By Aimée Hain on January 28, 2012
Life is hard sometimes.
Like sweat in your eye, hold in your breath, hard.
With the hard, it's very common to forget the easy.
Like laying next to the one you love. Breathing fresh air. Making choices, from what you wear to what you eat.
Life is full of the easy and the hard. Our challenge is to balance the two. C'mon how often have we heard that? No matter how much I've heard it, I seem to always need a reminder. See, I'm one of those natural high-strung people. I take at least two days at a time. Sometimes two months at a time-depending on my level of planning. I thrive when I hear challenge. Oh, what was that...a birthday party, college paper, kid's homework, and have dinner made all in a few hours. Why not? Let me see if I can beat my personal best time of cram-a-lam-thank-you...damn. And whatdya know-I burn out. That evening you'll see me crunched up on the couch with a bowl full of something high carb, high sugar, and if we're lucky smothered in chocolate.
I throw it around like a favorite blanket. Let's cover this in my super comfy, worn in blanket of stress. What does it hurt? You should have a little stress in your life to keep the wheel turning, right? It's healthy to have a little stress to keep us up when we want to come down. We have had stress as a motivating factor since the dark ages. Fight vs. flight anyone? Neither would exist without the central nervous system's special $2 cocktail...stress.
Well, something I've learned with time (ahem, age) our bodies don't really like stress. Don't get me wrong, it's handy when you actually need it. And studies show that a certain amount of stress helps motivate us to not just be a bunch of couch potatoes all of the time. Well, apparently we don't need any help with that lately, with the obese population rising. But our bodies reject chronic stress like it's a bad habit. Our blood pressure rises, we get constant headaches (even named "stress headache"), open ourselves up to heart disease, become more likely to get OCD and anxiety about every little thing. We can get ulcers, diabetes and increase our odds of getting cancer. Obviously our bodies don't dance with chronic stress very well. But so many of us have it as an underlying part of our every day.
What can we do? How can we battle this love-hate relationship with stress?
Find pockets of time throughout your day when you can separate yourself from the everyday chaos and breathe. Listen to some uplifting music (I highly recommend the Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong station on Pandora) .
Improve your lifestyle. Eating healthier and getting regular physical activity gives your body the tools it needs to handle stress. Then you're not faced with having to sit on the couch recuperating with something saturated in carbs and sugar. Prevention is the best medicine.
Unplug yourself from the media. Stop tapping into every news source known to man. It's amazing to me how much is out there, and how many things take up space in our mind. Stop the 24 hour news channel on TV, or surfing the endless sea of websites-does it really count to be "up to the minute" on trivial things. Don't get me wrong, it's good to stay informed. But our society can drive us to take it to the extreme.
Don't be afraid to say no. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. For some reason we have this image ingrained in us that we have to stay busy and stay involved in everything. Don't sacrifice your precious time with commitments that don't really do anything for you. Your mental health and stress level is priority, not the PTA. I'm not saying don't be involved in volunteering or taking on side projects here and there. Just know your limit, and don't be afraid to stand up for your sanity.
Keep it simple. Find ways to embrace the moment. Stop tallying up the invisible to do list. The laundry can wait. Get outside, take a walk. Pick up a toy, play with your kids. Dust off the old book, got lost in fictional worlds. Life doesn't have to be taken so seriously. Who's keeping score? Step out of the rush to get this day over with so you can move onto the next. Today is worth living, each minute more precious than the last.
Soak up the beauty that surrounds us...I took the photo below this morning after I got home from work. Fog filled the air, and everything thing was beautifully still. I stood there and embraced the moment. Challenge yourself every day, to take the time to stop, look, and listen. It's out there.
Stress is highly overrated. It's not a badge of honor, or a medal we should show off. Keep the old worn blanket around when you need to warm your toes now and then. But try and find a way to keep it folded up in the closet.
You will thank you.