Stress Less March 19 2015

April is "National Stress Awareness Month" - the government asks us to take a critical look at how prolonged stress can adversely affect our health and well-being.  Since dwelling on the negative can be a source of tension, I choose to look towards positive actions we can take to regroup, release and relax.

Some stress can be a good thing - when faced with a deadline, a sense of urgency can motivate us to get things done and rein in our focus...  But, as my friend Rick says, the danger lies when there is too much of said 'good thing'...  

So, how do we eliminate the "too" and the bad stress?:

Remember the olden days when we used good ol' paper, fold-out maps to find our way and, if we got lost, we had to pull off the road to find a pay phone to call for directions?  At the time, it was stressful.

Today, due to tremendous technological advances, there are few gaps in connection and communication.  With our smart phones at the ready, we can be reached at any and all times...  Perhaps too often.

Heart rates, anticipation and anxiety rise when we see a notification flash across our smart phone screens, and we become focused on what that is rather than where we are at the moment.  Research suggests that taking a break from the 24/7 of emails, Facebook notifications and text messages can help recharge our batteries.  For those of you who know that my blackberry/iPhone are sometimes surgically-attached to my being, you may laugh at me putting out such advice, but I do find that going offline makes my down time markedly more enjoyable. 

Get Movin'!
When I stress, I feel it most in my shoulders, which make their home somewhere near my ears.  Moving - either concentrated exercise or a quick walk from my desk to the printer - relaxes them without me even realizing.   

The Mayo Clinic says "exercise is... meditation is motion".  Movements makes the body and brain shed tension; with tension gone, there is room for endorphins and more positive, pleasant feelings.  April 1st is also proclaimed as 'National Walking Day' and it starts the month off on the right foot! 

Have Fun!
Taylor Swift is truly onto something when she sings, "Shake it off!"  My daily commute is too-often traffic-packed and tension-filled, but when that song comes on the radio, I find myself singing and car-dancing along...  The action of shimming my shoulders literally helps shake the stress off.

Singing, dancing, smiling, laughing, having fun - even for a few minutes - breaks tension and lifts moods.  

Focus Forward
In a day when 95% is amazingly good and the remaining 5% is gut-wrenchingly awful, the human tendency is to focus on solely on the negative.  I'm guilty of doing that; I'm sure I'm not alone.  But, research shows that reframing our minds and focusing on the "rights" instead of the "wrongs", improves energy and overall well-being. 

In December 2014, I instituted a Happy Holidays Challenge - finding one thing each day that makes you smile.  The response to the challenge was tremendous and that alone made me happy!  Then, work got busy, life took over and I stopped taking that moment to reflect on the positive.   It’s time to reinstate that challenge – think happy thoughts and stress less!