Somewhere along this frenzied journey called modern day life, we've lost our sanity. In fact, there is a refrigerator magnet that says, "Out of my mind. Be back in one hour." Cute, but too true to not be a little disturbing.
This week, I was contemplating writing and thought about the needs of folks, and I realized that so many are stressed out over being stressed out all the time. In fact, I picked up an interesting book to read in order to help others, and as I read the symptoms of stress, I realized - yes, you guessed it - I am as stressed out as anyone else.
With all the cougar watching, e-mails and phone calls (there have been many cougar sightings around the Elkins area) back to school home schooling, working a job and entertaining, I had to come face to face with the fact that I was on the road to becoming stressed out. I've been there before and I don't want to go back. Here are some symptoms of stress:
- General discontentment - Lacking joy in your life makes it hard to get out of bed and face another day. When you're stressed, you no longer hunger after life or yearn to get out there and discover its beauty. If you don't have that kind of enthusiasm and anticipation anymore, it could be a sign you're overstressed.
- Physical exhaustion and fatigue - When you're dragging around, feeling listless and burned out, simple tasks seem overwhelming, people are annoying and nothing is enjoyable. With your energy drained, life appears unmanageable.
- Prone to illness, disease, physical ailments - Because stress plays a major role in destroying the human immune system, if you're stressed you're more likely to pick up whatever sicknesses are going around - the latest cold, sore throat or flu. Also many major illnesses, from allergies and heart conditions to arthritis and some forms of cancer, can be related to stress.
- Feeling depressed - Despair and sadness are persistent feelings of discouragement that make your problems seem insurmountable and leave you with a sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. Note: Clinical depression can result and if depression is interfering with your daily life, consult a physician.
- Increase in body aches and pains - You might notice more sore muscles and joints. Stress can also result in tension headaches, numbness and feeling like pins and needles are poking you.
- Lack of confidence - These are the days when you'd rather pull the covers over your head and stay in bed because you don't feel capable of tackling the life issues facing you. Waves of self-doubt intensify your problems and cause them to appear overwhelming.
- A few more are: An increase in addictions and bad habits, increase in negative thinking, appetite changes or eating disorders, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, sleep changes or disorders, crying often, worry over matters you cannot change, excessive irritability over small matters, no sense of humor, nervous habits and tics, inability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions, poor memory and having "poor me" pity parties.
So what do you do when you detect a pattern of stress symptoms and their effects? Some avoid the issue altogether or try to mask the problem with unhealthy approaches.
I surveyed my friends on Facebook, and they literally "blew me away" with their awesome tid-bits of advice, suggestions and unique coping techniques for dealing with stress and achieving a happy lifestyle. Below are the answers:
- Go out and shoot lots of weapons. (This one is from a Marine, and I knew it would make you smile.)
- Bicycling, reading, sleeping, shopping. To increase happiness? Have more realistic expectations. Life is not fair - never will be.
- To de-stress, take a nap. To find happiness, cleave to God.
- One of my best de-stressers is to turn off the TV, put on some soft meditational music, make a cup of tea and have a lovely bubble bath by candle light. Of course the candles are usually scented ... I like lavender/sage the best. Something that definitely increases my own personal happiness is being thankful. I keep a gratitude journal. Every day I write at least five things I'm thankful for. Some days I'm hard pressed to write five, other days I could write five pages. Having an attitude of gratitude keeps me grounded and happy.
- My best de-stressing technique is to just stop what I'm doing and enjoy time with my family, even if it's just for a few minutes, and try to remember to stop and count my blessings. As they say, there's always, always, always something to be thankful for.
- My suggestion to increase happiness is to always have faith, in the good times and the bad, and know that no matter what's going on at the time, the outcome will have good in it.
- I spend time alone with God. I go to Summersville with my family. I relax and eat ice cream with my hubby. I spend time "Facebooking."
- Stop seeking out the rain clouds and enjoy the sunshine.
- Another thing that rings true for me is this saying: "Life isn't about avoiding the storms. It's about learning to dance in the rain."
- Daily exercise eliminates stress ... increases happiness in men, increased testosterone levels ... in women balanced hormones ... it really works.
- I absolutely agree that good health fosters happiness in all individuals. Eating a healthy diet reduces stress for certain.
- For me a great "de-stressing" technique is hiking or rock climbing. Hiking does always relieve stress and makes me happier, and it also helps me to spend time with God and admire his masterpiece. Anything outdoors is great for me.
- Outdoor activities. They really foster well being.
- I have a good technique to relieve stress and anxiety. I joined a martial arts class about three 1/2 years ago and it has more than helped me. I have learned discipline, self control, self respect and respect for others.
- The beach. If you can't make it to the beach ... go sit by the river, lake, pond or even a creek. Water is forever relaxing. Also the woods ... the quietness of the real world and the sounds of mother nature.
- My best de-stresser ever - spend time with a little kid. Their imagination and innocence is amazingly refreshing, not to mention hilarious. My niece makes me laugh to the point of tears on a regular basis. Being face to face with a 3-year-old who has no real understanding of the hardships we as adults face is just a blessing. Makes me stop and think that I should look at things through her eyes more often.
- Mine even in Iraq was just taking time and imagine walking down the old country roads with my grandpa. If I could separate myself for just a few moments from whatever was stressing me and imagine that it would calm me. Sometimes I will imagine my wife and sons being with us too.
- Brisk walking to clear everything from your mind, and an exercise class where we blow off steam and offer suggestions/solutions to each other's problems and stresses.
- My best de-stressing technique is playing classical music on the piano ... love it.
- My de-stresser is hitting the woods, whether it's taking my dogs for a walk, swimming in the creek, or taking a camera and just taking pictures of God's beauty. Just being surrounded with all his wonders. I used to push mow the grass, it was my time to think and talk to the lord.
- Walking, exercising, joining an aerobic class, getting a massage and dancing are good stress relievers.
- Happiness ... currently for me that everything is temporary. And instead of judging others (like the murderers and sex offenders I have to see, I try and think of how many freedoms, luxuries and joy my own life includes and how much I appreciate that.) It is hard to see the light when the darkness has cornered you but trust me it is there. You just have to look a little harder. Hatefulness is all around us. But reject it and look for something more. It is amazing what you can find.
- I have found that it helps to identify the cause of your stress. Trying to treat stress is like putting a Band-Aid on a wound instead of trying to heal the wound itself. Many times causes of stress involve taking on more than we can handle in our lives/work and worrying (which is sin actually - we should be trusting God implicitly). As Christians ... we have no cause for worry, we should not be trying to please anyone but God and we should take care of (not worship) our bodies/temples of the Holy Spirit. Love God, worship God and trust God - sure cures for stress and happiness. When one has life in God's eternal perspective, we have joy. I'd rather have true joy springing up than temporal happiness - which is based on circumstance alone and can be whisked away at any moment. I think we get short-sighted and let life get to us in ways it shouldn't. Spending time with God is the only cure for what ails the heart and soul.
- When my granddaughter hugs me and kisses me and says, "I love you Grammy." Best happiness rush in the world.
These are a few ideas to help you on your way to stress-free living. By all means, it is not an exhaustive list, nor should you try them all. That would be stressful in itself.
Just some folks sharing with you what works for them. I am reminded now of a verse: "Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
This writer's No. 1 stress reliever is to spend time with the God of the universe and all my cares, worries and burdens are cast upon his strong shoulders and off of my own. It is then that I have peace.
(Kimberly Short Wolfe, MA, is the grief counselor for Mountain Hospice, and a home school mom. You may contact her: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-823-3922, ext. 136.)