Stress has a tricky way of taking over your life, often starting with a small setback and building up until you feel overwhelmed and just plain stuck. Fortunately, there are ways to cope with stress that can help you stop the frustration before it even starts. Read on as Odenton, MD teacher Vance L. shares his eight simple strategies…
We all have bad days. But what happens when the days turn into weeks, months, and even years? Prolonged stress will take its toll on even the strongest of us. But why do some people focus and others fold during these times? I wish that I could answer that question, but I can’t. What I can do is offer up my strategies on how I survived the worst decade of my life. It wasn’t until I lost everything that I was forced to take a hard look at what I believed, taught, and lived. This is what I learned.
Do something for yourself. Make it fun, make it rewarding.
First and foremost, I realized that I needed a break. As bad things continued to happen, I knew that it would be up to me to find some sort of decompression or reward system to look forward to. I knew that if I didn’t have something to look forward to, then time would run together.
Be it a movie or going out for a pizza, there will be time to break the cycle of thought. So strategy number 1 for the ways to cope with stress is - Do something for yourself. Make it fun, make it rewarding.
Don’t isolate, communicate.
The second thing I realized was not to box myself in. I know that isolation leads to depression, so I built a community. I am lucky enough to have an amazing wife and family, but what do you do when they are too overloaded with life as well? I did two things that I found helped me last in the storm. First, I started posting inspirational sayings and pictures on my Facebook page and personal blogs. I did this not so much for the benefit of others, but as a reminder to myself.
The other thing I did was to offer comfort to those who did not have the resources like I had. I have always been a believer in community service and pro bono work, but this was different. I got to share my story in real time and somehow being strong for others made it a little easier for me to deal with my troubles. By not focusing on my problems it gave me time for my body to reset itself. Strategy number 2 - Don’t isolate, communicate.
The body will begin to shut down with ongoing stress. I did my fair share of comfort eating, but made sure that I ate as healthy as possible whenever I could afford to. I am a vegetarian, but lacking in resources made that a challenge. Even though I could no longer eat the way I was accustomed to, I made it a point to eat a lot of raw vegetables and drink green tea. I know that sugar weakens the immune system, so I did my best to counter that.
When we are stressed our immune system is already weakened. The last thing I wanted to do was create more damage. So eating the right food did two things for me. First, it helped internally. Second, as I was making good choices I was subconsciously supporting and loving myself. What a powerful tool and affirmation that was. Strategy number 3 - Eat healthy.
Don’t talk yourself into a bad place. Be mindful.
Like it or not, we become our thoughts. So I was very mindful of what I was thinking. When we are stressed it is easy to go to the worst possible place. Most people are very successful into talking themselves into sickness, poverty, and staying in unhealthy relationships. I was not going to be one of those people.
For me, losing everything meant losing my pride. But that itself was a huge win for me. It put me in touch with what is really important. I also realized that as long as I was healthy I had choices. When you lose health, as I did years before, choices were limited. Being in bed for almost four years with a auto-immune disease, I’ll take health and choices any day of the week. Strategy number 4 - Don’t talk yourself into a bad place. Be mindful.
Don’t get dragged. Let go.
There is an old Zen proverb that says “Let go or be dragged.” I found by letting go, things seemed to magically get better all by themselves. I started to meditate again on a daily basis. I believe this saved my life. By going into the “void,” I would return refreshed and optimistic, and had a overwhelming sense of gratitude. It was amazing how much even as little as ten minutes of silence helped.
Learn to shut up, quiet the mind, and disconnect. This will help you breathe. Breathing will help your state of mind. Your state of mind will help shape your reality. Strategy number 5 - Don’t get dragged. Let go.
Make gratitude the attitude.
My first waking thought every morning is one of gratitude. By starting the day on a positive note, I set the tone for the day. But all throughout the day I would give thanks for all that I had. It could be something as little as “I may not be able to pay my mortgage, but at least I haven’t had to foreclose on my house yet.” Or “Even though I’m feeling physically sick today, at least I’m not permanently disabled.” This kind of ties into Strategy number 4. Lift your thoughts up and make them good. So strategy number 6 - Make gratitude the attitude.
Find your anchor.
Never underestimate the power of touch. As I continue to deal with the storm, I know its important to have physical contact. A kiss, hug, or even holding hands can remind us that we are not alone. There have been many studies done on the power of touch. It’s therapeutic and it’s grounding. Strategy number 7- Find your anchor.
One of the great truths in life is that when movement and growth stops, so does life. Being fluid in form and thought will keep you inspired. While being engaged in the storm I found that by keeping myself moving I didn’t feel stalled or caged.
Exercise on a daily basis has been a big reason why I can continue to function. In addition to my morning workout, I make it a point to get up from my desk several times a day to get the blood and oxygen flowing. Be it physical or mental, movement has played a very important role in my overall health and attitude. Strategy number 8 - Stay fluid.
As you are going through life, keep these eight ways to cope with stress in mind. And if you’re currently in rough waters, know that blue skies and calm seas are ahead. Until then, try to accept where you are. Far from fun. Far from perfect. You are a survivor. And storms can’t last forever.
Vance has been an educator, consultant and Life Coach for 30 years. He currently sees clients and teaches on various subjects ranging from health, relationships to spirituality. Vance holds degrees in counseling and divinity and has worked on both local and national platforms. Book lessons with Vance here!
Photo by ePi.Longo