"Stress is the common cold of the psyche." --Andrew Denton
The one morning you wanted to be on time and the alarm didn't go off. You're only a few minutes late, but then, right in the middle of your shower, the hot water stops.
No time to check on it now, it'll have to wait. Grab some kind of lunch and run out the door. You forgot to put gas in the car - well, it'll probably be enough to get you to work.
Halfway to the office you realize you forgot your cell phone. The real capper, though, is the traffic snarl you're caught up in. Suddenly, the diminishing gas gauge has become critical - and just what did your boss mean yesterday when she said 'This will probably be the last project you'll have to do'?
Everybody's under stress. Even if the routine is calm, quiet and stable, the unexpected can throw you for a loop. Next thing you know, your blood pressure's rising, you aren't thinking straight, and you know a massive tension headache is just around the corner.
The question: is there a cure?
Well, no, there's no cure for stress. But since you know it's inevitable, you can find ways to lessen its impact.
The definition for anxiety-induced stress is 'mental, emotional, or physical tension or strain.' The cause can be temporary (a major exam is coming up) or something much longer-lasting (the fallout from a painful divorce). Add to that the fact that just like the causes of stress are different for each of us, so too are its impacts on our health.
There are psychologists devoted to teaching people stress management. University studies focus on it. Self-help books for coping with stress take up shelf after shelf in bookstores and libraries.
There's no way this blog can begin to cover the topic in any real depth. But I can tell you a few things I've found that help me de-stress.
1) Me first. It may seem selfish, but if I don't take care of me, I can't take care of anyone else. That means I try not to take on too much - and it means reminding myself it's okay to say 'No' when I'm asked to do 'just one more thing.' I have at least 20 minutes a day that I'm unavailable, and unless the house is on fire, I don't break that rule.
2) Time-out breaks. If I'm doing intensive keyboarding, five minutes of every hour means I'm out of the chair, having a stretch, getting away from the desk for a bit. Other times, I might read for a few minutes, or have a cup of tea, or just close my eyes and listen to some soft, relaxing music. But the breaks are a priority.
3) Self-distraction. I deliberately focus my attention on something other than my worries. Like the poor, they will always be with us, but dwelling on them won't solve any problems, can't change the past, and doesn't protect the future. I enjoy several hobbies, most of them sporadically, but my main go-to hobby is writing.
4) Healthy lifestyle. I work at being healthy. Even though I'm trying to lose weight and I want to improve my fitness, beyond that I'm convinced that the best antidotes for the harmful effects of stress are a well-balanced diet, daily exercise, and sufficient rest.
5) Positive thinking. If the key to prime real estate is 'location, location, location,' the key to total well-being is positive, positive, positive. Don't ever let anyone tell you it's easy to be positive; it certainly isn't for me. But I do everything I can to concentrate on finding the bright side.
The rest is a matter of common sense (staying hydrated, getting rid of bad habits, developing good habits). I know with a surety I will not always be able to roll with the punches, but as long as I can gain some experience in coping, I can trust myself to deal with things as they come along.
That confidence is invaluable, for stress management, for self-improvement, for a genuine quality of Life. I can either let stress overwhelm me, or I can make it work for me. I choose to put it to good use.
"When we change our perception we gain control. Stress becomes a challenge, not a threat. When we commit to action, actually doing something rather than feeling trapped by events, the stress in our life becomes manageable." --Greg Anderson
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In July SparkPeople offered a '31 Days to Less Stress' calendar. It's chockfull of good ideas and suggestions. Even if not all of them suit you, you're sure to find at least a few you can try.