When it comes to managing the stress of life, I think all of us can agree that a weekly massage would be great. Shoot, I would take a pedicure once a month or a quiet evening (by myself) with a good book or a coffee date with a girlfriend that ends up with a nice glass of red wine over dinner. But this far from my reality.
Most days I am praying fervently to remain calm and in control as my two-year old exercises her new found freedom and vocabulary. It takes me 10 minutes just to get to my car - I have my hands full and she wants to spin around in circles, sing songs and then be CARRIED to the car. Ugh. Most weeks I go 3-4 days without washing my hair and I don’t shave my legs above the knees unless I’m going to wear a swimsuit. Seriously.
This may not be your reality ladies, but I’m sure it’s some version of crazy, hectic, overcommitted and uncertain. Each season of life brings with it its own crazy but that doesn’t give us permission to play the victim and let ourselves go. Nope, this is EXACTLY when we need to consciously make a decision to do what we can do - when we can do it - to bring some peace and calm to our particular season of life.
Because the truth is that stress kills. It not only kills our heart by contributing to high blood pressure and heart disease - it kills our peace. It is linked to cancer, obesity, anxiety, depression and diabetes, just to name a few.
It’s time to put our big girl panties on and stand up to stress. Most of the time it’s nothing but a big scary monster that ends up being a shadow of a coat rack. Here are five ways that I incorporate stress management into my day-to-day life that I thought would bless you! I hope you find one (or more) that you will be open to trying.
- Belly Breathing. Our breath leads our body. If we are breathing shallow or holding our breath, it is intensifying our stress response. Take a deep breath and fill your belly so your belly expands out (don't judge your belly please) and then allow your chest to rise, keeping your shoulders down and relaxed. Hold that breath in for 5 counts and then purse your lips and slowly exhale through your pursed lips for a count of 10. Do this upon rising in the morning and before going to bed and then throughout the day when you feel the pressure rising!
- Laughing. I have a built in laugh machine now that I have Berlyn around. She is so entertaining, I have never laughed more in my life. But if you don't have a "Berlyn" around, YouTube is great for a good laugh. Just "search" babies laughing or cute puppies. I know that you also have some great people in your life who know how to make you smile. Not only does laughter decrease stress hormones, it increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease. And you will feel oh so good as your body releases endorphins - the body's natural feel-good chemicals that also promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
- Eat healthy every 2-3 hours. Remember that when we starve ourselves and go hours without eating, this REINFORCES the stress response in our body. Even if your stress is suppressing your appetite (which is does by the way) when you fuel your body with healthy whole foods (not candy at your desk and take-out teriyaki) your body is getting the message that food is NOT scarce and your metabolism can continue to burn, burn, burn. This is one of the fundamental principles of The Healthy Edge lifestyle because it works in so many ways!
- Control what goes into your eyes and ears. I do not engage in tabloids and news headlines full of destruction and devastation. I do not react to Facebook posts that spew hate, judgement, political agendas of fear. I just don’t do it. This doesn’t mean that I am not aware of what is going on in the world - I perceive it, but I don’t allow it to penetrate my mind, heart or soul. I don’t think about my life in terms of fear - I surround myself with people, thoughts, words and images that promote possibility and hope. Who are you listening to? What books, songs, podcast and radio stations are you listening to? What is causing you to feel fearful, hopeless or stressed - that you literally have no control over? Where can you focus on what you have instead of what is lacking? Where can you find the gift in the situation instead of what has been loss? This process of controlling our environment is a life habit that takes practice, but it will make all the difference in the world of how you experience life and how life affects you!
- Pray. It is said that prayer is the most powerful thing we can do to change hearts, atmospheres and situations. I can testify that during the course of the last 2.5 years, I have been in a season of a healing from some pretty devastating circumstances. The prayers of the people who have come along side me during this journey have literally lifted me to a place of undeniable peace, strength and joy. I can’t explain it - but it works. I don’t know about you - but the God I believe in is the KING of the impossible. What is not possible with man, is possible with God. So when I am feeling overwhelmed, I put my hands together, get on my knees, remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ that has set me free from all my bondage and fear and pray to my Father who knows my pain and who always listens. I put my faith and trust in His promises that He only has good things in store for me, His plan is always better than mine and unlike people, He will never leave me, forsake me or let me down - EVER. It may have been a while since you said a prayer, maybe this is exactly what you need for a situation that seems hopeless or out of control.
I hope this gives you a fresh perspective on stress. From my heart, I believe you are reading this for a reason and no matter what circumstances you are facing - nothing is wasted by God. Without trials and tribulations, there would be no growth or faith! Keep believing, your breakthrough is coming.