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Work it Out: Dealing with Stress

Let’s take a break from giveaway a-palooza, shall we?

Then again, you should enter and win a ton of awesome stuff.

Then again, you should enter and win a ton of awesome stuff.

I love giving things away because, let’s be honest, I feel like you all deserve some compensation from listening to my ramblings all the time. And I love putting together things and making presents for people. I guess it is kind of like me making Alex’s lunch (I did a really cool new one for him this week, btw, details to come, obviously). But as much as I would like to send you all little presents of goodness all the time, I can barely keep up with my own life right now.


It seems so silly to say that. That I can’t keep up with my own life. I feel like the topic of stress is circulating the blogosphere at the moment. People stressed about their goal times. Stress about getting the kids to school, lunches packed, laundry done. Stress on our bodies through training for a race, or just simple training for the marathon of life. Stress to eat “right,” whatever that may be. And then there are the posts that discuss how to deal with stress. Some people go out and take a long, methodical run. Others lift really heavy things made of iron. Some do intervals that take them to the edge of feeling alive and then back off and push the limit again. Other options? Taking the dog out for a walk (I don’t think this is an option for the Zoe-ster), chatting with loved ones, cooking, reading, taking a bath.

Another good option, IMHO

Another good option, IMHO

I have gone through periods of immense stress in my life. And I have come to deal with them differently at different times. There were times when I would lash out, need to be physically…aggressive?… either way, I needed to expend as much energy at one time as possible. I have gone through periods where I just need to be alone, thank you. Times when I just need to be with my friends and pretend whatever it is doesn’t exist. Sometimes I run, sometimes I go to yoga. And sometimes, I just sit, and work on anything but that which I should be working on. That isn’t very helpful and only makes the situation worse.

In looking at my own responses to stress, as well as others, I have come to a single conclusion: the best adaptations and responses to stress are those that empower you to do something for yourself. And I use that word empower pointedly. Because after you empower yourself and clear out the clutter that is making you feel as if you don’t have enough headspace to deal with whatever it is that be stressin’ you out.


I can’t tell you how to go about clearing out your clutter. You know better than I do what is all up in your business. But here are a few general tips that I have found helpful in dealing with whatever may be bringing me down. Approach the stress as a workout of sorts, with a warm up, main event, and cool down.

  • Warm up: Start off by tackling something that is manageable but validating. When we warm up, we are preparing our body and mind to be able to handle and accommodate the load that we are about to place on it during our workout proper. Taking on a small project (as simple as cleaning out your inbox or making a grocery list for tomorrow) will help you start to tune in and focus on the later tasks by getting rid of the riffraff that is obscuring your main goal and making you feel stressed even if you don’t need to. Some people may say that this is avoidance. But I argue that rather it is just making you better equipped to handle the later load by getting you into a better head-space so that you can be more efficient in dealing with the main issue.
  • Principle workout: Break down the main event into manageable circuits. Many of us break up our long runs in this way–it is mentally easier to think of running 5 milers than to run a 20 miler. You can’t do HIIT minus the intervals, can you? No. You break it down. Enjoy that rest. Luxuriate in it. Then pop up and get back to it. Believe me, if you have pulled your entire closet out onto your bed, you will have to complete the task sooner rather than later.
  • Cool Down: Recognize when you are past the climax of the project and are working to the final conclusion. Push hard to that peak, and then start to bring everything down. Start to think about what you need to do next (I mean this in a, “what am I having for dinner?” fashion), and start to transition your brain back to the rest of your life. Let the adrenaline of your effort start to subside as you reengage with reality. And afterward, go getchoself some froyo. You deserve it!

fist pump 2

There, isn’t that better? Even those of us who workout nearly every day have days that we just don’ wanna. But we nearly always feel some measure of better after. So next time you find yourself in a similar situation, treat it like a workout. If you have a goal, if you’ve set an intention, well, now is the time to follow through. It may not be finished tonight, it may not be finished ever (my closet certainly isn’t), but that is, to an extent, the beauty of it.

What is your “workout” that you are facing?

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  • Reply Lacey@fairytalesandfitness

    Good points! I need to be better at tackling things that need to get done instead of always being a procrastinator
    Lacey@fairytalesandfitness recently posted…Building up confidence AFTER signing up for a race challange: AKA Goofy ChallengeMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 5:42 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I am a master procrastinator, so in a way this was a reminder to myself!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:20 am
  • Reply Courtney @RunningforCupcakes

    I think you already know this. Balancing marathon training with going to class, doing homework and projects, and working 25+ hours a week leaves me running around like a crazy person! Deep breaths…
    Courtney @RunningforCupcakes recently posted…Marathon Training: Week 15My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:15 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You. can. do it! Think of the baby and Gaga. Googoo Gaga, if you will.

