From the destruction of Hurricane Sandy–whether you were in her path or just watching the devastating reports–to the presidential campaign, this has got to be one of the most stressful times in recent history. Add to that economic uncertainty, war and whatever personal or professional challenges you currently face and you have the perfect storm of stress.
A state of stress can become our natural setting. Although we might be comfortable being uncomfortable, it’s important to remember the price we pay for that stress, including high blood pressure, headaches, an inability to concentrate, strained relationships and a loss of joy. As I was searching in my own “stress survival kit” this week, I recognized that how I relieve tension and anxiety can be simply summarized into “The ABCs of Stress.” I hope these steps help you.
- Acknowledge. Many sources of stress are below the radar and often based on emotion rather than fact. When you articulate the fear that creates the stress, either by writing it down or talking with a trusted confidante, you can often put it in perspective and reduce or alleviate it.
- Breathe. Stressful situations will either cause us to hyperventilate in a panic mode or take shallow breaths as we tense up. Take measured, deep breaths from your diaphragm as you slowly stretch. The oxygen will clear your head and relax your muscles. Find time to exercise or go for brisk walks. It’s one of the best attitude adjustments I know.
- CRAVE. Consider the five steps in my CRAVE formula and make a conscious choice to apply one or more of them this week. Ask yourself:
- Is it time to remove some physical, technical or emotional clutter from my life?
- What can I do today to raise my energy, like schedule a massage or call an old friend?
- What negative message keeps playing in my mind and how can I flip that to an empowering affirmation like All is well or I am safe?
- What positive images can I visualize to replace the negative ones the media feeds me? Even better, how can I limit my diet of stressful news, especially before sleeping? My mom lives in Brooklyn but suffered no flooding or power outages. The only thing she lost to Sandy was her cable TV. That temporary reprieve was a blessing. Instead of being transfixed on CNN, she’s been watching funny DVD movies.
- What in my life is good and going right? Express thanks by writing a brief list in a gratitude journal at the end of most days. It’s guaranteed to lead to a good night’s sleep.