I’ve never been one for resolutions perse, but I do take stock of where I’ve been and where I want to go or things I want to try. I think that’s a natural progression when a new year rolls around.
Many have had to face some nasty stressors this past year and I believe stress is the bane of modern life. One we don’t always consider or learn effective ways to handle. We see the effects on our bodies but healing is more than taking a pill to treat the symptoms and moving on. It’s a matter of recognizing the underlying causes and finding effective ways to diffuse stress in our lives.
As I take stock this year I realize there was more stress than my mind and body could handle. Stress affects the body more than we realize. Cause and effect isn’t always immediate.
It’s kind of like fighting a battle. You face your opponent(s) and your goal is to keep on your feet and moving forward with as little damage as possible. Survival.
Part of your mind is analyzing body language, moves and counter moves, both yours and theirs. Adrenaline is rushing through your body. You’re aware of body hits but you don’t always feel the full effects until it’s all over. Once you’re in a safe place and the excess adrenaline slowly abates you become aware of the immediate injuries. There is a certain feeling of euphoria that you’re okay and survived and as that feeling fades away, you become conscious still other injuries.
It’s not just the physical wounds that have to heal. Your mind needs to process and heal as well and that takes time—especially if you’ve had to face a series of battles or traumatic events—with little time in between to recuperate or heal.
It’s important to recognize stress reactions and how to find tools to counter the stress.
The most common stress reactions include:
Some tips to help with stress:
· Be Thankful: Keep a gratitude journal. Make a list of all the things and people you’re grateful for. Create a Happiness jar or box. Each day, on a piece of paper, take a moment to write about a good thing that happened. Even the worse days have a good moment. Drop the note in the box or jar. At times of stress take a moment to pull out a ‘memory’ and read it.
· Enjoy the Weather: Sunshine and fresh air is good for you whatever the season. In the winter dark days tend to add to stress. Take advantage of sunshine and stand in the sun and let it warm you. If you work, take your break outside. Even when there isn’t sunshine and it’s cold, still take a few moments to stand outside and breathe in deeply. Focus on what’s going on around you. Does the sun or breeze feel nice? Is it snowing? Raining? How does it smell? What wildlife is there—even cities have birds and squirrels and both fun to watch.
·Find Peace: Modify your environment with music. Meditate, use deep breathing—pull in cleansing breaths and exhale the crap of the day. Pay attention to how your body feels when you do deep breaths. Learn mindfulness skills. Take a walk either solo or with a pet.
· Practice Positive Thinking: Smile and be able to laugh at yourself. Practice positive self talk or use a journal for positive self talk.
· Have a Plan: There are some stressors you can’t avoid but you can have a plan on positive ways to handle those stressors. Plan time for yourself and adjust that to your day. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time when you’re working. It’s amazing what 15 minutes spent on nurturing you can do. In the morning or evening give yourself time to do what relaxes you, reading, music, gardening, talking to a friend or just sitting outside in the quiet. Make a plan to get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation is your enemy and it amplifies the effects of stress.
Stress is an unavoidable part of life, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Too much stress can take a toll on your physical and psychological wellness. Don’t get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that you forget to take care of your own needs. Nurturing yourself is a necessity, not a luxury.
Happy New Year! I hope yours will be healthy, productive and satisfying.