As we sit to enjoy a nice early meal, and then watch a Friday night movie together as a family, I remember when that wasn’t possible. OK, it WAS possible, but i was too “busy” due to the stress I had allowed into my life.
It took a while to change that – to let go of the stress. There were a lot of changes that needed to happen along the way. I needed a lot of help “de-stressing”, before I was able to make those decisions. Of course, at that time, I had no desire to de-stress, because I had it “all under control”, despite the fact everything was falling apart through this stress-induced haze.. Eventually, as the story goes, I was forced to adopt different behaviors.
I can’t believe that I tried these – some of the most ridiculous ideas I had ever heard!
…Until they worked. Then they weren’t so ridiculous any more.
One of the first suggestions I was given was one I had little belief in. I remember the first time a peer suggested it to me, I thought he was crazy. But I gave it a try – simply setting aside 10 minutes to breathe deeply and to allow my mind to be still. It didn’t work the first time, nor the second time.But I continued to give it a try.
In fact, I did a little research and found there are multiple forms of meditation that have worked for other’s for several thousand years… So who was I, why was I so “special” that it wouldn’t work for me. The style that did work for me was simply deep breathing through the nose for 6-8 seconds, enough to make the abdomen move; followed by exhale out the mouth for a few seconds longer than I breathed in.
The hard part is clearing your mind and allowing yourself to relax – but once you have learned this (it took me a few weeks), mediation can lower blood pressure, relax your muscles, and be a brief time of healing that lasts throughout your day.
You won’t see me volunteer to have one needle, much less several, stuck in me. Then I injured my knee and it was part of treatment – 20 needles in and around the knee three times per week, for two weeks. I was amazed at how much it helped the pain and healing. I have known people who have applauded the relaxing and calming effects of full body acupuncture – needles from head to toe. I have witnessed the after effects and changes of someone who went to a session anxious and stressed, and came out feeling “wonderful” – it works.
I always thought this was just something “nice” to do for yourself. There is quite a bit more behind a practice that relaxes stressed muscles and releases the build-up of toxins in the body. A good full-body massage can actually leave you sick, as it causes your body to finally release the toxins that have been building up. Not only is it relaxing in the moment, but can leave you feeling better and less stressed for weeks.
What I once thought was a “soft” exercise, really isn’t that soft. A good yoga session brings together the anti-stress power of meditation, stretching, and exercise. There are videos, books, and classes available for beginner to guru. I have been really impressed with the calming power of just one session. I highly recommend keeping a few yoga videos or books on hand for stressful times, especially those stressful times when you are not eating well or exercising – this can be a quick 30 minute opportunity to feel better fast.
I have shared with many people the ridiculous and somewhat embarrassing start to my running habit. I was stressed, overweight, and a terrible example of nutrition. I “tried” running for a few weeks, and then gave up – it wasn’t for me. Of course, I went back being more stressed, gaining more weight, and being pretty well known at the local drive-through windows. So I knew I had to “DO” running one more time, not just “TRY”.
I found a program and a goal. The program, “Couch Potato to 5K” was perfect, because I couldn’t run for more the 30-60 seconds at a time, that is right where the program started out. Eventually, I was up to 90 seconds, than a few minutes. Within a few weeks I was able to run a mile without stopping – not quickly, but it was a mile.
I kept adding a little bit more distance and ran a little longer. These were times I actually looked forward to. I felt great running, and the effects lasted through the day – not only was I relaxed, but I was getting healthier too. When you start to engage in a healthier lifestyle, it is amazing how stress can melt away.
If there is only one thing you can do to de-stress and feel better, run. If you can’t run, walk; then run just a little, then run some more. If you need guidance, the “Couch Potato to 5K” program is still out there on the internet.
If you want relief from stress…
Choose just one of the above, and make it a consistent part of your life. It won’t be easy at first, but it will work. Engaging in more than one of these habits will compound the anti-stress qualities.
Improving your coping strategies for stress can go a long way. But sometimes, you need to change your response to stress, or change the source of the stress all together – check in next week for more on those topics.
About the author: Daniel A. Franz, Licensed Mental Health Counselor, A New Direction Counseling. http://www.ANewDirectionCounseling.com
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