Is Stress Managing You?

Is Stress Managing You? hover background

Nov 11

Ugh, stress.  I think many of us have gotten to the point in our lives where we fell like stress is an unavoidable, maybe even out of control, force in our lives.  While stress maybe unavoidable, it doesn’t have to feel out of control, we can tame the beast.  What I’m saying is, we don’t have to accept stress as a lifestyle and more over, we can’t afford to…not even for one more minute.

I learned this lesson in my twenties from Vivian, an ex-nun who left the convent at age 55 to become a massage therapist.  She would fix me tea and cookies and tell me the stories of her life and as you can imagine, many life lessons.  The most profound of which was that we must take care of ourselves.  I know, I know…this is nothing new.  But what she meant is that we have to take deliberate steps to take care of ourselves; it’s not automatic.  The same goes for stress, if we let it run wild, it will take over our lives.

Here’s the thing, our bodies were designed to handle stress in short bursts.  But in today’s world, many of us suffer from chronic stress.  It’s this prolonged stress that I’d argue is one of the most detrimental factors in our health today.  It effects every aspect of our lives; sleep, blood sugar regulation, mental/emotional health (anxiety, irritability, depression), menstrual cycles, symptoms of menopause, our relationships, our parenting, our work life and on and on and on.

The good news is, we can manage stress and it doesn’t have to be hard.  The trick is to see it as a practice.  In other words, you might not always get it right, but you’re always working towards the same goal.  Here are a few ways that you can take back control and get a handle on stress.

Embrace moments of calm
We have dozens, maybe even hundreds of moments each day when we have the opportunity to stop, breath and be still.  Unfortunately, we’ve become so uncomfortable with “lack of doing” that we fill these moments with “doing” every chance we get.  We reach for our smart phones while waiting for the bus, we check email at red lights, we lose ourselves in Pintrest while we are waiting for coffee, we turn the TV on the second we walk in the door…anything to avoid the stillness.  But if instead of filling those moments with “doing”, we chose to embrace calm moments by breathing and lean into the stillness, we will be conquering stress instead of contributing to it.

Practice gratitude
Like stress, gratitude has become a buzz work in the last decade.  We hear it all the time but most of us never make the commitment to actually practice gratitude.  We have to take action each day to purposefully express gratitude.  It doesn’t matter if you write it down, share it with a trusted companion or simply say it to yourself.  The act of expressing gratitude is one if the most powerful tools in managing fear, anxiety, depression and ultimately stress.  But remember, to benefit from this you have to actually do it!

Celebrate doing less
For most of us, this will be a huge mind-shift.  It means placing as much value on playing, relaxing and connecting with our loved ones as you do on working.  GASP!  As an entrepreneur and a small business owner, I struggle with this ever day.  You see, when being busy and/or productive gets tied up with our self-worth, it can get very dangerous.  It creates very busy, overworked, stressed out people.  Yikes, that’s a lot of us.  This one is hard, but if you can start feeling a sense of pride in doing less, you’ll be conquering stress in leaps and bounds.

by Angela Bell Lic.Ac, MAOM