Today a local morning show posted the following statement/question on Facebook.
"Superbowl can be fun... but if your team loses doctors say it can be deadly. How stressed are you about the game and how will you keep your cool if the "wrong" team wins?"- Smart Family
After I (and several others) stopped laughing and responded with sarcasm about the obviously misplaced priorities that would make someone so upset they'd DIE if their team lost the Superbowl, I thought about the second question SF posted. "What do you do to handle stress in general?"
This is a little more up my alley because in the last few years, I have found that stress tends to affect me profoundly if I am not paying attention to it. We've all heard stress can cause all kinds of body ailments from headaches (listen migraine sufferers!), stomach to heart problems. It can also affect a woman's monthly cycle - causing ovulation to be delayed or just skipped that month. So, what can we do to minimize stress in our lives? Here are some of the things that I've found helpful.
1. Acknowledge, without judgment, you're feeling stressed. This is harder than you think. Americans in particular feel that we should be able to go and go and go without rest. After all, we have the technology to burn the candle at both ends and squeeze every drop out of our day. For some reason, it feels good to schedule every minute so full we don't have time to think or attend to the more spiritual aspects of ourselves.
2. Get off the crazy ride for a moment and STOP what you're doing. If you don't stop, you probably won't figure out what it is that's got you feeling like your heart is going to squeeze out the top of your throat (or what's making your head hurt etc). Give yourself the freedom to take time to rest your brain and then ask yourself, "Is everything in my schedule really necessary? Or can something slide?"
Just a note about scheduling life...When I was in my early twenties, I went to a seminar where author, Dr. Richard Swenson, gave a session on his book, Margin. The concept was simple. We tend to pack our days 100% full of activity, often barely giving ourselves enough time to race from one appointment to the next. Then, when something unexpected happens (as it usually does) or if a friend needs help, we melt down down because there's no margin in our schedule to handle it. His suggestion? Fill your schedule only 80% and give yourself room to handle the unexpected or to just enjoy life.
3. Purposely schedule time for yourself to just RELAX. I've done this for myself lately. In the afternoons, my two year old takes a nap and my four year old wants to play on the computer. So, I decided I would rest by reading - for a whole hour and a half. I felt kind of guilty the first few days but after a while, I really enjoyed it and found I had the energy to tackle some projects I had been too tired to approach previously. See? Resting can be PRODUCTIVE!
Here are some ways to actually use that relaxing time...
Take a bath. - I recently convinced a friend that a hot bath might help with her headaches. She told me today that she takes one every week now. Aside from being grateful that she's taking better care of her hygiene (haha!), I'm happy she's finding a way to just enjoy some time alone. She's one of the hardest working people I know. Now, if she can only keep her 3 year old from jumping in every time mom's taking a bath!
Go for a walk/run/hike. Exercise does more than keep our muscles and bones strong. It stimulates blood flow and energy throughout the body and lifts our spirits. Can't schedule an hour? Try going for ten minutes and take deep breaths as you go. You'll be surprised at the difference you feel in your spirit and body and I bet you'll be finding ways to stretch that ten minutes to twenty!
Speaking of deep breaths...Take some. Sit in a chair or lie down and take 5 slow, deep breaths while relaxing your whole body. You might even fall asleep.
Take a nap. I've noticed that when I'm tired, I don't handle stressful situations very well at all. In fact, I'd go so far as to say I often create them for myself. Do yourself (and everyone around you) a favor and get a good night's sleep or a nap during the day.
Pray or meditate. There are all kinds of studies that say prayer has inexplicably positive results in our physical lives. Try it. You might be surprised to get an answer.
Make new friends or visit the old. When we feel isolated, life's biggest challenges often seem - well, BIGGER. The laughter and balance that a good friend can bring is invaluable to bring perspective to those challenges. Find some people to laugh with and forget your troubles for a while. If you don't have many friends, take a yoga class, join a meetup group, find a church. There is someone out there who wants to have a friend just like you. Trust me, I know this - Mr. Rogers told me. Who knows, maybe your friend will have already been where you are.
Have SEX. Think you're too stressed to do it? Just make an effort, you might surprise yourself. Think of all the reasons you love your significant other. Or think of all the reasons you're doing it for you! Not enough? My husband keeps telling me that men who have sex three times a week live 15 years longer than those who don't. In fact, he informs me, it's part of elite athletes' healthcare regimens. Maybe he's a really good con man but can I afford to risk it?
Eat a piece (or two) of dark chocolate. We have all seen this in magazines right? Dark chocolate has amazing properties like lowering blood pressure and gifting us with antioxidants. But, that's not why I eat it. Eating chocolate just makes me happy. So there.
Well, that's all for today folks. What do you do to de-stress?