      September 16, 2014 at 9:20 am
  • Reply Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner

    A little stressful over here trying to get college apps written and ready for my daughter. One step at a time for sure and hopefully be done in a few weeks. When I am stressed, it stresses her out so I try to make a concerted effort not to let us rub off on each other.
    Deborah @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Veggie Breakfast Casserole (good enough to fool a meat eater)My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Ohhhhh I remember that time. Not going to lie, I am happy to not be there again! Then again, it will be just as stressful when she starts going after jobs. I know what you mean so well about rubbing off on each other–it is the same for me and my mom. Good luck!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:22 am
  • Reply Annmarie

    Love approaching stress like a workout! I always find that when I have a plan for my workout (obviously) I can tackle it much better and have a more successful outcome. That is true with anything else I need to do as well- sometimes writing out what I am stressed about then taking it on one by one isn’t as over whelming as just trying to jump into it!
    Annmarie recently posted…Let the Games Begin: The Fitness Games App Review!My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:24 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Having a plan really is half the battle. Setting that intention, but also giving yourself a way to accomplish it is just so, so helpful!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:24 am
  • Reply Kate @ Baking in Yoga Pants

    I love that Lady Gaga quote. And I appreciate this post because we’ve all been in those crazy can’t keep up kind of times for sure. You’ve got such an amazing approach to handling it and juggling all of life! 🙂
    Kate @ Baking in Yoga Pants recently posted…TYT – Pumpkin Pie FroYoMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thank you, but now I just need to put it into practice myself!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:24 am
  • Reply Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie

    What would life be without stress? Oh, vacation….
    Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie recently posted…Finding the Right Gym for YouMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:29 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Um…life would BE vacation 😉

      September 16, 2014 at 9:31 am
  • Reply Sam @ PancakeWarriors

    You know I needed this today. Been stressed both at work and personally for various and I think part if my discomfort stems from not getting in my usual workout. So I’m going to treat it like my stress reliever and just get up during lunch and go no matter what’s going on.
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors recently posted…Peanut Butter Bites and Pumpkin Pie ChickpeasMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:38 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That sounds like a great idea. Do something for you, feel better about YOU, and then keep the good going. It will help so much.

      September 16, 2014 at 9:32 am
  • Reply Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    I love this way of looking at it. I found that when I was starting to get to the point of being really stressed about a month ago, I was able to actually deal with the feelings that were causing me the stress for the first time. I wasn’t able to directly start to deal with them (like you said, I needed to warm up!) but once I was more comfortable addressing my feelings I was able to think about what was actually bothering me…many times it wasn’t what was on the surface, but something deeper. Once I was able to accept it I was able to being to move on and feel so much better.
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Breaking Through a Mental Wall in TrainingMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m glad that you are feeling more at ease but also more able to be active in dealing with your stress. It always seems so counter-intuitive, but sometimes relaxing and working on the other things that are troubling enable you to be infinitely more productive in the main issue.

      September 16, 2014 at 9:33 am
  • Reply Danielle@T-Rex Runner

    Totally in the same boat right now. I feel like I can barely keep my head on straight. For sure, my blog is suffering (along with most other things in my life). I’ve found two things really helpful at the moment: focus just on what I need to do THAT DAY and not for the whole week/month/etc, and prepare a weekly calendar with all the variables that I might forget about. The calendar lists my workout, writing assignments (at least two per day) and whatever dinner I had planned out. I’ve run into the problem of not having anything thawed for dinner because I didn’t plan what day I was going to eat each thing, or forgetting to do assignments til the last minute or having 5 on one day because I didn’t space them out. It’s ridiculous that it has gotten to that point but it’s reality until probably the holidays (when I’m done with grad school). I’ve also found that I REALLY need a free day on Sundays to get organized for the week and do laundry, meal prep, etc, otherwise everything is shot to hell and I feel like my whole week is out of order.
    Danielle@T-Rex Runner recently posted…A New World Sweat Record! – The Bird-in-Hand Half Marathon and 5k Race ReportMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:47 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      oh my goodness you are so, so busy right now–so many things that you have to keep up with–that I can’t even imagine. I think that your only option at this point (if you want to actually accomplish anything) is to sort through the riffraff like you are. Plus, I think that you totally have the right idea by creating a double calendar–not only to sort through things but also in order to take some of the pressure of DOINGALLTHETHINGS every day. Good luck!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:37 am
  • Reply Heather @fitncookies

