We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.—Chuck Swindoll, American pastor, author and educator
Reports of friends, clients and acquaintances struggling with anxiety and panic attacks are definitely increasing. Clearly, these situations cannot be banished by simple positive thinking and reminding ourselves not to worry. On the other hand, taking steps as we are able to reduce personal stress cannot hurt things and might be helpful.
How’s your stress level? Are you mellow? NAMI, The National Association for the Mentally Ill, publishes a pamphlet titled “33 Ways to Reduce Stress.” The stress-busting tips seem practical and helpful as a self-improvement or personal growth measure even if not a cure for generalized anxiety.
Stress, says NAMI, can be related to happy or unhappy events. It can be triggered by trivial matters as well as major life crises. Stress also builds up gradually when you have more things to do than time in which to do them. Some doctors believe that as many as 90 percent of all illnesses are stress related.
However, not all stress is bad. A life without it would be stagnant and boring. Stress can challenge us to do our best and to work out problems. It is the constant, unrelieved stress that is nearly always negative. Happily, there are practical ways to avoid, reduce or relieve that kind of stress.
The first stress reducer is touch. Hold hands with a good friend or relative, stroke a pet, hug a loved one. Physical contact is the best stress reliever of all. Find enjoyable ways to exercise. Breathe deeply, stretch your muscles, jump rope, ride a bike, or jog. Do something!
Get it off your chest. Bottling up your feelings increases stress. Feel free to complain, express disappointment and let people know if they have hurt your feelings. Talk to a loving friend or relative. A sympathetic listener is always helpful. They become “band-aid friends.” A band-aid friend helps prevent you from bleeding to death. Find one.
Schedule more fun into your life. Don’t give up seeing friends and doing the things you enjoy because you have too much to do. Work goes faster and produces less stress when fun is part of your life.
Treat yourself to a massage. Have you ever thought about it? See how that tension melts away under the touch of experienced fingers.
Prepare yourself to wait. Long lines in the post office, grocery store or dentist’s office can be almost pleasant with your e-reader in hand.
Find the humor in events that surround you. Every disaster has a funny side to it if you look long enough. My daughter did a counted cross stitch for me of the quote at the top of today’s column. It is on the wall across from my desk. I find I need to reference it frequently.
Relax your standards. Doing everything perfectly is not only unnecessary, it’s boring. Ignore some of the dirt.
Get help with the jobs you hate. Whether it’s paying bills, defrosting the refrigerator or cleaning the oven—beg, barter or pay for help. It’s worth it.
Establish a serene island of your own. It can even be just sitting in a comfortable chair in a corner or propping up in bed with a book or TV.
Change your perspective. Instead of worrying about what will happen “if,” try asking yourself “So what?” So what if a birthday gift is a few days late? Also, you can think “What is the worst thing that could happen?” Even if our worst fears should be realized, they often turn out not to be as bad as we thought.
Count your blessings. No disaster is so bad that it couldn’t be worse, and it often helps to remember that. My dad always said that if we were allowed to choose trouble by going into a room full of everyone else’s troubles, we would end up picking out our own. There are always people with worse troubles than our own.
Unclutter your life. Get rid of clothes and furniture you never use and activities you don’t enjoy. Anything you can do to simplify your life helps reduce stress.
Pamper yourself. Get plenty of rest and sleep. Learn to use relaxation techniques, and consider finding a new hobby.
To avoid stress in the first place, try getting up earlier in the morning. Giving yourself an extra 15 minutes helps you to avoid morning mishaps. Prepare for morning the night before by picking out your clothes, making lunch, etc. Do not wear ill-fitting clothes. Shoes that pinch or a waistband that binds can be stressful all day. Don’t rely only on your memory, but practice making notes for yourself on things to do and remember. Practice preventive maintenance by keeping automobiles, heaters, air conditioners, washers, dryers and such things clean and serviced. Make duplicates of all keys. Exchange house and car keys with a trusted neighbor, or hide them where only you can get to them. Learn to say “no” more often, and walk everywhere you can. Exercise has a definite soothing effect.
Remember, you are the one who can do the most to reduce your stress level. Here are some concluding points to remember: Trust your irritation level. Be patient. Take one step at a time. Remember there are unlimited options. Coping skills are learned, so they can be changed. Increase your available coping skills. Take responsibility for your own health. Good luck!
Thank you for reading. Stay well. See you next week