How do we manage stress so it doesn’t have a detrimental effect on our life? Stress is a normal part of life and something that everyone on this planet has to deal with, and it’s important to understand that stress itself isn’t bad, it’s how we handle it that matters. The key is to learn how to deal with stress and how to have moments in our day without it. By doing this we allow our mind and our body to have a break, which in turn gives us more energy and resilience to handle that stress. And the same can be said for grief, because grief is a form of stress and therefore the same principles will apply.
Here’s a great, short story which illustrates this idea beautifully:
A young lady confidently walked around the room with a raised glass of water, while leading and explaining stress management to an audience. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, “Is this glass half empty or half full?”
She fooled them all … “How heavy is this glass of water?” she inquired with a smile. Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case it’s the same weight, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “And that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, as the burden becomes increasingly heavy, we won’t be able to carry on. As with the glass of water, you have to put it down for a while and rest before holding it again. When we’re refreshed, we can carry on with the burden — holding stress longer and better each time practised. So, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night… pick them up tomorrow.
Sounds easy enough, right? But how do you simply put your burdens down when your whole life seems to be one big mess? The key is to start with micro moments of stress-free time and build up to longer periods. You might not be able to manage a whole evening initially but even half an hour is better than nothing.
A good start is to make a list of all the things you really enjoy doing and that relax you; things that allow your mind to concentrate on something else for a while. Here’s a couple of examples: soak in the bath with calming music, go for a walk, go to the gym, read a book or magazine, enjoy a coffee or drink with a friend, do a guided meditation (see below), do some gardening, etc. While doing these things, make an effort to focus on only the activity you are doing and not on what is making you stressed or upset. Once you have finished relaxing, you can go back to being stressed again if you choose, but at least you’ve given yourself a chance to regroup and revitalize a little.
Another tool I often use when my life seems to be getting out of hand is to write lists. I try and get all of my ‘To Do’ list out of my head and onto a piece of paper. It’s surprising how long that list can be when you see it written down and it’s very therapeutic when you can then see the items on that list being crossed off. Sometimes it feels like I have been running around in circles for weeks and really not achieving anything. But the other day I threw away one whole page of my ‘To Do’ list because I had actually crossed all the items off as ‘done’. Wow, that was such a great feeling.
Meditation is something that I swear by for banishing my stress. When I feel overwhelmed, I always do a guided meditation and it has an instant calming effect on me. I am then able to think more clearly and look at what is stressing me out in a more subjective light. Here is a lovely guided meditation titled Relief From Stress and Pressure by Mary Maddux of Meditation Oasis. All you need to do is put aside about 20 minutes, find somewhere quiet and a place where you will be uninterrupted. Then simply sit comfortably, push the “play” button, close your eyes and listen.
Listen in to Relief From Stress and Pressure guided meditation here: