We live in the most stress-filled time in Earth’s history. Why? We are never turned off. Since industrialization, we have had an era of speed. Hurry! Hurry! Get to school! Get to work! Get to the meeting!
Now our phones are always with us. We have computers always on and we get to bed late and arise early. We keep piling on the amount of daily stress that we and our children are under.
Well, we can’t just stop the world nor slow everything down. We can however slow ourselves down. Stress hormones are good in moderation. They keep us going and allow us to carry on daily life. But having too much over a long period is not healthy physically, emotionally and, may I add, spiritually. We can’t seem to take a pause. Sleep doesn’t count. Yes, it is critical, but sleep has its own type of mental activity.
So, what to do? First, decide to do something to relieve stress on a daily basis. Second, decide when you are going to do it. Decide when you can take a break. It could be at lunch time. It could even be driving home. Remember, this isn’t about resting or sleep. It’s about breaking the stress cycle.
If you decide on lunch time, pick a quiet place and turn your cell phone off, if at all possible. Lean back, and try to stop your thoughts. Don’t eat yet. You can eat in a bit. Lean your head back, close your eyes, and count to 100. By doing this, you are actually counter-acting the patterns of stress hormones that you normally have. When done counting, start relaxing each foot – one at at time. Tighten the foot, and then let it go. Do the same with the rest of your body. This helps it shut the mind down. It’s similar to what yoga and other body movements do.
Now count to 100 again a little slower, and then start your lunch. While eating lunch, think of all the good things that bless your life. An attitude of gratitude is another powerful weapon against stress.
Now this same pattern can be used anywhere at any time of the day. You are using the mind to shut the body down. After a few days of doing this you will notice your body will crave these moments. It doesn’t like non-stop action any more than you do.
Let’s look at driving time as a stress reduction. First, don’t go to sleep! You and everyone else will have a ton of stress! This is the time for you to relax your mind, not your body. Train your mind to stop thinking about what’s worrying you and pick a non-stressful thought that you can concentrate on from the beginning to the end. It could be as simple as what steps it would take to change an area in your home. Notice, these thoughts aren’t about the state of your children or your job. These are non-emotional thoughts.
Don’t let your mind get sidetracked. It is hard. Believe it or not we constantly interrupt ourselves, even in our own heads. After this exercise is done, find a radio station that’s funny or has music that you enjoy. This is not a time to listen to politics. You can do that after your twenty-or-so minutes are up.
One other tip, when you get in the car tell yourself you are going to enjoy this ride. When you get out of your car, again, say to yourself that this was an enjoyable ride. You’re just releasing some positive hormones.
These simple steps are a beginning to reducing stress. It’s important to slow things down on the inside, even if all around us is still flying around the track. Take the time. Do it. You will benefit from taking those deep breaths and saying, “Aahh… Life is good.”
Roberta Hess Park has had her own counseling practice in addictive behaviors as well as being a Principal of an Elementary School and Middle School. She has been an adjunct Professor at Southern Utah University and has taught numerous classes on the master’s level on behaviors, functions of the brain, and changing education to fit needs. She has her own website at lifegoodbuthard.com and has published a book called “It started with a Lie”. It is available on Amazon.
Originally published in Lincoln County Magazine. Visit your local store to purchase a copy.