Got Stress? Everyone who is not living under a rock (and we proudly claim our readers among them) is likely experiencing greater stress than usual these days. However, if we aren't in a position to eliminate such pressures, the next best thing is to manage their impact.
Why is this important? Long term stress is toxic. Like some forms of radiation, we may not notice it until we are laid flat by it. And let's face it, being incapacitated during a stressful time is really stressful.
We come from the School of Conscious Practices (not an actual school, just a phrase we made up) which maintains that we can shift our experience through awareness and action. So when life gets challenging, we consciously cultivate thoughts and practices to help us deal with the situation.
Here are 12 self-care strategies for these turbulent times:
Remember you can't sprint a marathon. Pace yourself. Making it through is more important than going fast and risking burn out.
Learn your limits, set boundaries, and say 'no.' This is one of the gifts of stress—really! It compels us to develop our strengths, and acknowledge our limits. The more we respect our limits, the more energy we have to focus on our strengths. Also, it takes more time to recoup after overstepping our limits than it does to restore ourselves when we stop short of them.
Follow a strict media and social media diet. You can decide what that means for you, but for us it means reading headlines and occasional articles from trusted sources, and focusing on essays and books that inform and expand our perspective. (An x-ray of our innards would reveal a lot of kale and New Yorker articles.) In terms of social media, consciously curb the amount and timing of it, and never, ever do it before bed. (See Taking Care—Sleep).
Feel and cultivate support. We are almost never alone in our stress, and a burden shared is a burden lessened. Take time to deeply connect with everyone who is in the same boat, and make a concerted effort to communicate with them.
Embrace the opportunities. Stress always ushers in new opportunities—not all of them voluntary or desired, we admit—but opportunities nonetheless. Interestingly a portion of the British population said WWII was, in retrospect, one of best times for them because of all the chances they had to go beyond life as usual.
Get inspired. What inspires you and fills you with awe? Devotion is one of the best counter balances to stress. Now is the time to pursue whatever fills you with inspiration—be it through music, nature, prayer, or communion with universal forces.
Get laughing. We have a friend who starts every day off with a funny clip from YouTube. To benefit from laughing you don't even have to laugh at something. You can just start laughing, and in the current climate, it won't even seem that strange.
Make a plan of action and set up routines. When we are stressed, decision-making gets harder. To combat this we suggest making action plans which you need only review occasionally, and setting up daily routines which are easy to follow.
Take time to process your emotions. Stress can bring up new and deeper emotions than usual. But keep in mind that we can't experience them if we don't take sufficient time to feel what is going on. (This goes well with "Get out in nature.")
Be extra kind to yourself. Specifically:
Sleep—When working in Japan we asked a group of businessmen what their hobbies were. They all had the same answer: 'Sleep!' Take it from experts, we need more sleep when stressed.
Eat Well—Resist the temptation to indulge too much in sugar, caffeine, and alcohol, and instead load your diet with fresh, healthy foods, especially those that help ground you.
Move Your Body—Walk, run, skip, push, pull, jump, ride, stretch, bend, dance!
Meditate, and remember to breathe. If you ever wanted to start a regular meditation practice, now is a good time! 15 minutes a day can change your attitude dramatically. Conscious breathing several times during the day can also keep you calmer—3 counts in followed by 3 counts out for 6 breaths, and then 6 counts in followed by 6 counts out for 2 breaths.
Get out in nature. This is one of the easiest and most enjoyable balms in turbulent times. It's a gift to lavish on yourself often and with gusto.
Remember, nothing last forever, not even stress!
Look at the list and find 2-3 things you do already. Congratulations! Reflect on how these practices have been helpful.
Look at the list again and find 2 things you don't do regularly, but which sound appealing. Over the next month incorporate them into your daily life. How do they help you manage stress?
Here's to finding our balance as we ride the waves,
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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