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My 10 Essential Healthy Habits For Keeping Anxiety and Stress Low

Jan 24

I started a blog series earlier this month about intentional organizing and how I use it in my life! If you missed the first post, get caught up here. Today’s post is a rundown of my 10 essential healthy habits for keeping anxiety and stress low. Keep reading to learn how these habits keep me feeling my best, organized, and flexible self.

Photographer Abby Murphy sitting on the floor of her office by her record player

Forming Habits That Feel Good

I’ve worked with a couple of incredible holistic coaches in the past two to three years, and they have changed the way I live life (shoutout to Stephanie Burg and Chelsea Connors!). They both taught me so much about the power of flexible habit forming. It’s the only way I’ve been able to implement holistic approaches in my life.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is how to form habits that actually stick and, most importantly, make me feel good. I can remember as early as fourth grade reading teen magazines and trying to form habits around exercising, drinking water (at least 8 glasses a day!), skincare routines, etc.! It’s refreshing to see the conversation around self-care and habits changing and I wish I had realized these things much sooner.

Experimentation and Flexibility Are Key

I’ve found that habits all come down to experimentation and simplicity. As I’ve built new habits over the past couple of years, I’ve learned that I can only start one new habit at a time. Once it becomes more natural, I can move on to the next. I have learned to let myself off the hook if a new habit isn’t working for me.

I’ve also learned that habits are fluid. They may work for one season of your life, but not another. They may work while you’re at home but not while you’re traveling. You have to start with simplicity and be willing to experiment and fail. 

How Habits Fit Into My Life

When I let myself try out a new habit, eventually it becomes part of my life and schedule. At first new habits can feel strange and disruptive because I’m used to only doing what I know. Now I barely think about “doing” my habits, because they truly feel like part of me. It does take a bit of discipline and consistently checking in with yourself, but it absolutely pays off!

I wanted to share a few of these essential habits and non-negotiables that help me live my best life. They keep my anxiety and stress low, clear my mind, and help me connect to myself. Hopefully they will inspire you to look at your own habits and how they are playing out in your life.

Here are my 10 essential healthy habits for keeping anxiety and stress low.

Young woman sitting on the floor and placing a record on her record player

My 10 Essential healthy habits for keeping anxiety and stress low

1. Movement and Meditation

In college and my first year living in Charleston, I got into a cycle of working out consistently for 6 months and barely moving at all for another 6 months. I needed a change!

One of the things both Stephanie and Chelsea taught me was to let what you did as a kid inspire your movement practice. I started seeking out yoga classes (something I’ve loved since middle school). I did gymnastics growing up so I go to a super fun adult class at a local gym. Chelsea also recommended Kait Hurley’s Move & Meditate site that has customizable workout videos I can do quickly in the morning in my living room.

All of these ways of movement feel fun and take me back to my roots. Because I’m doing forms of movement that I love and feel fun, I’ve settled into a rhythm of movement that would feel so wrong if I didn’t do it! I no longer have to negotiate with myself on it; it just happens. 

2. Journaling

I’ve always wanted to be someone that kept a journal or diary, but it never stuck with me. In my coaching work with Chelsea, I found it essential in keeping track of feelings and working through thought patterns. Now it’s an essential part of my routine!

I keep a simple spiral-bound notebook from Ban.do nearby throughout the day for any thoughts I want to jot down. I also do a check-in with how I was feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally throughout the day before I go to sleep.

I also discovered Claire Baker’s work on tracking your menstrual cycle this year, and that’s when I really found my flow with journaling. Which leads me to….

3. Tracking My Cycle

I could go on and ON about how tracking my cycle has changed my approach to nearly every aspect of my life. I never thought I’d be that interested in my cycle. I discovered Claire’s work in this podcast episode, and I love the practical and empowering way she teaches about it. I have a blog post all about this in the works, but for now I encourage you to check out Claire’s website and Instagram and start charting! I now plan and organize my life around where I am in my cycle and truly feels like a superpower.

