Walking into the grocery store you realize you are doing it again ... short shallow breaths, quick steps and a frantic racing mind as you rush to find items for supper. You stop, breath deep and remind yourself: Just do the next thing.
"Just do the next thing" is a mantra I often use as I contemplate the never ending "to do" list for home and work. Most of us multitask and while that is productive at times, it can also be harmful if we attempt to do too many things at one time. Below are some helpful tips on de-stressing:
n Stop comparing. We live in a society that loves to compare and judge. There are lists for the best dressed and the worst dressed. Schools grade on the curve. Society encourages us to focus on performance and outer achievement. God looks on the heart, not the outward appearance - and you can, too. When tempted to compare yourself with others, shift your focus. Cherish your own uniqueness and count your blessings. R.H. Stoddard said: "We love in others what we lack in ourselves, and would be everything but what we are."
n Have a good cry. I know, I know, "big boys don't cry" and "just get over it" are frequently heard as a person grows up. But the truth of the matter is, crying is good for you physically and emotionally. It cleanses toxins from your body and releases pent up emotions. So, instead of stuffing or denying them, go ahead and have a good cry. Process your emotions the God-given way with tears.
n Turn down the media. The six o'clock news has now became the 24-hour, up-to-the-very-second (forget minute) news and often the horrors of war, crime and corruption are in our faces as soon as they take place. Rationing your exposure to media will give you time for quiet. Mother Teresa said: "God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass - grow in silence? The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life." I often enjoy driving in complete silence ... no radio, iPod, CD or noise. Whomever said that "silence is golden" must have known how valuable it is to the soul.
n Surround yourself with supportive people. The world offers plenty of negative comments and criticism. You don't need more criticism - you need encouragement and support. A circle of supportive friends can encourage you to reach your full potential and make life easier and more fun. We really can be around positive people, we just need to make the effort. A person who drains all your energy, uses you for what you can do for them, and sucks the very life out of you should be avoided when possible. Pray about whom you should spend more time with and whom you should spend less time with and actively seek to surround yourself with supportive friends. George M. Adams said: "Encouragement is oxygen to the soul."
n Remember what your mother always said, "Eat right and take your vitamins." Getting the proper nutrition into your body is essential to your body dealing with stress. Your body will recover from stress with the proper nutrients going into it. Henry Ward Beecher said:"Half the spiritual difficulties that men and women suffer arise from a morbid state of health."
Though we should never make our "body a god," (my words to my kids), we should care for it as the temple it is.
n Clear clutter out of your life. When our desk is piled high with papers, our briefcase or purses are disorganized or our homes look as if a tornado has hit, then clutter has taken over our lives. Clutter can distract and drain your energy to be productive. Make a conscious decision to clear clutter out of your life. While we are at it, the clutter of grudges, negatively and old attitudes should be cleared away as well. When we organize our world, we'll find more energy to focus on the things that are important to us. Start small by conquering a drawer or a shelf and see how good it feels.
n Serve others through simple acts of kindness. It does not have to be a flamboyant act of self-sacrifice. A little thoughtful gesture will do. Simple acts of kindness grease the wheels of life and make the world a more pleasant place to live. It could be a phone call to someone on your mind or a card, or a bouquet of wildflowers for someone lonely or ill. You might be surprised at how much an encouraging word might mean to someone discouraged today.
n Forgive yourself. We waste so much energy focusing on our own short comings. "Oh! That was stupid," "Why did I do that or say that?" "What was I thinking?" Does this sound like the tape that plays over in your own mind? Well, my friend, it is time to let go and accept forgiveness that's there for the asking. It's time to take promises of grace seriously and forgive yourself. One way is to replace negative thoughts is with praise and gratitude for God's forgiveness.
n Lighten up. Being an adult does not mean you should not have time for fun nor should you take yourself too seriously. When everything is doom and gloom, let the sun shine in. Consciously make the effort to smile. It changes you. Watch a funny movie or show. Play with children and try and see things through their eyes. Call a friend who makes you laugh. A sense of humor will go a very long way in improving your overall health and well-being. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "People do not quit playing because they grow old. They grow old because they quit playing."
n Be kind and compassionate. Mother Teresa said: "If you judge people, you do not have time to love them." Are you too critical? Do you tend to judge others, focusing on flaws and behavior you disapprove of? A passion for excellence in good, but most critical thoughts have more to do with self-justification and condemnation of others. Instead, be compassionate. Show kindness when you feel like condemning or judging. The old Indian proverb of "walking a mile in someone else's moccasins" will go a long way in transforming our attitudes of judgment into kindness. We do not know what others are going through nor what they have been through.
Instead of judging or using harsh words, instead try praying for them. You will be transformed by the very act and the person will be helped by God himself ... the only one who can truly change a person.
Relieving stress in our lives takes a conscious effort to do so. Instead of enduring life, let's begin to embrace it by celebrating the little things and small miracles that are easily taken for granted. Celebrating life will bring the joy back where it belongs. Whether you throw a party for a silly day like Groundhog's Day (yeah, I did that) or you just use the "good dishes" on a regular day, life is for celebrating. Life is time for cherishing your family and loved ones. Treasure sweet memories and make each moment memorable.
(Kimberly Short-Wolfe, MA, is a homeschool mom and the grief counselor and a chaplain for Mountain Hospice. To contact her, e-mail email@example.com or call 304-823-3925, ext. 136.)