As I enter my fifth decade of life on planet Earth, here are some things I've learned about stress. Most of us know that stress is not good for our bodies, minds, or spirits. Yet often we think of it as an unavoidable part of life. While that may be true on some levels, for it can be stressful to learn new things, stress is not a constant. Here are my discoveries:
- Stress is temporary. If you are feeling stress, then know that it is only in this moment that you are experiencing these feelings. There's no need to be stuck where you are. You can choose to let it go and move on. There are many ways to let go of stress, and yours will depend on your personality and preferences.
- Stress is self-generated. It comes from your own mind. Stress occurs if your expectations are not being met, you are not being kind to yourself, you're denying your true desires, or you are focused on the past or future rather than the present moment. It may seem like outside conditions are causing the stress, but it is actually your reactions to those conditions.
- Stress can be used in a productive way. If you really have a lot to do and you start to feel stressed, channel that manic energy into efficiently doing what needs to be done. This also works in a crisis situation (such as an accident or illness). If you're able, perform the tasks at hand in a cheerful manner - or at least start to move in that direction.
- You may need to protect yourself from others' stress. Certain types of personalities (particularly empaths) can pick up the energy of a group of people without even realizing it. It's helpful to be aware of this if it tends to happen to you, and learn methods of shielding yourself. This can be as simple as telling yourself: "I don't need to pick it up." Meditation also helps.
- Exercise is a fast, cheap and effective way to release stress. You don't have to go jogging or work out at the gym if that's not your thing. Put on your favorite CD and dance in the kitchen for half an hour, take a walk around your neighborhood, or jump rope.
I've heard a lot this month about how stressful the holidays are. If you believe this, then take a moment to change your attitude. Maybe you do have six hours of gift shopping or a marathon cooking session before you - but can you have fun doing it? Think of the people who will open their gifts and eat those special treats. Decide that your day will be full of celebration, no matter what you're doing. Enjoy!