Today, polls are showing that we’re more stressed than ever before – recent ones even indicate that people are sleeping less and worrying more than they were just six months ago. So what can you do before things spiral out of control?
Like many challenges in life, many times the best and easiest approach is a spiritual one. Simply having a sense of awareness can help you turn your upside-down world right-side-up again.
Barbara’s relationship with her personal technology – her Blackberry, in particular – was out of control. Between emailing, phone calls and Twitter, she had little time left for herself after she put the “crackberry” down. “I needed an intervention,” she says. “Things finally came to a head when my husband woke up in the middle of the night to find me texting in bed… I realized I had a problem.” So after a marital heart-to-heart and a decision to turn technology off after a certain hour, she and her husband came to an understanding. They have even rediscovered the joy of intimate communication – by not texting so much – and emailing less, too. This strengthens their marital bond, and provides a great natural means of stress relief.
Kevin, an internist, often saw patients from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., then brought paperwork home with him. “I’d arrive home exhausted, kiss my wife and kids, eat dinner at my desk, and then go to bed. That left little time for exercise, socializing – or even sex with my wife.” Fortunately for Kevin, he attended a doctor’s conference that introduced the idea of yoga as a preventative measure for optimal health. It led to a drastic change in his lifestyle, and it’s something he and his wife can do together. “Every morning, we start with yoga. Breathing deeply and rhythmically together and stretching puts us both on a different spiritual plane. Needless to say, finding ways to relax at home has become a new priority.”
Stacey was surrounded by negativity – she was in the midst of an acrimonious divorce, and her new boss was an unappreciative taskmaster. As a result, she found herself fighting depression. One morning she woke up to find a bird chirping in a nest it had built outside her window. “It was a perfectly joyous vision. It reminded me that there is more in the world than my problems. Now when I’m stressed, I just go for a walk – and admire the nature all around me.”
Kevin, Barbara and Stacey were able to manage their stress with simple changes that helped to calm their lives and soothe their souls at the same time. Here are more techniques to ease some of the pressure in your everyday life. They will help you maintain your inner balance, as well.
1. Alter your routine
Take a different route home after work, and stop to discover a new neighborhood or a scenic spot before you head back to the house. Decompress with a walk or a stroll – you might even go window-shopping. Moving your muscles a bit while you see the world from a different angle is a quick way to create some mental calm.
2. List your concerns
If you’re one to awaken nightly with a worry-filled head, try writing down your concerns immediately. Spend a few minutes each evening listing your grievances with the world. Write down everything – especially the small things – like being bothered by a cold sore, a new blemish, or a few new gray hairs. You’ll notice that giving yourself a place to vent will make your nights and days go by much more smoothly.
3. Be thankful
Start each day by reminding yourself what it is that you’re thankful for. If your body is in good working condition, be grateful for that. If you have many loved ones, be thankful for that. If you enjoy your job, remember that blessing. Embracing thoughts of gratitude leaves little time for negativity.
4. Shift your consciousness
Find the good in everything. Another rainy day? Think of the gorgeous flowers that will result. A smaller yearly bonus due to the economy? Remind yourself that you’re lucky to have a job! Simply put, thinking positively makes you happier. Do you tend to get the Monday blues on Sunday night? Flip your thinking, and schedule a regular event on that Sunday night – watch Masterpiece Theater, or have friends over for a weekly scheduled dinner or to play a board game.
5. Use visions of happiness
Gather some photos of that gorgeous beach from your island vacation, or your puppy’s adorable face or your best friends – and post them at home or in your workstation. You need only look at them to take you to a happy place in your mind. Hold on to that feeling – and you’ll feel your stress melt away. Esther M. Sternberg, M.D., the author of Healing Spaces: The Science & Place of Well Being, suggests choosing a pleasing desktop visual as your computer wallpaper – one of sweeping vistas such as green mountains against a blue sky dotted with puffy clouds, or maybe a beautiful sunset. A nice view, she says, triggers positive brain responses.
6. Change up your play list
Create a mellower playlist by loading your iPod with songs that you find relaxing or inspirational. Music with a slower or meditative beat can move your attention inward – and away from the everyday rush of chaotic events and thoughts.
Last but not least, even taking five minutes a day to sit still, close your eyes and breath deeply can change your life. Anything that puts you into a gently contemplative state will relax you and take you to a higher level of consciousness.
If nothing else, when life is overwhelming, give your mind, body and spirit a break – even if it’s just by making a conscious effort to breathe in and out, deeply and slowly. Directing your attention away from the things that are worrying you is always a powerful restorative during stressful times.
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