Your reaction to stress can actually be worse for you that the original stressor. Feeling stressed out is an emotional response to an event or a thought that ends up affecting your biochemistry. Chronic or even serial stress (one thing after another) can make you physically ill, and indeed stress has been implicated in being the cause of over 90% of visits to doctors!
But your reaction to stress is a choice. Practicing and maintaining a daily strategy for stress relief can actually make you more resistant and resilient to things that normally bother you.
Stress relief doesn’t even take a long time; and it should be done as soon as you become aware that you are feeling emotional stress, or even holding tension in your muscles.
One of the most powerful and easily done methods of stress relief is to focus your mind on gratitude. Feeling gratitude doesn’t have to be for major things – like a huge bank account, or for getting a promotion at work. I encourage my clients to focus on daily events that, when considered mindfully, bring a smile to your face, and a sigh of relief. You don’t have to experience these events – just recall them!
Here are some of mine:
- Taking a hot shower after I’ve been physically active. Just stepping in and feeling that water melt my muscles makes so relaxed!
- My first sip of coffee in the morning. Yes, people will debate whether coffee is good for you or not, and that doesn’t concern me. It’s the ritual of making my coffee, smelling it brew, and tasting that first sip. Ahhh….. I’m ready for the day.
- Walking into a room with air conditioning. I have lived in places where it is hot as hell, or humid as a steam room. Opening a door and feeling that icy chill makes me appreciate that I live in a time when I can experience this reprieve from the heat.
- Walking in public and making eye contact with a small child or baby, and having them smile at me. Not all babies are willing to smile at strangers, but when you come across that special open-hearted little soul who gives you the gift of a smile, it makes my heart feel joy.
Now what was that stress I was feeling? I bet you feel better just reading my examples! Start a mindful exploration of your daily life, and think about your Stress Antidotes. I call them “simple joys”. Conjure them up after a stressful event, and watch yourself relax and realize that “this too shall pass” and it’s not such a big deal. Be happy – and it will make you healthier.