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Changing Your Relationship With Stress

Photo by Radu Florin on Unsplash

I have an enormous respect for the mind-body connection after I survived a rare and deadly coronary dissection (literally a broken heart), and then watched my husband and my own family attack me when I was most vulnerable proving that I built my entire life around people who never loved me and were capable of committing downright evil acts against me. Waves of grief washed over me for a few days as I mourned a much more tragic and painful end to these relationships than if they had died. Eventually I had no tears left , and I decided that as long as I was still breathing there was hope, and I began rebuilding my life piece by piece. The stress didn’t end, and now it was worse because I was living in constant physical pain but there were no more heart problems and no more depression. It turned out stress alone wasn’t the culprit at all. What mattered was the cause of the stress and the way I handled it. In my case, it was pretending that one thing was true when on a gut level I knew otherwise was crazy making and heart breaking. Whereas if I faced reality, no matter how brutal, I discovered I could handle it. I had overcome so much by then that I understood that was the purpose of stress. I knew so much more about my own strength because of what I had gone through. I started taking some pride in the challenges as they came and by the time my current husband found me I did not want or need to be saved, and still stress was my constant companion. Here are some tips on managing stress that I hope you take to HEART (pardon the pun).

  • Learn your own stress style. If not much bothers you then just give yourself what your body seems to be asking for. Let your brain turn off for a little while. Watch t.v., grab a light book, maybe even talk to someone else about their life. Just get your mind off of where the stress is coming from long enough for you to come back to it clear headed.

  • If you internalize stress, become increasingly tense, lose sleep or sleep too much, eat too much or too little, snap at people for no reason then you need to override what your natural tendencies are telling you to do. In this case you need to take a proactive approach to managing your stress. The first step for you will be identifying when you are entering your stress mode so that you are not blindsided and miserable before you had time to do something about it. Prevention is truly better than a cure when it comes to stress.

  • Pray. Talk it over with your higher power. I call my higher power God, and I believe that his favorite prayer is “God, please help me.” Then, have faith that help is coming. Know that you are going through whatever it is for a reason. Look for the lesson and learn it rather than looking for ways to escape that ultimately only create more stress (procrastination, bad attitudes, addictions). Know that you have what you need to do what you must do, and you are not alone.

  • Always speak positively about the stress in your life. Refer to it as an opportunity and speak as though you already know you have what you need to succeed. Offer gratitude for this chance to become a better, bigger, smarter, more resourceful, more resilient person.

  • Simplify your life by eliminating all items from your mental to do list that are not critical at this time. Start saying no, delegate what you can so that you can focus on those things that are at the heart of your stress.

  • Look at the problem as though you are an outsider hearing about it for the first time. Try to put your current solutions out of your head and see if something new occurs to you. Some answer could come to you that has been right under your nose the whole time, but you just couldn’t see it.

  • Take care of your body: Exercise to get those endorphins working for you, ate a well balanced diet, get enough sleep at night and if you need naps take 15-20 minute power naps in the afternoon as it will put you in a better state of mind before your personal time with partner, kids or friends because making emotional connections is important as well. If you are having trouble sleeping develop a bedtime ritual that you can start an hour or thirty minutes ahead of time to wind down.

  • Baby yourself a little. For me this can include a bath and some reading, journaling and always a prayer.

  • Get support. Delegate and then let people do things their own way. Share your feelings and get advice, support and encouragement, but be careful with this and limit your time talking about the issue without changing it. I allow a little time for self-pity or complaining, but then it is time to get into the solution and make sure the people around you are helping you not increasing your stress.

  • Stay in reality. Most of the problems in our lives never actually happen. We spend a lot of time stressed out over what could happen, dreading our worst fears. When you feel stressed out it is important to look at the situation realistically. See things as they are, not worse than they are as that is dread and not better than they are as that is denial. Dread and denial are stressful. At the lowest time in my life I had no certainty about what was going to happen tomorrow, but one day I realized that if I just stayed in today I always had it covered. We never went hungry or ended up on the streets because I always found a way. I discovered an amazing thing when I went to gratitude first and that was that it was an antidote to fear or at least unproductive worrying. It was impossible to be both grateful and worried at the same time. It wasn’t long and money was no longer a problem in my life at all. I had learned that lesson.

The fascinating thing about stress is that it is largely self-induced. You can’t choose what happens all of the time, but you can always choose how you are going to react, how you are going to think and speak about things. How you react says a lot about who you are, and I believe that the universe arranges ways to bring each of us into our truest and best selves largely by creating putting stressful events in our lives. You may find that reacting differently to stress results in fewer stressful events in your life. That is a sign that you have learned that lesson, and don’t need to keep repeating it. Since this won’t happen overnight, find activities that are soothing to you, distracting when needed and happiness-inducing. Take a walk, do some art, volunteer, turn up your music sing and dance privately or with your family, get some physical contact with someone you love – hold hands, hug, make love, go for a drive just to change the scenery, watch a funny movie and laugh out loud. Find a way to focus on something else and you may find you feel better and more able to find creative solutions to the problem causing your stress.

Evening Ransom

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