Studies have shown that almost 90% of the visits to the doctor is because of stress related injuries and illnesses. So,it’s easy to see that stress is the enemy. More stress = more fear, more stupid mistakes, more tension, more anxiety.
As we try to mollify this state of discontent, the opposite often happens and the stress spills over into other areas of our life. We get drunk to quell the feeling of being stressed at work, only to have our family feel ostracized because we haven’t spent quality time with them in weeks.
So many of the things we do in the interest of decreasing our stress levels are this way. They actually create more, instead of lessen stress. We (our bodies, our minds) are like an empty vessel. We come into this world with a baseline level of stress, or a predisposition to reacting to stressful events in a certain way. Past conditioning plays a large part in our individual response to stressors.
Over time, we fill our bodies and minds up with stress, slowly (or not so slowly) approaching a redline. When we hit our redline, something happens. We suffer from anxiety that prevents us from relaxing at all, we experience a heart attack or stroke or some other health problem, or we get into an accident because we weren’t focused. To prevent this from happening, we need to stop the accumulation of chronic stress and reverse it.
The following 5 surprisingly simple steps, gotten from my friend, Adam Timm, who specializes in stress reduction for dispatchers, will help you relax your habitual patterns of stress and you can use them anytime, anywhere. Stress only has as much power as we give it.
To begin to make room for a less-stressed way of being to come through, I am going to invite you to slow down a bit. Create some space in your life by doing one or more of the following:
– Leave earlier for work so you can take the long way
– Take a brief (5-10 min) walk in the middle of your day
– Look around you. See the trees blowing in the wind, the brilliant blue sky, the green blades of grass. Really take it all in. Smell the roses…literally.
– Dance around your house like no one is watching. I prefer old Motown. What’s your favorite?
– Disconnect from technology. How long can you stay away from your phone? This is harder than you think! Give it a try for a few hours.
The more often we take opportunities to relax, to approach life with a little less rush, to bring about feelings of happiness, the more we unplug from the reflex of chronic stress.
Use the following exercise to decrease your stress levels any time you need to:
Take three deep breaths, inhaling into your lower belly, feeling the abdomen expand. Exhale deeply, feeling the tension drain from your neck, back and shoulders. Feel your feet on the ground, the chair beneath you. Notice how you are supported. Consciously allow yourself to relax.
Just as in the previous step you let go of your tension with each exhale, today, when you’re confronted with a difficult situation, see if you can let go and relax your rigidly held standpoint. Even if you’re right.
Especially if you’re right! As we surrender to the natural ebb and flow of life instead of attempting to impose our will on every situation, we allow for less stress, less tension – and lower blood pressure!
Take a break.
How many of you take regular breaks away from your desk? To watch the snow fall, enjoy the breeze , color, doodle or simply do nothing? It’s just go-go-go from the moment the alarm rings until you collapse onto the pillow that night, right?
Most of us work entirely too much. We see the rewards of hard work, and keep on keeping on. But at what cost? Balanced living allows us to keep our stress levels at bay. It rejuvenates the soul! So don’t forget the importance of play, whatever that means to you. Take your 15-minute break away from your desk. Gaze at the sky. Breathe. Let go of your work for just a second. Your body and mind will thank you and you’ll come back calmer and able to be more productive.
When locked in our everyday patterns of stressful thinking and living, we forget our sense of humor. Stress steals it! The simple act of smiling (and grimacing doesn’t count!) unplugs the stress response and beckons a lighter feeling into the moment. Try it right now! Smile for no reason. Smile at your neighbor for no reason. Watch them smile back. What a lovely opportunity to spread some joy.
Use these steps often. Practice applying them in your daily reaction to stress. A stressful event comes up, we use any one or ALL FIVE of the steps – stress is stopped dead.
With just two weeks of daily use, your life will have begun to change at a fundamental level. After 30 days, you may never go back to the old, stressed-out way. Using these 5 steps, we relax into life, into the way things are. We begin to realize the things we can change, and we take bold action. Life starts to be more fun, more adventurous, more playful. Why stress when you can lean into life and get the most out of it?