    Excellent post! I know when I’m stressed it can either 1) eat away at me and I sink into a bad mood or 2) I need to get a workout in. Number 1 happens only if I already did work out for the day, ha. It’s important to figure out how we are affected by stress and what we can do to get rid of it. My workout at the moment is figuring out a job that would make me happy. Currently, I’m not and I get stressed out beyond belief trying to think of what else I could be doing.
    Heather @fitncookies recently posted…Raising girls with self confidence + Cardio Sculpt CircuitMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 6:55 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You know that I relate to this all too well (the job ambiguity and dissatisfaction, as well as not knowing where to go from there). Something that helped me when I was dealing with that was to take each day singularly, to enjoy the day for what it gave me, and to try to funnel that happiness into my search.

      September 16, 2014 at 9:40 am
  • Reply Anna - PipersRun

    That’s a great way to break it down. There is so much stress in our daily lives. This year has been the worst in a sense of having the highest level of stress. I’ve learned to take a step back and refocus on what really needs to get done and what can wait. I’ve lost some friendships because of it but I can’t do it all anymore and the stress isn’t worth it to me.
    Thanks for this post.
    Anna – PipersRun recently posted…Tartan Twosome: 10k Race Recap (Race #2 at Maritime Race Weekend)My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 7:15 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I think this year has taught many of us to refocus, and often because we have no other option. And with your kids, husband, training, job, life, you just be so proud of everything you do. The loss of friendships is difficult, but if they are causing you stress, they aren’t healthy anyway, and you don’t need that in your life! And if they are true friendships, they will be there for you in the end.

      September 16, 2014 at 9:43 am
  • Reply Sarah

    Great post. I’m Type A and apparently perpetually stressed even if I don’t “feel” like I am. Whenever I go for acupuncture it is always mentioned that I need to find ways to relax. I honestly don’t feel like I’m stressed and I don’t have major reasons to be. But I will certainly try to use some of these ideas. Who knows, maybe I can shock my acupuncturist. 😉
    Sarah recently posted…Boston 13.1 With The TeamMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 7:37 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Hahaha, then call me a miracle worker and I should start charging!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:47 am
  • Reply Hilary

    I like the way you broke this up it gives me a whole new perspective on how to tackle my stress, I am definitely one of those people who tend to take on to much. Right now I’m just stressed with a crazy schedule.
    Hilary recently posted…Treat Yourself Tuesday – Great Product LineMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 8:06 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Then it is the perfect time to try a more organized, but still familiar, approach. You know how to workout–which is just you applying stress to you body in a controlled fashion. Do the same with you brain!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:48 am
  • Reply Rae

    Love this approach. I usually find myself so overwhelmed that I can’t even begin to deal with stuff–I just shut down and ignore the problem. Lord knows I could use a new strategy right about now.
    Rae recently posted…Race Recap: Color Run 5kMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 8:10 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Speaking of, how are the new digs? I am falling into the same trap–getting over worked (by myself) and then freezing up. This was largely to help remind myself!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:48 am
      • Reply Rae

        The new digs are great–thanks for asking! Ben’s folks have been wonderful, and we’re really starting to settle in. It’s incredibly nice to come home to a mom-and-dad cooked meal after a long day. I’m getting spoiled! In a few weeks, all my stressful work crap will be over, and things will be a lot less crazy.
        Rae recently posted…Race Recap: Color Run 5kMy Profile

        September 16, 2014 at 10:22 am
  • Reply Run Colby Run

    Such sage advice Suze! I find myself approaching lots of situations from a “runner” perspective. Funny how it takes over your life in so many ways! Breaking it into circuits or intervals really helps me. Oh. And deeeeep breathes. 🙂
    Run Colby Run recently posted…Tapering Out LoudMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 8:30 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      You don’t need Buddha if you be a runner 😉

      September 16, 2014 at 9:49 am
  • Reply Amber

    YOU ARE A GENIUS, seriously, what a methodical way to think of deal with stress, and it makes it seem Doable, i LOVE lists, and organizing, (hello Type A to the extreme) and this method makes me feel at ease, JUST THINKING of using it next, saving it to my desktop and attempting to pin it!
    Amber recently posted…Ola! Granola Review & GiveawayMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 8:45 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope it helps! And yes, yes I am a genius 😉 Spread the word, yo!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:50 am
  • Reply Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles

