The economic situation has wreaked havoc on each of us in some way, causing some to lose their job, to have greater financial stresses, and to lose relationships and even their home. Greater pressures are on families and couples today than ever before which is taking a toll on relationships.
How can we weather these storms and come through the other side still intact? It’s like we’re running a perpetual marathon without a break. But can even a professional athlete run a continuous marathon without breaking down? We all need a rest, a breather, a break from the ongoing weight and pressures. How do we do that when the situations around us don’t stop?
While these situations and all of the emotional ramifications may not go away as quickly as we need them to, in the meantime, we do need to get some space from it all, even if for a brief moment. You may say how in the world do I do that, there’s no time, there’s no way, there’s too much to do, I’m too depressed, what difference will it make anyway. It does make a difference even if you don’t see it in that moment. Studies have shown that perpetual stress increases cortisol levels in the body which can negatively impact the immune system. It can also affect memory such as retrieval of already stored information and inhibit learning. It can affect bone formation and shut down the reproductive system leading to increased chances of miscarriages and temporary infertility. It can also lead to weight gain.
There are ways to get some mind and physical space from the ongoing stressors. I don’t mean to make your situation sound simplistic as there are no easy fixes. At the same time, you need the strength to keep enduring the hardship until things start to get better. Some of the things you can do to get off of the treadmill of perpetual pressures and stressors are to do something that takes you away from it all even if for 5 minutes. Below are just a few ideas, but I’m sure you could create some of your own.
- Take a Mind Vacation: Imagine yourself in the most wonderful place you could envision. Visualize all of the details and let them touch all of your senses (i.e. vision, smell, touch, taste, sound). The greater the details and aspects of your senses the better. Imagine the images moving such as a sailboat slowly drifting along the horizon being carried by the wind with its sails (imagine the color and shapes of the sails), and the smell the ocean air. Listen to and imagine the details of the seagulls as they spread their wings gliding through the blue sky (try to see what color blue the sky is in your mind). Do this for about 2 minutes or more. Rate your stress level (1 to10) before you take this brief mind vacation and see what your stress level is afterwards.
- Listen to music: Some say relaxing music may be more helpful than listening to something with a lot of energy and beat. No matter what, it needs to be something that takes you away from the stress you’re under for a few minutes. So find what fits you.
- Mindfulness: This is an ancient practice where you lose yourself in the moment by deeply focusing on something, for example, on your breathing. Breathing slowly, deeply, and rhythmically in and out paying attention to the air flow as it moves in an out of your body, focus either on your stomach as it moves in and out, or focus on the air and what it feels like going in and out of your nose, feel the coolness or warmth and the pressure of air flowing through your nose, listen to the sounds. Focus on this for at least 2 to 5 min or longer if you have time.
Don’t forget to rate your stress level before and after doing these mind breaks or any others you might come up with. Reducing your stress level even 2 points can help you cope and manage your stress better, it can keep your energy levels from dropping too low and reduce cortisol levels in the body as well as other beneficial effects. It’s like grabbing some water along a marathon run, or taking a moment to catch your breath. If you want to learn more strategies to help manage stress please contact me to set up an appointment.