Putting the Brakes on Stress
Have you ever had one of those days where nothing seems to go right? Maybe you’re rushed in the morning and get a flat tire on your way to work, making you late and stuck in traffic. Perhaps your bicycle chain pops off in a busy intersection and you miss yoga class due to the time spent fixing it on the sidewalk, you’re stressed and your fingers are covered in black grease. Or much worse, you get the bad news that a friend is sick and facing the uncertainty of an unknown diagnosis and unclear prognosis. You want to help but aren’t sure how.
Sometimes a series of unfortunate events unfold before your eyes, face, and entire being. I won’t bore you with the details of my less than inspiring day – but trust me, I’ve been there and done that. Nevertheless, we don’t want to carry the negative feelings around with us. That would make things even worse. Yet, they seem have a knack for sticking around and exhausting our energy. Here are a few quick tips for re-centering, rebuilding, and refreshing your optimistic energy…
1. Tune into your body. Take time to breathe. Get comfortable. Close your eyes. Feel the new air enter through your nose and fill your belly. Allow the negative energy leave with every complete exhale. Visualize it. Give your breath color, sparkles, or light. Feel the chair, floor, or bed beneath you, holding you. Do this 10 times.
2. Refocus your attention on the positive things in life that are important to you. What’s one small step you can take today to inch a little closer to achieving a goal? Maybe there’s an important phone call to make, more planning and research to do, or you need a massage. Whether its a career goal or a self care one, take the time to do it. Your psyche and wellness will thank you.
3. Regarding thanks, practice gratitude. Start a gratitude journal. Name three things you appreciate each day. Take it a step further by defining your intention for the day. Don’t confuse intentions with expectations. What kind of energy, awareness, and interaction do you want to have with people and your environment?
4. Pet a cat or dog. There is scientific evidence that your body actually goes through calming physical changes that affect mood when petting an animal. Cortisol – a stress hormone – is reduced. Serotonin – a chemical associated with well-being – is increased. Lowered blood pressure, improved circulation, and increased pain management have been demonstrated through petting animals.
5. Get physical. Movement helps build strength, flexibility, and energy. It strengthens bones and builds muscles. It reduces stress by requiring focus on exercise rather than the stressors of everyday life. It increases the feel- good chemicals called endorphins and reduces stress hormones, like cortisol. Go for a walk, bike ride, or do some yoga. Choose an activity and make it part of your daily routine.
Most importantly, remember that you are not stuck. You have power and choices. Consider your options for where to exert your energy and how to best use your time. Your time is valuable and finite. Make every second count.
“Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.” – Bil Keane
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