By Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak
As we move into December, many of you are probably noting how much stress people seem to carrying around. From personal, to business to politics, the world around is becoming one stressed out mess. With Season of light upon us and we all know that, while most of us love it, it is also very stressful. Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to look at de-stressing tools so that we are not carrying quite as much stress into the Holiday season or just in our lives, period. Many of these things you will look at and think I already know that. Yes, you probably do know that but do you implement them! What we know and what we do are often two very different things.
As stress has a way of becoming all encompassing, its affects are cumulative, meaning just a night’s sleep or a weekend away will not erase the physical and emotional impact it has on us. With high levels of stress eventually everything feels like a burden. It is important to sort through all aspects of your life and try to clearly identify what is the primary cause of your stress. Is it personal, your lifestyle, is it with your job, your spouse, or is being subjected to the negativity of the media and world at large that is finding its way to a stressful level in your beingness.
A De-Stress Plan
- Once you can identify the clearest cause of stress, see if there is anything that can be done to reduce the impact of the situation. Even if you cannot immediately do something, develop a plan that will move you towards releasing yourself from stress. Having a plan will help you feel like you are doing something about it. A proactive focus will help you stop feeling victimized and give you a new direction.
- Focus on all the good things in your life that give you a sense of relief, fun, even joy. If you have said nothing, then you need to dig a bit deeper. We all have things that make us feel good, like walking in nature, being with our pets, socializing with people who do not drain us, are examples. Having offsets or healthy escapes have a strong impact in neutralizing the negative hormones that are released when we experience a lot of stress. While some may think that the use of alcohol, food and/or recreational drugs is helpful, in the long run, they are not. They are a band aid solution only, providing a temporary diversion and can cause longer term problems. When long term stress is taking its toll a more permanent solution is required
- How are you taking care of yourself during stress? We know that the more stressed we become the less likely we are to take care of our self. So look at the very basics. Eating properly, sleeping the right amount for you. Exercise is very important and can be as simple as going for a walk around the block. Have a massage.
- Talk about it, journal about it. Don’t burden your friends, they have their own stresses. Going over and over your stress keeps it too close to the surface causing more dismay. Work with someone who not only gives you some air time and help you to release any emotions building up in your life; but can help you develop a plan to better alleviate your experience with stress.
- Take time to breathe, by that we mean deeply. It is our best natural stress reducer. You can do it anywhere and at any time. At the office, in your car or on the subway you can take a deep breath. The more stressed we are the more shallow our breathing becomes. Deep inhales and exhales remove a lot of stress and toxins from our bodies.
- Spiritual tools include, again deep breathing with our eyes closed, meditation, prayer, contemplation, affirmations and visualizations. A simple one is close your eyes and imagine you are at your favourite place, real or imagined, and allow yourself, even 10 minutes, to enjoy the sense of serenity and peace.
The thing we want to do is refocus our brain away from the stress cycle to one which calms us and gives us a sense of feeling refreshed and a bit more energized. The more regularly you do these things, the greater the results. Sometimes in order to help remove stress we may need to make changes, sometimes big changes. This may result in feeling even more stressed but it is only while you are attempting to make changes in your life. Remember all change is stressful even good change!
Most illnesses and the leading causes of death can be attributed to stress and lifestyle choices. The choices we may make to help us deal with stress can have long term damaging and often irreversible effects. High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol are factors leading to heart disease and stroke. Both are mostly caused from lifestyle choices.
You may already know all this but are you doing any of it! Even implementing a couple of the above suggestions can give that little extra support until the stressors in your life shift.
Gord Riddell and Kathy Ryndak are therapists and co-founders of the Transformational Arts College of Spiritual and Holistic Training. The College offers professional training programs in Spiritual Psychotherapy and Holistic Health Care. The Holistic Health Care Training Program has a part-time class starting in January 2011. It also offers Personal and Spiritual Growth Courses through a 10 part program “Discovering the Total Self”. Next start date is also January.