s so much better when I’m conscious about how I am filling myself.”
Managing our stress well and feeling better allows us to be better—and that’s a powerful gift to give to those around us. I love coming home from work when Jenny is energized. Moods are contagious. When Jenny is energized, it’s never long before I’m feeling better and find myself energized too. So practice extreme self-care, feel better, and give your loved one the gift of a happier you!
First Steps to Feeling Better
- An important first step to feeling better through extreme self-care is to answer the question “What do I like to do?” Then do one thing you enjoy every day. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you will feel depleted.
- A next step to feeling better is to ask “What do I like about myself?” and “How do I appreciate the people I surround myself with?”
- Our brain triggers to negative thoughts in less than two seconds. This is why it’s important to prepare our minds and hearts every day by identifying the things that bring us joy.
Extreme Self-Care for Couples
- Couples can manage stress, feel better, and practice extreme self-care by engaging in brain-brushing. It’s kind of like brushing our teeth every day. Brain-brushing involves answering the questions “What is good about me?” and “What is good about each other?” as a couple.
If you’re like me, answering the question “What is good about me?” feels awkward. Complementing our self is counterintuitive for many people. Many people find it easy to tear themself down and difficult to build themself up. Feeling better by practicing extreme self-care involves recognizing that we do possess good qualities.
In Psalm 139:14, David writes, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” If giving yourself a compliment feels strange, then make this mental shift. Instead of giving yourself a compliment, think of this self-care activity as praising God’s handiwork. After all, God made you, and God most certainly doesn’t make junk.
- Couples can help each other think of character traits and skills they are good at. It’s OK to tell your loved one, “I’m struggling right now. Can you help me think of things I’m good at?”
- It’s important to remember that we can ask our loved one for help when we need an added boost, but it’s also not our loved one’s responsibility to make us happy.
Jenny and I encourage couples to take 100% responsibility for the controllables. While we can’t make our loved one connect with us, we can always make ourselves feel better by practicing extreme self-care. Perhaps that’s why this statement resonates with us so strongly. Feeling better and managing stress well is something that each individual must own. Ultimately, our self-care is our responsibility.
- It’s important to write our positives down because anxiety, fear, and shame can give us brain fog. Keeping a list is especially important on challenging days.
- We can use the words “Even though” to manage stress. For example, we might say, “Even though I am not living up to my expectations at home right now, I am a hardworking person.” The key is to acknowledge where we are at, and also to recognize our positive qualities.
Feeling Better During Conflict.
- Conflict is not bad. In fact, conflict can be good because it’s an opportunity to grow in understanding and learn more about ourselves and others.
- 69% of problems are perpetual problems, and only 31% are solvable problems.
This means that if you and your loved one have ongoing areas of disagreement, then congratulations, you are normal!
- When gridlock happens, choose a heart and peace and not a heart at war. To choose peace, start the conversation with appreciation. Accomplish this by looking at your appreciation list and remembering all of the things you value about your loved one. Then, be clear about what you would like from your partner. They may not say “Yes,” but give them the opportunity with a clear ask.
- TRIP stands for Think, Reflect, Imagine, Practice. Our facial expressions set the tone. What’s in our hearts comes out onto our face. Our facial expressions alone can be enough to trigger our loved one. To get conversations off to a good start. Use the TRIP skills to practice managing your heart, thoughts, and behaviors before entering into a conflicted conversation.
I love this advice. A soft start, gentle look, and kind heart can prevent a conflicted conversation from spiraling downward. Thinking, reflecting, imagining, and practicing who you want to be before entering into a conflicted conversation works wonders.
During a study of couples in conflict, John Gottman found that “Couples who eventually wound up happy and stable had 30 seconds more positive affect (interest, affection, humor, etc.) than couples who wound up unhappy and stable.” “Unhappy stable couples had 30 more positive affect than couples who wound up divorced.”(Pg. 58) Truly, the little things (like a softening of our facial expressions) can make a big difference in our closest relationships.
Dive Deeper into Feeling Better through Extreme Self-Care
To dive even deeper, into the topic of feeling better by practicing extreme self-care, be sure to check out our full interview with Sara on The Thriving at Home Virtual Summit!
Here’s what one summit attendee had to say:
I highly recommend the “The Thriving at Home Virtual Summit“. I’m only about two-thirds of the way through all the teaching and I’m very impressed with the quality of information contained in it. I can’t believe I got this for only $47. I would expect to pay five or 10 times the price for a quality marriage conference or good marriage conference videos. The variety of teachers and the quality of teaching is very impressive. There are so many good resources and tips in the videos. It’s especially helpful in this time when families are closer together and stepping on each other’s toes. I would say run don’t walk, to get this high-quality program. It can change your life.”– Rob
Find out more about our all-access pass (That’s 19 amazing speakers diving into the topics of thriving relationships, thriving kids, a thriving you, and thriving faith) and preview the summit here: Thriving at Home Summit all-access pass
Continuing the Extreme Self-care Conversation
- Which of these extreme self-care strategies resonate with you?
- What do you think of the idea of feeling better our selves so that we can pour into the lives of others?
- What are your best strategies for managing stress well?
- Is there anything you’d add to these thoughts on feeling better by managing stress well with extreme self-care?
Jenny and I would love to continue the conversation in the comments below! We look forward to chatting more soon!
P.S. For more great takeaways from our Thriving at Home Summit, check out our interview with Paul Coughlin on Moving from Nice to Good. And for more amazing self-care ideas, be sure to check out our posts:
These extensive self-care guides include free self-care printables, creative self-care infographics, and activities to help you and your family de-stress fast!