    I love the methodical way of dealing with stress, that is how I typically deal with it too, although sometimes, I will lash out first then step back and go through the proper steps to get things done–I’m only human! 🙂 Right now, I am dealing with some work stress, mainly waiting to hear back on something important and its always the hurry up and wait mentality. I have done everything I can in this situation, now I have to wait for others to act and it drives me mental so I am busying myself with planning our mini vacation this weekend and getting things ready to head to Spain next week–all things I can control right now!
    Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles recently posted…A soccer player in the making and FitFluentialMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 9:41 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Dude–we are both only human (well, I guess so are the others, haha, but what I mean is that we are in the same boat). My fingers are crossed for you that you get what is best (whether or not it be what you want–I hope that you get what you need), but I have no doubt that you have set youself up for success. OMG YOU ARE GOING TO SPAIN holy cow awesome!

      September 16, 2014 at 9:58 am
  • Reply Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes

    I love the approach here! I may have to try this the next time I’m feeling really stressed. Although I feel stressed most of the time, so…..I guess I’ll be working out every day!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…MCM Training: Week 11 recapMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 9:52 am
  • Reply Ange @ Cowgirl Runs

    Suuuuuch a good way to think about managing stress.
    I know when I just do *something* instead of sitting and worrying about it, I feel a thousand times better.

    September 16, 2014 at 10:27 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      We always know that we will, it’s just the getting started that is so hard!!

      September 16, 2014 at 11:38 am
  • Reply Brianna @ I run He tris

    I like your approach of breaking it down into different parts. I can’t say I’m really stressing about anything at this current moment but I am feeling a bit overwhelmed at all the projects we want to do around the house. I look at it as a good problem to have though! I’ll be making a list and marking them off one by one!!
    Brianna @ I run He tris recently posted…Workouts of the Week- 9/08-9/14My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 11:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Systematic and steady, I like it. It can’t be easy, juggling everything, and somehow you do it!

      September 16, 2014 at 11:39 am
  • Reply Sara @ Lake Shore Runner

    You always make the best comparisons! Glad I can say I KNOW YOU 🙂 Right now I am facing a few different workouts. But I would say the main one that weighs on me is Where am I going?? The fear of the unknown always stresses me out. But that is life. I will leave all my other workouts (Stress points) for another day.
    Sara @ Lake Shore Runner recently posted…Treat Yourself Tuesday: Pumpkin & PopcornMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 1:19 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I’m glad that I know you too! And I have such great faith that you will figure all of these questions out. Right now is the time to be asking them. You may not get the answer and results at once, but you will get them. And I’m always here to chat if you need me. And to eat. Obvs.

      September 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm
  • Reply Earl-Leigh

    Can I just hire you as my life guru now? The major stress factor I’m dealing with is my j-o-b but the husband won’t just let me quit. Why can’t I just be a lady who lunches and lifts?! In the meanwhile, I’m throwing around weights and resumes.
    Earl-Leigh recently posted…TIU Frisky Fall “Before” Pics {Nekkid Again, Sorry Mom}My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 2:55 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I would love to be your life guru if you will be my comedic relief. I like the idea of a Lady Who Lunches and Lifts, but it also calls to mind lunch ladies in general….

      September 16, 2014 at 4:22 pm
  • Reply Farrah

    I definitely have a tendency to pile on way more than I should at any given moment (I think I’m happiest when I’m busy, because I always feel like I’m wasting time if I have idle moments. ._. This doesn’t exactly bode well for my stress levels). It definitely does get a lot more manageable though when you break it down! I like your way of approaching it as you would a normal workout! (I’m somewhat guilty of never actually warming up/cooling down very much though, unless you count walking from my car to the gym and up/down the stairs to get there…)
    Farrah recently posted…Caramelized White Chocolate Peach Oatmeal Skillet Cookie PieMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 4:45 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I know so well what you mean. I like the busy, too, but there comes a point where it is just too much, and you are spread too thin. And hey, I rarely cool down either. I definitely do my warm up for my runs tho. And yes, I count stairs etc 😉

