Over the course of the last two weeks I have talked to numerous people about stress management. It has been interesting and refreshing to compare stories with others. It seems that, without fail, everyone has significant stress in their lives. We live in a busy, hectic, fast paced world. It becomes difficult to find our place. The stress can become overwhelming. As we all know, this stress may be real or perceived. We do not see things as they are, we see things as we are. None the less, it is stress. One farmer I talked to, who is facing financial ruin, put it into perspective when he talked about the fact that most of his worries and concerns never materialized. I am reminded of the old man who said on his death bed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.
One workshop participant came to me and shared how she had heard me on three different occasions over the last year. She went on to share how she took home the message but found it difficult to bring down her stress levels. She would try one of numerous coping tools but always ended up feeling like a failure. That only made the stress worse. She was frustrated. I challenged her to take it one step at a time. Baby steps even. To practice stress management techniques takes practice. Far too often we become so consumed with our lives we forget. Like everything else in life, it takes an effort. The results are worth it.
One of my greatest downfalls is an over exposure to stressors. Sure, as my psychologist has told me, my type of work can contribute to emotional distress. Dealing with people in crisis does that. Without realizing it, I am ingesting negativity. My emotional gas tank gets drained too quickly. I need to make that extra effort to keep gas in the tank. Even something as benign as facebook can create problems. I heard a news report this week that suggested that a large percentage of people who are on facebook have increased anxiety. I have at times felt that way. It always seems like my “friends”, and I use that term loosely, have only positives happening in their lives. They are away on holidays, they have made a new purchase, a new job. The list can be extensive. Others post extreme political views. These things have the ability to upset me. Hearing the news report actually cheered me up. It normalized and validated my own thoughts. Interesting how often I need to have my thoughts normalized and validated. News reports can have a tendency to add stress and anxiety. I used to watch a lot of news. Not so much anymore. News reports always seem to be negative. Always something bad happening in the world. My son showed me a website that only has good news stories. That is refreshing.
Last week I mentioned mindfulness as a coping tool. Have you been practicing that? We also need to laugh more. Laugh so hard that you have tears running down your legs. Okay, perhaps that comes with age. And no, that does not happen to me. Yet! Kids laugh up to 400 times a day. As adults that can drop to as low as 12. That is not enough. My week of vacation and the week of facilitating workshops provided many opportunities to laugh. Sometimes it did not take much. The bottom line is I came back refreshed. Laughing is good. It helps. Laughter can be the best medicine. Make it a good one.