By Robert Lien, MHA
At any time throughout the day stress can build up leading to a sense of being overwhelmed and unable to focus even on the simplest tasks. If not managed, stress can lead to anxiety and depression as well as other medical conditions including headaches, high blood pressure and ulcers. People tend to ignore the symptoms of stress and believe they can handle it or don’t have time to do anything about it. Regardless, there are many healthy ways to manage stress and it is important to be proactive rather than seeking comfort in food, nicotine, marijuana, alcohol or other drugs.
Healthy ways of managing stress can be simple and effective. It is important to recognize when stress is building up so that you can take corrective action. For some people stress might build up while at work, for others it may be while taking care of family members and children. No matter what the situation it is easy to take a quick break to calm the rising stress, refocus and get energized.
Step one is to find a quiet space. This might be an office where you can close the door, a spare bedroom, and open space outside like a backyard or might even be in a car. It is ideal to find a space where you can feel comfortable without distractions from people or things.
Step two is to leave electronics behind. When you enter this quiet space turn off or leave all electronic devices elsewhere including cell phones, tablets and computers. These devices are highly addictive and distracting so leaving them behind is an important step to focusing on yourself. Remember this is about your self care.
Step three is to focus on your senses. Take as much time as you can or need to check in with your breathing, slowly breathing in and exhaling out. It is important to start with your breathing because this will help your entire system to slowly calm down. Then check in with what you see, what you touch, what you hear, what you smell and what you taste. This process may last a few seconds or minutes but it is important to pay attention to what you are experiencing. This is the reality you are experiencing right now and connects you to the moment.
Step four is to focus on what is truly important to you in your life. Gratitude is essential for peaceful living. Find one thing that you are grateful for, then two and then three. The things you are grateful for may be as basic as the ability to breathe, walk or talk. It may include family members, friends or your career. Living in an attitude of gratitude will help you remember why you do the things that you do and help focus on things that you want to do.
Step five is to prioritize what the next thing is that you are going to do when you leave your quiet space. Contrary to popular belief we really only focus on one task at a time. Prepare yourself to leave your quiet safe space by focusing on what the next indicated step or action will be. This will give you a goal, energy and momentum.
Living in the moment is helpful for stress relief and stress management. Oftentimes, people can get distracted by events or memories from the past or fear of things in the future. Focusing on one thing at a time, one step at a time, one action at a time we can relieve the stress that builds up throughout the course of the day. Living a life with better stress management tools directly impacts your ability to eat healthy, communicate clearly and sleep peacefully at night.