      September 17, 2014 at 10:48 am
  • Reply Michele

    Love that lady gaga quote! I definitely have a love-hate relationship with stress itself. Sometimes I feel like I need a little too much of it to feel like I’m “doing something” but I can quickly be sent over the edge once things start happening that are way out of my control. Usually just being patient and handling one thing at a time as it comes is how I deal with it. That sounds too sane though. I guess there’s also some whining and screaming thrown in there too 🙂
    Michele recently posted…Should Running Vampires Ever See the Sun?My Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 8:05 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Especially if you are wining while whining ;D

      September 17, 2014 at 10:48 am
  • Reply Mar @Mar on the Run

    I like this!
    Mar @Mar on the Run recently posted…Week 10: Navy Air-Force Half RecapMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 8:29 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe


      September 17, 2014 at 10:48 am
  • Reply Sam @ The Running Graduate

    Amen, girl. You totally get me right now. I’m done training for my half for now, but between school, work, running, and keeping my sanity, I don’t know how I’m going to do it all! I love being stressed, but sometimes too much is too much. But it’s all manageable with taking it one step at a time. I’ll be remembering this post the next time I feel like the world’s crashing in around me!
    Sam @ The Running Graduate recently posted…Taper, Recovery, and What’s NextMy Profile

    September 16, 2014 at 9:49 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It can be so difficult to reestablish “normal” after training for something. And A) I hope that your world is never crashing in around you and b) I hope that it helps!

      September 17, 2014 at 10:49 am
  • Reply Lauren @ ihadabiglunch

    What an awesome idea – to have a warm up and cool down when dealing with stress. I usually let it fester until I explode. Aka not even close to a warm up and cool down haha. It’s like nowadays we think that unless we unravel or freak out, our “stress” won’t be taken seriously. Great thoughts lady
    Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…Alive in the Age of WorryMy Profile

    September 17, 2014 at 12:13 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thanks love. I think as you study more for NASM and get into yoga–you always have meditation and openers at the beginning, then flow, work to peak pose, then savasana–you will be able to work towards finding a better rhythm for yourself.

      September 17, 2014 at 10:51 am
  • Reply Sweet and Savory Recovery Oatmeal (Gluten + Dairy Free) - Suzlyfe

    […] of my mind for quite a while without sharing it with a soul. And it’s stressing me out. So, in the spirit of yesterday’s post, here is a bit of the main event. Oh, and have you entered my giveaway yet? You may or may not be […]

    September 17, 2014 at 5:19 am
  • Reply Renee @ Bendiful Blog

    The images in this post are cracking me up! I love a good funny meme. Stress sucks and I feel like I’m always dealing with more than I want of it. I agree with your steps though finishing one task gives you back control over the situation and the power to push through Great post!
    Renee @ Bendiful Blog recently posted…You Can’t Fake Sweat Tank- ReviewMy Profile

    September 17, 2014 at 6:52 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Thanks boo! I think that funny memes in and of themselves are great stress relievers. I mean, you just gotta laugh. And when it comes to dealing with things, it is just Occams Razor–the simplest is often the answer. We all know that, we just need to learn to accept it.

      September 17, 2014 at 10:52 am
  • Reply Cassie

    UH my workout was my day which was ******* terrible until literally like 5 minutes ago. I overslept my real workout (yoga) today which I have been sacrificing way too much.

    But um, there is like 20 other kinds of stress in my life right now, UGH.
    Cassie recently posted…What to Eat During a Ragnar Relay RaceMy Profile

    September 17, 2014 at 4:42 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Girlfriend, we need to get that under control. Get thee to yoga STAT

      September 18, 2014 at 6:07 am
  • Reply Link Love: 9/21 - Cowgirl Runs

    […] Work it Out: Dealing With Stress via The SuzLyfe […]

    September 21, 2014 at 9:15 am
  • Reply Carmy

    Shameful confession: I stress eat like no tomorrow. I can go through two bags of chips in one sitting during exam season and then it feels terrible when I run D:
    Carmy recently posted…Fitness FridayMy Profile

    September 21, 2014 at 3:17 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OOf, yeah, that’ll do it. I find that I am either allaboutfood or notaboutfood when I am stressed. It’s like one of those if I start can’t stop situations.

      September 22, 2014 at 10:15 am
  • Reply Friday Favorite Fall Food Finds + Heart Opener Giveaway Winner! - Suzlyfe

    […] going to go up Wednesday, but then I got too excited about the Sweet and Savory Recovery Oats. So I took my own advice from Tuesday and re-arranged. Today, I thought that I would share some fun things that I have come across in the […]

    September 22, 2014 at 4:38 pm
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