It keeps us awake when we need sleep. It causes us to gasp for breath, tire out easily and fly off the handle. Stress is part of our daily lives, but many of us are struggling with more of it than we can handle.
We know that small amounts of stress give us energy, help us focus and complete tasks, and can energize us. However, too much stress depletes us of much-needed nutrients, compromises our immune systems and can even make us fat.
In the hectic pace of modern life, it has become normal to race to and from daily activities from morning to night, hardly ever taking time for reflection. On vacation in the Caribbean recently, I noticed that most people did nothing for days on end. I reflected on this indulgence. It was interesting that people are willing to spend hundreds of dollars for the opportunity to sit down and read by a pool, take a walk on a beach or sleep.
Stillness and silence help us manage stress. Dr. Steve Arterburn tells the story of an Olympic swimmer and master surfer whose family used to sit by the ocean in Hawaii for hours at a time in complete silence. Out of this silence, he created an incredibly successful life. If you are a spiritual person, taking a personal retreat or engaging in contemplative or listening prayer and meditation can prove beneficial.
Simple repetitive movements can reduce stress. One can do this through knitting, stretching or walking. Exercising and deep breathing are powerful ways to get in touch with the body. These redundant movements are rhythmic, which may bring us in tune with the natural rhythms all around us that we often ignore.
Focusing our mind away from the noise of racing thoughts is also helpful. David Stoop, another psychologist, uses a rubber band to snap himself with when he begins a downward spiral of nerve-wracking thoughts. Then he replaces those thoughts with positive truths.
A tendency many of us have when we feel overwhelmed is to isolate ourselves from others. Though it is true that negative individuals weigh a person down, positive people tend to lift us and lighten the load. Set boundaries on individuals who drain you of all energy and bring drama to your life. Let them know the show is over.
Many times we lack the ability to prioritize our activities. The desire to please others can lead us into the quicksand of excessive busyness. I was one of these people. One of the best words I have learned in the past year is “no.” There are many ways to say it, “I’m so flattered you’d ask me to do that, but no, I don’t think I can.” Or “Wow, that sounds exciting. I know someone who’d be better at that than me.”
Lastly, there are things that occur in life that are beyond our power to change. Accepting these realities, and changing what can be changed will lead us to serenity.
Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center. E-mail her a firstname.lastname@example.org