Stress is all too common these days. Many people are stretched both physically and emotionally due to financial, work, and family pressures. Learning how to manage stress can greatly improve the quality of your life.
Here are some keys to stress recovery
We need to recognize when we are stressed. That may sound obvious, but it’s common to deny the physical and emotional toll that a precarious financial situation, work overload, or, perhaps, the declining health of a family member, can take on us. Symptoms may include fatigue, anxiety, agitation, worry, feeling overwhelmed, irritability, inability to concentrate, increase in or loss of appetite, or sleep disturbances.
Identify the ways you typically respond to stress. What are your patterns? It’s important to be clear about what changes need to happen and what new behaviors to put in place. For example, do you withdraw or isolate, perhaps put up walls between yourself and others? Do you turn to food, alcohol, or spend hours watching TV in order to escape your discomfort? Do you take your frustration out on others?
When you have time, sit down and ask yourself what you are feeling. Beneath many of our reactive responses are feelings that we may unconsciously be trying to avoid. You may be reaching for chocolate cake to avoid grief or zoning out on old movies so that you don’t have to face your fear.
Once you’re aware of what’s going on with you emotionally, find a healthy way to express those feelings. Call a friend. Write in your journal. Relax your body and soften around the feelings. Let them be. Become aware of where the feelings are in your body. Try not to analyze or judge what you’re experiencing. Just give your feelings time and space to move through you.
Have a clear intention and make a commitment to manage stress in healthy new ways.
Create a stress relief toolkit. Make a list of activities that are stress-reducing for you, e.g. walks in nature, playing the guitar, dancing, listening to music. Stay away from “shoulds,” e.g. I should meditate, do yoga, etc. If washing dishes or pulling weeds relaxes you, put it on your list.
Be present with what is so. As uncomfortable as it may be to sit down and pay your bills or work overtime, the more you let go of resistance to these unpleasant tasks and relax into what is before you, the lower your stress levels will be. Arguing with reality just creates more suffering.
Celebrate the bright moments. Take them in deeply. There are usually many bright spots in an even very difficult situation, or day. We tend to overlook them because they seem to pale in comparison to what we are contending with. A warm exchange with someone at the grocery story or receiving a surprise email from an old friend are experiences that are worthy of attention. Take some time to savor each of these soul moments. Let them make an imprint in your whole bodymind.