This Friday I had the unfortunate opportunity to attend a friends funeral. We never worked directly together or hung out, but we briefly talked when we’d run into each other. So I would call Glenn a friend because he was so easy to talk with, and I think that was why the church was full, not a single empty pew.
Glenn was one of the good guys, who was eagerly waiting for retirement, but didn’t make it in his physical life but I’m sure he’s enjoying it in his afterlife. Like most of us he had a stressful job with high demands. Now, I’m not saying the job was the reason he passed away, but stress can contribute to it. And that’s why we need to take a deep breath, (literally, take a deep breath), and slowly exhale.
And that’s the first tip to relieving stress, when you feel stressed, close your eyes (unless you’re driving, or walking) and take some deep breaths. Breathe through your nose into your belly and then up into your chest and slowly exhale. After about four or five deep breaths let your breath return to normal and just focus on your breathing until you’ve calmed down. Of course when you start to do this you’re actually meditating in its simplest form. Focus on your breathing and when the outside thoughts creep in, because they will, refocus on your breathing. The point of meditating isn’t to always have a silent mind, it’s to realize when you lose focus, push away the outside thought and refocus on your breathing or whatever it is that you’re focusing on. It helps to train your super computer to stay focused better. Making you more productive. I’ve been using the meditation app Headspace for over a year and you can try it for a free ten day trial period.
The second tip is to go for a walk. If you get breaks at work do you use them to get moving, or do you just skip them? You may feel like you’re being more productive if you work through your break, but in reality you’re more productive when you take breaks. You may even be more creative due to getting more blood and oxygen into that super computer between your ears. Even better, at least I think it is, is to do some Tai Chi/Qi Gong. Tai Chi is called moving mediation, you breath as you focus on the movements, getting a good workout, and building internal energy (Qi) instead of depleting it. If you’re interested you can do 15 minutes for free online at TaiJiFit.net at 8:00 am and 7:00 pm ctrl time, Monday through Saturday. And there’s plenty of demonstrations on David Dorian Ross’s YouTube channel, he has a good sense of humor and may even make you laugh.
The third tip is to laugh. I know, it sounds simple enough but it helps with stress because it releases feel good hormones. Put something funny in your Mp3 player and listen to it while you walk. Who cares what other people think as you walk past them laughing, just don’t stare at them as you laugh. Mayo Clinic reports that some of the short-term benefits is that laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air and stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. Long-term effects of making laughter a regular practice is that it improves your immune system. Negative thoughts cause a chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and illnesses. Laughter may even ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers and can help lessen depression and anxiety.
The forth tip to relieve stress is to take a vacation. I’m not one to preach here, but I know I need to take a vacation, sooner or later. It’s hard to take a vacation when you get to do what you like to do. I think the key is to find an activity that lets you lower stress and cortisol levels, the stress hormone that damages our body when we get too much of it. The Harvard Business Review article “When a Vacation Reduces Stress — And When It Doesn’t” reports that positive vacations have a significant effect upon energy and stress. In their study, 94% of employees had as much or more energy after coming back after a good trip. In fact, on low-stress trips, 55% returned to work with even higher levels of energy than before the trip. We all know that vacations can be stressful, so to create a positive vacation make sure you; 1) focus on the details, 2) plan more than one month in advance, 3) go far away, and 4) meet with someone knowledgeable at the location.
Unfortunately, most of these stress relieving tips we’ve heard before, so why don’t we do them? It’s the big space between knowing and doing, called the potential gap. We can’t even imagine our potential so we don’t do the simple things. Which in turn cause us stress, it’s almost like our subconscious is having us do things to keep us in our own reality, that life is stressful.
Oh wait, our subconscious does keep us in what we think our reality is. Change starts with the thought that you can change, once you know you have control over your life, your stress levels may decrease. Once you believe you can change, you’re more likely to take action, not stress about not taking action.
So the fifth tip is to take control of your thoughts, as the book As A Man Thinketh states, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” In the chapter “Effect of Thought on Health and the Body,” Allen states, “Disease and health, like circumstances, are rooted in thought. Sickly thoughts will express themselves through a sickly body.” He continues to write, “Strong, pure, and happy thoughts build up that body in vigour and grace?”
You are what you believe, if you want to get out of a stressful situation then believe that you can be out of it, then start to plan to do it and then of course, take action.
But it begins with belief.