When I return to my memories of 50′s, 60′s and 70′s, I do not recall ever using the word “stress”. Possibly I was too young to have any stress or did not have a word to sum up “feeling tired, out of control and angry.”  Today, I believe we all use the word stress in our conversations almost unthinkingly.

Using a 10 count measuring stick, we can move from “good” stress (1) to “overwhelming” stress (10). Yes, there is actually “good” stress and we use it to focus, have motivation and meet daily challenges.  While “overwhelming” stress that is chronic can cause emotional and physical health problems.

Using the Stress Scale (1-10) can help keep us aware of where we are at any given moment. Stress levels over 8 are a warning that we need to take a break and regroup, take a mental vacation, move and stretch your body or count 10 deep breaths closing your eyes. Stress levels under 5, tell us stop procrastinating, stick to your commitment, finish the job and feel good.

What happens when we don’t take a “stress break?”  Think of holding a glass of water weighing 8 ounces at arm’s distance from your body. As the day progresses, the 8 ounces which at first felt light and inconsequential, now feels heavier and uncomfortable. Imagine holding that glass for 24 hours, could you do it?

However, if you put the glass down and wait until your arm recovers, then you can pick it up and it will feel light once again.  In other words, even when our stress seems unbearable, if we “drop our heavy load” for a while, we will recover and be able to start again.  Putting down our stress load when it gets too heavy is crucial for recovering energy so we can continue on.

I want to share some ideas that work for me:

1)  At work, turn off all technology for 30 minutes or more. Sit or complete your task without interruptions.

2)  At work, turn off all technology except for youtube, sit, watch and listen for 10 minutes.

3) Anytime, go to the bathroom and sit with your eyes closed, count your breaths until you reach 10 without thinking of something else. images-2

4) Anytime, stand up and follow along with 5 jumping jacks (note, you can always just step out right then left. You do not have to jump, however please stretch your arms all the way up and clap).

5) Go here and download this music (be patient) and in the morning or before bed, sit and listen to this music either with your eyes closed or as background music in your car on the way to work or while you are reading at night.

6) This may sound corny or old-fashioned; however I do not own a TV and commit to a technology-free zone in my house after 8pm.  By doing this, I feel powerful and in charge of my environment instead of my environment controlling me.

Let’s start a conversation about your best tools for managing stress!




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