Stress. Just saying this word that hisses like a snake at the end, makes you tighten up. Stresssssss. We talk about it a lot and almost 6,000 people search for something about stress on the internet every day – approximately 42,000 in a week. That’s a lot of stressful thinking. And now with the coronavirus affecting us globally, stress levels are zooming upward.
If you are over 50 you probably remember when you were a kid and it was forever until Christmas, and then Easter and then summer vacation. Time went slowly. There were times when things got a little hectic but that was usually because mom and dad were in a hurry and you couldn’t get in sync with the rush. Your biggest decision was whether to buy gum or candy with the money in your fist and it wasn’t at all unusual to lie on the ground and watch the clouds float by. We got up, went to school, came home to play, do a bit of homework and play more until bedtime. Weekends were for cleaning your room, perhaps doing some other chores, and playing all day. Sunday was for church and then playing the rest of the day. Stress? Not really.
Times have changed, even for children. Now by the time the child is in first grade we sign them up for sports or dancing or piano lessons or “all of the above.” They have to get home from one in time to get to the other. (And who drives them there?) Weekends are sometimes so structured that there is very little free time to just play. By the time we reach adulthood we are conditioned to the stressors in our lives and hardly notice that we live in a knot, wound too tight, like a spring that is ready to sprong! And it begins to take its toll on us mentally, physically, and emotionally.
Stress plays havoc with our immune system, and we can’t figure out why we’re always sick. It plays havoc with our emotions and we’re surprised when we burst into a rage at the driver in front of us who’s driving too slowly. It plays havoc on our minds and we forget things and make mistakes (some tragic, like parents who forget their children are in the car and leave them locked in the back seat in the broiling summer sun). It plays havoc with our spirit because our minds are racing too fast and we are rushing past the beauty all around us.
With the virus, we are stressed because we isolated and, perhaps at the same time, sequestered with family members you may not want to be with so continuously. We are stressed by the fear that if we must go out, we will contract the virus.
So what are we supposed to do about it besides take a tranquilizer or a mood stabilizer or an anti-depressant? You aren’t going to like my solutions much, but I’m going to list them, anyway.
Ways to de-stress
1. Simplify your life financially. Easier said than done, but you will be quite surprised by how nice it is when you don’t have to worry about big bills for big cars, designer clothes, and everything that money can buy. Money in the bank can also buy you some “wiggle room” and financial peace of mind. Some of you are wishing desperately that you had done that before now.
2. Simplify your schedule. Do you really have to enroll your children in every program that comes along? Do you have to go somewhere every night? Can you cut out some of that drive time? I know that everything in you is saying, “No, You don’t understand.” But I do – I’ve been there, done that. And while we’re talking about the word, “No” it would be good to learn to say it now and then when asked to take on a new project.
3. Find time to play. It doesn’t matter how old you are, you need to play. To laugh—not this fake kind of laughter we hear a lot these days—but real from-the-gut laughter that reaches every cell in your body.
4. Go back to what you were taught in grade school about health: eat right, drink 6 – 8 glasses of water daily, get enough sleep, and get plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine.
5. Turn off the TV. If the news upsets you, don’t watch it before you go to bed. Do you need to know how many people have been diagnosed or died from COVID-19 today? Do you need to know how many people were murdered, raped, and robbed today in your town? If you watch programs that create nightmares for you, wouldn’t it be smart to watch something more calming? What happened to reading a good book? What happened to talking to each other? What happened to family card or board games?
6. Find time to feed your soul.. Go into nature. Look and listen to something beautiful.
a. Read something uplifting every day, even if it is only a short inspirational passage.
b. Have some quiet time—sleep doesn’t count here. Time to “just be.” Time to think things through. Time to plan your day before the mayhem starts.
c. Meditate. Five minutes of meditation will make a difference. An hour will make even more difference. There are many books and tapes to help with meditation and science proves that it is extremely beneficial. It is probably the best stress antidote there is.
7. If you can’t relax, find someone to help you —a hypnotherapist, a life coach. Or learn yoga or Tai Chi, etc. Take a bubble bath, etc.
8. Get a hobby that relaxes you and that you enjoy.
9. Do something that helps someone else. Volunteer.
10. Eliminate negative thinking as much as you can.
11. Get creative and find something not on this list that works for you.
I know it would be easier to pop a pill and continue with your frenetic, frantic life but one of these days your body will turn on you. Just incorporating a few of the suggestions into your life will make a positive difference. Begin to make some changes now that work for you and return you to a state of balance that you and all those around you can and will enjoy.