4. Scheduling in Fun and White Space

This was a big one I learned in my coaching with Chelsea! She helped me realize I wasn’t really giving myself much free time in my schedule to just be and do things I loved. I was focusing so much on work (which is often super fun!) but it’s not the same as winding down with a hobby, free time with friends, or spending time outside. In my Google calendar I have a purple label called “Living my Best Life,” and if I don’t have enough purple in my weekly view, I know I need more! Every week I try to schedule in:

  • A date night
  • A friend date (lunch, drinks, dinner, a walk!)
  • A yoga class and/or gymnastics class
  • One afternoon off to end work early to do whatever I feel in the moment, like working on my scrapbooks, going on a walk, getting caught up on a show I love, etc.

These things don’t happen every single week, but I can easily look at my calendar and fit them in where I can. It’s a great barometer and way to prevent burn-out before it happens.

5. Eating Well

This is one that took me at least a full year of learning and making small and slow changes to form habits around. It started with my coaching with Stephanie, which you can read more about here. This one is especially always a work in progress, but I’ve learned what foods keep me full and feeling my best. I finally understand that food is fuel, and I’m so proud of the changes I’ve made! Here are a few of my favorite resources for healthy eating:

  • Oh She Glows book & app- Vegan recipes that are SUPER delicious
  • Body Love book– gets down into the science of how to feel full all day long and how to make course corrections
  • Go With Your Gut book– so many yummy recipes and info on how to optimize your gut health

6. Inspiration Time Before Work

In the last few months I realized how icky it felt to dive straight into work, screens, and emails before I had a chance to have a creative thought. I started scheduling in a half hour for reading, creating, or brainstorming before I open my computer. Lately I’ve been reading a few interviews in In the Company of Women, and it’s such an inspiring way to start the day (the photography is also so killer)!

Sometimes I’ll spend time writing down fears or doubts that have been coming up for me lately and flipping them on their heads. I ask myself if I really want to believe those thoughts and what I want to believe instead. It’s super simple and can totally turn around my day.

7. Batch Working

Batch working is something that’s been a struggle to implement in my business. Especially in the early stages of building a business, it’s hard to distill down what actually needs to get done day-to-day and figure out a flow. I’m still practicing it and starting slowly.  Here are some things I started batch working this year in my business:

  • Social media planning
  • Accounting check-ins
  • Blog writing
  • Checking & writing emails

Where I have been able to implement batch working, it’s freed up my mental space knowing that I have a set time to work on certain categories. I can see the effects already and I want to expand batch working into as many areas of my life as I can.

8. Getting Out of the House

This is probably the #1 determining factor in my overall mood! I work out of my home office which is wonderful for so many reasons, but it can also feel isolating and claustrophobic. During weeks where I have more office work than shoots outside the house, I learned that if I don’t make it a point to leave my house at least once a day, I become irritable and more anxious very easily. I’ll go to a coffee shop to work, go on a walk in my county park, or go out to lunch. It makes all the difference!

9. Morning and Evening Routines

This one took the most experimentation for me! I was feeling like I was starting my days off in a very unorganized and scattered way, so I decided to establish some morning routines to help. What’s working for me lately is to wake up around 6:30, do a quick 20-30 minute workout, get ready, eat a filling breakfast, and start work by about 9. I avoid my phone except for putting on a Podcast to listen to while I get ready and eat breakfast. 

Evening routines have been harder for me to stick to, but I have settled on a few things I love lately! I always do my face routine with my Primally Pure products. They make me feel like I’m at the spa! I always log my cycle in Clue and do a check-in in my journal. Ideally I’d also do a quick stretch too but that doesn’t always happen!

10. Planning My Next Day

At the end of every work day, I look at my schedule for the following day and take note of any to-do’s that didn’t get done on the current day. This helps me shut work off at the end of the day, which can be especially hard working from home. When I take 10 or 15 minutes to set myself up for the following day, my brain knows that it’s all there for tomorrow.

Now It’s Your Turn!

If any of these sound like habits you want to implement, just start with one! Better yet, make a list of your own habits you wish you could adopt. Circle any that excite you and leave the rest for now. 

Check in with yourself daily (maybe in a journal!) about how your habit went that day. Don’t get discouraged if things didn’t go perfectly. This is about doing what feels best for you and your life. Know it will take time, experimentation, failure, and success. ALL of it is good self-knowledge!

What Habits Are You Forming?

Do you have any habits that help you live your best life? What habits do you want to form? Let me know in the comments or email me at abbymurphyphoto@gmail.com. I’d love to hear from you! 

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