GOOD MORNING MONDAY –
AFFIRMATIVE THOUGHTS FOR A GREAT WEEK
Last Monday morning, (April 16), I was spending some time reading some of the thoughts in one of my reflection books and I became aware that April 16, 2018, was Stress Awareness Day. This insight compelled me to do a little more digging. Through that process, I found that April is “Stress Awareness” month. The purpose behind Stress Awareness Month is to increase our awareness of stress and the impact that chronic stress can have on our overall health. Additionally, it calls us to reflect on the level of stress in our lives, identify the triggers that may cause our stress and compel us to actively begin incorporating some practices into our lives that provide stress relief for a healthy mind, body and soul. So, I decided to dedicate this article to stress, but most importantly include ideas that you might adopt for stress relief in your life.
If we all stepped back and reflected on the conversations we have with one another or with ourselves, we consistently use the term “stress” or contemplate how “stressed” we feel. There is probably some very good reason for that; because each one of us has felt stress at various times and at various levels throughout our lives. Most of us probably know that chronic stress is directly linked to all the six leading causes of death, (accidents, cancer, heart disease, suicide, lung disorders, and cirrhosis of the liver). Because of this fact, many think that all stress is bad for you, but that is not accurate. There is an amount of stress that is necessary and good for you, but you don’t think about that because it is not often that you hear someone say, “Wow – I am really stressed out, isn’t that GREAT?” 😊
Good stress, referred to as “eustress”, is the type of stress that kicks in during times of need to protect you or to help you focus. It is the type of stress that you might feel when you are about to take a test or give a presentation. This stress helps you “rise to the occasion.” It is very useful and needed. It motivates you. Without it, you would not accomplish much, probably be very unhappy and feel like a ship adrift.
Bad stress, referred to as “distress”, can manifest itself in an ongoing stress that can begin to hinder your everyday life. Our bodies were not created to be in a consistent “stress” or “fight or flight” state. If you experience consistent stress over prolonged periods of time it can zap your energy, undermine your health and even shorten your life. It can make you more vulnerable to anxiety, depression and disease. These alone are compelling reasons to de-stress your life and/or learn to react to your stress very differently.
Today, our lives are lived at an ever-increasing pace. We continue to add obligation after obligation to our already full plates. How many of you when adding something to your plate, make a conscious decision to take something off your plate? You might never think about doing that, but why not? What is the worst thing that could happen if you employed this practice? How many of you schedule time for enjoyment and relaxation time in the same way you schedule time for meeting after meeting? Why not? What is stopping you?
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator and teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, states, “we call ourselves ‘human beings’, but instead we should call ourselves ‘human doings’ because we are constantly ‘doing, doing, doing’. We do not take time to slow down, be present, take a breath, experience and enjoy the life we are living.” Why don’t we? What race are we on? Because you are going non-stop, do you even have a sense of the true stress that might be present in your life and the toll it is taking?
To better cope with stress in your life, you need to improve your internal communication with your body. You need to listen to the cues/clues that your body is giving you to understand and determine the kind of stress you are experiencing. If you do not take time to be present, you may miss the signs. If you are feeling invigorated, challenged, and motivated, you are probably experiencing good stress. If you are feeling tired, worn out, and unenthusiastic you may possibly be experiencing bad stress.
So, what can you do to combat and alleviate some of the bad stress in your life? Here are some ideas taken from an article entitled, 10 Ways to De-stress your Mind and Body (The Chopra Center):
Identify your stress triggers – recognizing the triggers that give you a stressful reaction and how you react to them is an important first step is managing your stress.
Find some stillness every day – whether you are meditating, breathing, taking a few minutes for quiet – during this quiet time your body releases the effects of “fight or flight” and reverses the effect.
Exercise, Eat Well, Get Some Sleep – make sure you move your body every day doing something you enjoy; nourish your body with the foods that give you energy vs. zap energy; and get some rest, this enables you to react more calmly to stressful situations.
Create some cushion in your calendar- give yourself enough time between meetings or events on your calendar so you can diffuse potential for stress to arise.
Smile – research has found that even a phony smile can help handle stress. There is a mind-body connection. If you want to de-stress, smile more 😊
Stop “should-ing” yourself – do things because you want to; not because you think you “should”. Quit judging yourself about the things you think you “should” do. Pay attention to the guidance you are getting from your “gut.” Give yourself some relief!
Hit the Road – Take an annual vacation, but also throughout the year, plan little breaks close to home to help reduce stress. Planning these excursions can give you something to look forward to.
Create a Gratitude Practice – gratitude is a powerful force that can help expand your happiness, improve your health and help you cope with stress.
This week I hope you can step back, de-stress, and focus on taking back some key areas of your life. Put an end to the madness. Implement a new practice that can bring a sense of calm and joy back into your life. Each day is a new beginning to set a new path. Remember the quote from Robert Eliot, “Rule number 1: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and Rule number 2: It is all Small Stuff.”
Have a GREAT week!