Take Charge Of The Stress In Your Life
1:45 pm, February 21st | by Beth Devin, Manilla.com
I pride myself on living a healthy life — eating right, exercising and getting lots of sleep. My colleagues regularly comment on my self-control when I walk past the snacks, candy and baked goods that live in our break room, or when I invite them to a 6 a.m. yoga class. There’s really no special secret to how I stay disciplined or what motivates me to live well. When it comes down to it, it’s simply that I am determined to do everything I can to live a long and active life.
But I do have one bad habit — letting stress get to me. We’ve all heard of the inevitable side effects that stress can have on us: emotional, psychological and even physical problems if left unmanaged. And as a busy executive, wife, mother and friend, I am a prime candidate for stress-related issues.
Stress is different for everyone. I can get stressed from a terse email exchange, a last-minute request from my boss, not being able to reach my sons by phone or text, sitting in traffic, a public speaking engagement, or not feeling I did my best work. The list is endless. I know I am stressed when my stomach clenches, my breathing is faster, and my mind is running a looping set of worried thoughts and messages. It’s an awful feeling, especially knowing it’s unhealthy and possibly shortening my life.
We all experience stress, and there’s no cure to make it go away completely. After all, not all stress is bad stress. But when it gets to be a real problem — keeping us up at night, making it hard to focus on anything else, preventing us from being happy — there are ways to reduce it. I’ve experimented with a number of stress-management techniques, and they may be able to help you, too.
I was not always an exercise fanatic. In my youth, I never played sports and P.E. was my least favorite class. In my 20s, I was too busy with school and work to even think about working out, and then I had children. How could I have time for exercise then? It’s only now that I truly appreciate and make time for exercise of all sorts — walking, hiking, running, Bikram yoga, and Barre method classes are my favorites. Every day, I try to do some type of physical activity. On especially busy days, I may only fit in a 20-minute walk during my lunch break. Exercising can be exhausting and time-consuming, but it always takes my mind off the issues of the moment and re-charges me for whatever lies ahead.
Our day-to-day lives can be all-consuming and, at times, we may forget that there is an entire world of people, environments and experiences separate from our own. When I am stressed, I find it helps to step away from my situation and experience something completely different. I am better able to put things into perspective and recognize that my worries may be quite small. I was able to do this recently, when I spent a day with a group of people affiliated with the California Community College system. The people, their expertise, and the issues at hand were a refreshing contrast from a day in the life of a technologist. I was able to put my concerns aside and focus on this other world. The takeaway? To keep your stress-o-meter from rising, take a break and escape to a world other than your own.
I tend to be a serious, analytical and matter-of-fact person. You won’t find me telling a joke. That said, thank goodness for humor. The more I smile and laugh, the less stressed I am. In the office, there are a couple of jokesters that keep a smile on my face. At home, it’s my husband who makes me laugh with his quirky sayings and storytelling. If you feel the tension building, think of something absurd and try to smile. You might find some relief, and there are a surprising number of health benefits to boot!
Rampage of Appreciation
When things get tough and you don’t think it could get any worse, pause, take a couple of deep breaths, and go on a rampage of appreciation. Often I will step outside and soak in the beautiful day, the trees, the birds and the fresh air. In the office, I am grateful that I have a great job and work with smart and energetic people. When I worry about my sons, I am thankful they are healthy and surviving as young people in this crazy and demanding world. There are so many things in my life for which I am thankful. And I’m much better able to handle life’s ups and downs when I take the time to acknowledge it.
Please comment below if you’d like to share your stress-management techniques. I’m always looking for new things to try!
Beth Devin is the chief technology officer of Manilla.com, a free, award-winning and secure service that helps consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. Get the chance to win $2,500 in cash when you take the Manilla Get It Together Challenge. Learn more here.
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