April was stress awareness month so I am writing about it in May! You’ve likely heard that it takes 30 days to make a habit. I used the 30 days in April to conduct an experiment that would help me combat life’s little and even some big stressors. Yes, Even a Life and Parent Coach has stress! And though stress is normal, I wanted to deal with it before it made me unhealthy, unhappy, and unbearable.My experiment trialed three techniques that were really very simple. The only hard part was to conjure up enough will power to succeed. I’ve been called… ahem…. “stubborn,” so I used that as a strength and made my experiment a smashing success. The 30 days of April yielded a positive sense of personal control, a more optimistic outlook, and a feeling of calm that made me happier and more pleasant to be around. Here are the three strategies I implemented:
1. Deep Breath at Traffic Lights and 10 minutes before Bedtime: A simple Google search on the benefits of deep breathing will surrender countless articles expounding scores of health and mood benefits. Here are 5 of those benefits in no particular order:
Gives pause for clear thinking. Exhalation releases tension and anxiety. Decreases pain. No wonder moms giving birth are taught breathing exercises! Increases positive moods by releasing pleasure inducing neuro-chemicals in the brain. Rhythmic breathing is more effective in reducing toxins from the body than shallow, stressed breathing.I deep-breathed at every red traffic light for an entire month. I told myself that I could create peacefulness. I visualized exhaling difficult angst-producing people and situations. I did this again before bedtime and since I wasn’t driving, I could close my eyes to add a calming beach visual in which warm rays of the sun would empower me. 30 days later, deep breathing comes spontaneously as a quick “go to” strategy to manage feelings of stress. By quickly regrouping, I can problem solve my way to positive outcomes. Not only do I feel more in control, I truly feel healthier. 2. Just say “no!” People will ask us to do all sorts of things. Can you bake 50 cupcakes for an impromptu neighborhood party? Can you volunteer to coach soccer? Would you come to school to decorate for the party, read to the kindergartners, chair the annual fundraiser, etc…? Like many moms, guilt derailed me to say “yes” to countless volunteer roles. I finally figured out that saying “yes” to everyone and everything made me say “no” to my own downtime, family time, and sanity. In April, I learned to limit my volunteer activities to two that brought me joy. Saying “no” to others meant I said “yes” to more time for my family and fun. I’ve finished two books and had time to connect with my old hobby of oil painting. Once again, I felt more in control and powerful to create peace and recharge my spirit.
3. Create boundaries to reduce multitasking: Like anyone, I have segments that make up my day. My work time was bleeding over into family time, personal time, and even chores / errands. My laptop had escaped from the office and became a third wheel where it wasn’t welcome! Were the emails or tweaking PowerPoint presentations really that urgent? No! I told the computer in my office to “stay” and shut the door. I also shut out thoughts about work, stressful people, or stressful situations. This wasn’t easy but with practice I was able to be mindful and focus on the pleasure in everyday activities. It worked! Not only did I bake a perfect spinach and gruyere soufflé, I enjoyed my “me time" and family time without irritating, unnecessary distractions.
Making stress disappear isn’t realistic. Since I don’t want it to swim with me all day long I place it into its own segment of the day. There I deal with it with a targeted plan of action and kick it to the curb!
I want to manage stress. I can manage stress. I will manage stress!
So what do you think? Would these strategies work for you? How do you successfully attack your stress?