This month is Stress Awareness Month. Now, if you weren’t aware of that fact….don’t stress! It’s all good. 🙂
Stress is a part of every day life, whether you are living with a chronic health condition or not. We can’t really escape it. Stress though is not really the issue, it’s how we decide to deal with stress that can either positively or negatively impact our lives.
For me I have a number of outlets when I feel stressed. I just have to remember to use them! (Note to self: be better at that part!) I’ve read lots of stress buster books and websites on how best to manage stress for a more stress free life. Whilst a lot of that information is very valuable, I have found the most valuable resource we have is ourselves and knowing ourselves better. I have not really taken on anyone else’s ideas of how to relieve my stress but rather I adopted the idea of self-awareness and being present.
By allowing myself to be more present and to explore what it is that makes me happy and relieves stress, I was able to come up with a list of things that help me to cope with challenges, both big and small. By spending time meditating and thinking about me, through purposeful introspection, I have developed my go-to list of Stress Busters.
- Singing and music – I can’t really express in words the joy I get from singing and music. I have loved singing, music and performing for as long as I can remember. Mum and Dad will attest to all of the ‘concerts’ that I put on with my two sisters during our formative years; the endless eisteddfods; and the numerous productions that they had to take me to, make costumes for and sit through. (Naawww, thanks Mum and Dad!) Singing for me now is also about connecting with others. I like to sing and perform in groups, ensembles, duos, trios, anything really that involves other people. There is something about connecting with other musicians that doubles the joy and the other benefits for me.
- Connecting with others – I am a naturally outgoing, gregarious kind of person but stress makes me want to isolate myself. I never knew that about myself before I took the time to be more introspective. Now I know it, when I feel myself withdrawing I use it as a signal to re-connect. Call a friend, make a coffee date, see a movie. Anything that takes me out of the house (where I work from as well as live) and into the world. Not to mention I love good coffee! Now I need a latte, damn!
- Writing – Writing is very cathartic for me and funnily enough it just seems to flow out of me. It’s never work. I don’t have to think about it. It just comes. I am grateful for that ability and for the catharsis that I achieve from writing. I find writing to be a catalyst for immediately melting away any stress I am feeling. (Actually, I was feeling stressed this morning before I started writing this – and I almost didn’t write it – but now that I have, I feel so much better!)
- Reading – Taking time to read for pleasure is a great source of relief for me, not to mention all the other pleasures that come from reading!
- Sharing – ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. An oldie but a goodie. I never used to share problems, concerns or worries with others. I didn’t want to create stress for them, or worse still have them think I couldn’t cope! (Now, that would be the end of the world, wouldn’t it?!?) Now I try to share things that are stressing me. Firstly because it makes me stop, think and actually identify the issue. Secondly because to share it I have to be able to articulate it and that requires me to sit with the issue and put a name to it. I find that once it is named and shared it loses most of its power to stress me out, now it’s just a problem that I can plan to deal with or challenge I can plan to overcome.
My list of stress busters is very personal to me, and likely won’t work for you, unless you just happen to love all the same things I do….and if that’s the case we should meet!
My suggestion to you for better managing stress is to spend some time getting to know yourself. Reflect, meditate, ask yourself some probing questions….and then make your own list of what is going to work for you. After all, it’s not about following a stress relief guru or a tried and tested formula. It’s about finding out what works for you and then using those things to help you manage stress and overcome challenges.
All of this is a journey. Sure, I have my list but I also have to be present enough to recognise the signs that I am feeling stressed and then decisive enough to do something to relieve them. That’s the much harder part…but I’m working on it and I hope that once you have your list you will too.