Feeling Stressed Lately?
I have been talking a lot about stress lately. My “Keep Calm and Carry On” seminar has been pretty popular and I enjoy being in front of people sharing strategies to deal with stress. I also have had my fair share of stress (should I actually expose my vulnerability and admit it was actually a big surge beginning with last month?). This gave me the “opportunity“ to practice what I preach during my seminar. I also realized it is hard not to lay flat down on the floor after receiving that big punch: maybe you got fired, lost a loved one, you received some bad news about your health or were involved in a relationship that got really messy or your child said plainly in your face: “I hate you, you are the worst parent” (and more than once, with no apology whatsoever…) Not easy, right? How do you pull yourself up and keep going?
In my case, I turned to my faith and grasped all the positivity I could find around me, from prayers to uplifting music to loving people. A lot had to do with quieting the inner critic, and setting aside the popping questions: why me, what did I do wrong, where did I fail? Then the story of a Jewish concentration camp survivor came to my mind, where she tells herself over and over “this, too, shall pass”. It so happened that I was in the middle of my Mediterranean Diet, eating plenty of veggies and healthy fats, while keeping the sweets to a minimum, so my gut was happy and that means my brain was in a good state too. You know that gut-brain connection is really true! I did my best effort to continue with my movement, especially going outside and not skip my yoga and Zumba class. I have to admit I was the saddest face in that Zumba group, but by the end of the class I did have my smile on…Did I mention I went through a whole box of “Stress Fix” herbal tea in less than two weeks? In this process of coping with major stress I discovered something new: I had to calm myself down at night so I could sleep and that meant to quiet the chatter in my brain. So I turned to a new activity: coloring. I found out a beautiful mandala during an online search for adult coloring pages. I got some markers from my kids and I dived into coloring. I colored and focused on lines, shapes, color patterns and in the end I was really present in the moment! All that tension and negativity was set aside for few minutes at a time, so I can play with colors. You can judge for yourself the final product!
My other discovery was that if I occupied myself with some relatively hard math problems, I got my mind to focus on something else and also got a sense of accomplishment. Math was comforting for me because things are pretty black or white. I felt I had some control and a proven method to apply (some geometry rules and algebra, pretty straight forward). Solving a problem that had nothing to do with my own issue was refreshing and gave me some much needed instant gratification. Like, hey I can handle math, I’m still capable of solving problems, I am hopeful that eventually we will solve the mother-daughter sour relationship.
We all have stress in our lives, but we can not let that permanently rule us, we need to find ways to cope with it and ride the storm. We have to figure out what works for us, and not in our detriment. Our first reaction may be to reach for the pint of icecream or the bottle of wine…how sustainable is that in the long term? While you are working on ways to deal with the situation at hand, you may find that simple strategies, like deep breathing, meditation, prayers, movement (especially in nature), coloring or who knows, even math, may indeed bring you the strength you need to refocus, keep calm and carry on!