It sneaks up on us at the most unexpected times. It doesn’t take much to send us there: an inappropriate comment, too much to do and no energy to do it, someone cutting in line ahead of you or walking off with your drink at Starbucks. Your day is going smoothly and suddenly, a curve ball. You begin to get tense, feel your emotions welling up. The stress begins to build and you wish you were laying on a beach somewhere. While hopping on the first plane to Tahiti is appealing, the reality is that you have only two choices – stress out or seek relief. Try any of the steps below and watch the frustrations melt away...
Because breathing happens automatically, we give it little thought. Big mistake. When you focus on the breath, you can relax and center yourself instantly. Close your eyes, take three deep breaths, fill your lungs and then you can continue your day feeling refreshed. You can even imagine that you are breathing in calm with each inhalation and releasing stress with each exhalation. Name each annoyance and feel it leave as you let it go with the breath. Holding on to our frustrations makes no sense. Sophie Tucker put it simply, “keep breathing.”
It is impossible to be laughing and feel stressed at the same time. Laughing feels good, it is always available and it works! No stimulus is needed, just open your mouth and laugh. Even better, take a minute and go to YouTube and search for your favorite comedian. After watching a couple of clips of their funniest material, you will be ready to take on the day with a clear mind and improved attitude. Therapeutic laughter requires only that you make the sound. Even on those days when you feel the least like laughing, you can still surround yourself with humor and get much needed relief.
Athletes use this technique all of the time to improve their performance on the field. Create a powerful image of yourself in the most beautiful, serene location you can think of. Use as many of the senses as you can in your visualization. See your surroundings; hear the surf or the music playing; smell the flowers or the sea air; feel the breeze or the mist from the waterfall and taste the Pina Coladas! Once you discover your inner nirvana, return to it whenever you are in need of a mini-vacation. By training the mind to relate this image to a feeling of peace, you can de-stress wherever you are.
Not houses (that just causes even more stress!), move your body. Exercise helps to clear your mind, stabilize your emotions and keeps your body healthy. It isn’t necessary to run a marathon to shift gears, just get up and walk around for a few minutes. Do some light stretching – neck rolls and shoulder shrugs are good for letting go of the tight muscles we have across our upper back. Not all stress is negative. Eustress is a beneficial type of stress, and exercise is considered a type of eustress activity.
Pick up a pen and paper and write it out. Let the words flow freely without editing. Allow your feelings and frustrations to be expressed in whatever form they may take – words, pictures, scribbles. Not only is this a great stress reliever, it can also lead to answers to questions and ideas for overcoming obstacles in your way. These rants can be a record of what has bothered you in the past and a way to look at what was actually a problem and what, in hindsight, was merely a trivial aggravation. With the passage of time and perspective you can notice how something that seemed so problematic was actually unimportant and unworthy of your intense emotions. By understanding how things get better with time, it allows you to apply that thinking in the moment rather than letting your blood pressure boil. Not comfortable saving your journal? Type on your computer then hit delete.
Find an understanding ear and unload your troubles. It always helps to tell a friend, family member or co-worker what ails you. If you want some feedback, let them know that their advice and insight would be appreciated. If you just want someone to listen, then warn them of that ahead of time. Be careful of what you say and who you say it to. Remember words spoken out of frustration are not always well thought out and, like an item bought on final clearance, cannot be taken back.
Get creative and find a way to look at your issues from a different angle. Take the other person’s point of view, come at it from a humorous perspective, or take it to its’ absurd extreme. How far-fetched a conclusion can you imagine? Get silly in your approach. Discovering another way of looking at your stressors allows you to shift your thinking and tactics.
Toys are not just for children. Our inner child still wants to play. Fill your home or office with gadgets and gizmos that will delight and distract you. Bubbles, bobble heads and hand-held electronic games are all you need to take a joy break and chase stress away. Playing allows you to engage both your left and your right brain and helps with memory retention and creative problem solving.
Nothing dispels stress faster than taking positive, assertive action towards solving a problem. Worry is like being on a merry-go-round – you may feel like you are doing something, but you aren’t getting anywhere. When faced with a problem, sit down and determine what is within your control and what isn’t. Let go of those factors over which you have no control and focus instead on what you can do… then doit.
When all else fails and you are still feeling frazzled, take the only sane action you can: let it go. By releasing your problems, you actually are allowing greater forces to come to play. Rather than a passive act, letting go can be extremely empowering. The feeling of freedom that accompanies this one step can bring you the serenity you have been seeking.
Nancy Weil is a leading authority on humor and grief. She serves as Director of Grief Support for eleven cemeteries and is a Certified Funeral Celebrant and Grief Management Specialist. Through her company, The Laugh Academy, she offers products to ease the stress and pain that grief can bring. Bandages for Your Heart on DVD or CD, Laugh for the Health of It on CD and her new book, If Stress Doesn’t Kill You, Your Family Might, can be ordered by clicking here.
Image: Flickr Creative Commons / Andrea_44