03 March 2014

Now Is My Time #9: Sitting With Stress

As part of my Now Is My Time plan for this year, I have been working on reducing stress. After several years filled with some pretty big challenges, I am trying to dial down the stress and learn to manage stress better. It can be very easy to get used to existing in a heightened state of stress without realizing it. Slowing down to take our emotional temperature several times during the day or specifically when we start feeling anxious can help us understand what causes our stress and this gives us quiet time to sit and see what we can do to lower our stress and keep our stress levels low in general.

Meditation has been a big part of that effort. It really does help to calm the mind and body and to focus on positive things. Another thing that has helped is to make notes each time I start feeling stressed. You might like to do this too. You can ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you feeling?
    • Anxious, panicked, mad, frustrated, scared, regretful, tearful...?
  • Can you identify the source of your stress?
    • Finances, a relationship, employment, traffic, a bad hair day...?
  • How is it affecting (manifesting itself in) your body?
    • Stomachache, tight shoulders, headache, shaking, muscle twitches...?
  • What is the internal conversation you are having in your head?
    • Are negative messages running amok?
    • How can you turn your mental conversation around to a more positive one?
  • What can you do to help the situation? Is there some action you can take to resolve or improve it?
    • If yes, you can then make plans to take action.
    • If no, you'll need to look for coping skills to help you through it.
Taking time to recognize what I'm feeling and taking actions to help myself through it and beyond it has been incredibly useful over the past month or so. I have a small composition notebook I use to keep track of things. I now find that when I do feel stress, just knowing I can sit down and write about it and figure it out makes feeling stress so much less...well...stressful. I know I have a plan that works to get through it now.

So now when I feel my stomach start to tighten up or I start to feel a little anxious out of the blue, I stop myself, try to figure out what it is I'm feeling and what the source of that feeling is. Then I can work my way through what I can do or what I know is going to happen to work things out.

I'll give you a great example. Today on the drive back from school drop off, I started feeling a wave of anxiousness coming over me. That happens sometimes once the busy "get off to school" portion of the early morning is over and I have my first chance to take a deep breath and face my upcoming day. So I took stock of what's going on that made me feel stressed. I was able to identify three things I was feeling, all very unrelated but all a bit stressful.

Then I thought about what I can do about each of these situations. Two of them are waiting games, I have done everything I need to do and all action is in other people's hands now. I can pray and I can follow up with them but that is about all I can do. I have to just wait and let things work out. In the meantime, I can pray for peace, meditate for faith and trust that all will work out in our best interests.

The third item I have to begin today. It's a little scary only because I have no idea how it will all workout. But I can be prepared mentally, physically and emotionally to do my best and that is all I can do. To accomplish that I am taking some extra time this morning to prepare myself for today's activities. I will meditate, get my thoughts together and as always, say a prayer for peace and that the best will work out.

This only took a minute or less to walk through and I felt better because I felt more control over the situation as far as recognizing it for what it was and what I can do to help the situation and calm myself down. I was also reminded that God is with us in all we do and that he can bless us with peace and the right outcomes for us. That took away the fear and replaced it with more calm and confidence.

Stress doesn't feel nearly as scary when you have an action plan, a simple, calming one to help you through it. So much of what we suffer in life is the stress and fear associated with our life events. The worry is often more damaging to our body and mind than the actual events. Worry is bad for the body, it wears it out, breaks it down and weakens us. Extreme stress or trauma is also a very powerful cause for mental illness. Having a strategy to minimize the damage we do to ourselves with worry is a huge boon to our well-being and our daily happiness. I'm going to go meditate now...and write down this morning's successful walk through a few minutes of stress.

If you are interested in reading more about the Now Is My Time project you can find more posts here. Hope your day is going well. Sending you very best wishes for peace.

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