Our guest blogger this week comes to you from Metamora, Illinois and served as the 2014 Miss Rodeo Illinois! This week, Katie Perry speaks from experience on how to deal with stress while traveling and preparing for pageants as a rodeo queen. Currently, Katie has opened her own women’s clothing store that can be found on Facebook, Magnolia Rein. She hopes to obtain her Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science and become a cow/calf operator. Thank you Katie for your valuable insight on this!
“So, let’s just be honest; you are no stranger to the ‘S-word’ or the ‘A-word’. Okay, okay, let me be a little more specific; stress and anxiety! It can consume your life! From traveling, to posting the American Flag, to speaking in front of hundreds of folks, you truly have all lights on you. The lifestyle lead by a rodeo queen is a very unique one. Not many people have the awesome experience of being a rodeo queen, let alone a state title-holder or your state’s biggest rodeo royalty. No matter how far into the limelight your reign takes you, it is inevitable you will be in a stressful environment more than just a couple of times. Some stress is normal and okay for you to soak in, but too much can wear you down and make you sick, both mentally and physically. However, it is important that you acknowledge the stress (and possible anxiety that has a tendency to follow it) and don’t ignore it. Putting it to the wayside can cause bigger problems and demons that you would need to fight off later down the road. I cannot STRESS how much you cannot take stress lightly; take the initiative now to live a healthier lifestyle. So, let’s talk about the signs of stress, both emotionally and physically, that you can acknowledge so you don’t get to a breaking point. (Everyone is affected differently by stress and you may manage it differently than the other people in your life. So not all of these may be stressors for you in particular.) Emotional symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- Becoming easily agitated, frustrated, or irritable
- Noticing mood swings
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having difficulty relaxing and/or quieting your mind (you feel like your mind is constantly racing)
- Low self-esteem
- Avoiding others
- Inability to concentrate
Physical symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- Low energy
- Headaches, stomachaches, nausea
- Tense muscles
- Rapid heart rate
- Susceptible to colds or infections
Wow! That’s a lot of things to check yourself on, isn’t it? You probably read those and saw yourself doing or feeling a lot of the symptoms. That’s because you probably are stressed. Like I said before, stress is common. According to the American Psychological Association, in the past month, 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. That means if you are traveling with three other queens, three of you are experiencing some pretty intense stress.
So how are you going to manage it? With all of these different symptoms, it can be difficult to develop a plan to take control of your stress. I am going to share some different ways to cope with stress that I find very helpful. I will give you a range of tools to use in efforts to help alleviate the stress in your reign.
Exercise, as we know can be beneficial to our health in so many ways. What some of you may find helpful is that exercise does not only release endorphins, it also relieves insane amounts of stress – more than we can fathom. If you are a high-energy person or you find yourself having excess energy, exercise can only help! Signs of excess energy are insomnia, anger or irritability, anxiety, etc. All of these, with the help of exercise, can be alleviated. For example, if you are having trouble sleeping, or your mind is racing, simply get out of bed, do some stretching. Do something that will burn off some steam. If you have access to an exercise room, please oh please take advantage of it! I cannot STRESS enough how amazing exercise is for your mental health. You will also have better self-esteem.
Make sure you allow time for yourself. Stake out a time each day devoted to just you. You will find that giving yourself a little TLC can totally nurture you. But when you do this, don’t let your anxiety take over. A way to do this is being mindful.
Mindfulness, or meditation, is a great attribute for your tool box! It is essentially living in the moment, and knowing so. So, during your allotted time for yourself, close your eyes and in a non-judgmental way, acknowledge, accept, and focus all of your attention on your emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment. This means, feel the socks on your feet. (Now, don’t grab your socks or feet, but feel the sensation of the socks on your feet!) I find that a ‘stress stone’ really helps me. It is simply a rock with imperfections and what I do is when I close my eyes, I just feel the rock and its ridges. I feel where it is soft and where it is rough. When your mind transitions from its anxious state to just feeling the rock, your mind seems to transform. In that moment, your mind will actually forget that you are stressed. In turn, you will focus on a rock – something so simple. Now, if you have anxious thoughts (i.e. how are you supposed to ride the horse that you have heard is really hot? How are you ever going to come up with an idea for your speech for the Miss Rodeo America Pageant?) just acknowledge them. Thoughts are just air. Let them enter your mind, and as simply as that, let them go. Do not give them too much attention, because in that moment you are devoted to you and only you. Make sense?
Another awesome yet sometimes overlooked stress-reliever is to take deep breaths! We are so blessed with lungs to fill with oxygen, so just do it! This also releases endorphins as well which fights stress on so many levels. You cannot beat this method as it is one of the most natural things we do – and what keeps us alive! Make sure you concentrate on your breathing – be mindful.
You cannot wash stress down the drain, or wipe it off with makeup remover, but you can manage it. Don’t feed into the hunger than it yearns. Find a coping mechanism that works for you – whether it is reading, or going on a walk, or listening to music, or riding your horse – find what can really turn your mind into the most positive attribute you have. You can do it. I promise. It just takes time and a lot of self-discipline. You are so beautifully and wonderfully made – you go girl!
Miss Rodeo Illinois 2014“