By Linda G. Ritchie, Ph.D.
Here is a lovely metaphor about stress, the author is unknown.
While leading a seminar on the topic of stress management, a young lady confidently walked around the room with a raised glass of water. Everyone knew she was going to ask the ultimate question, ‘Is this glass half empty or is it half full?’ She fooled them all. Instead, she inquired with a smile, “How heavy is this glass of water?” Members of the audience responded with answers ranging from 8 ounces to 20 ounces.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, that’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my right arm. If I hold it for a day, you’ll have to call an ambulance. In each case, the weight of the water is the same; but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “and that’s the way it is with stress. If we carry our burdens all the time, sooner or later, we become more stressed and the burdens becomes increasingly heavy and we are unable to carry on.” As with the glass of water, you have to put down your burdens and worries for a while and rest before holding them again.
Although stress may be a fact of life, being stressed out is not. Taking time each day to set aside any burden, thought or fear that is causing you stress can significantly increase your ability to cope and deal with the stressors in your life. Here are a few techniques that can help you break free of stress and recharge your resilience.
1. Take a few moments to breath deeply from your diaphragm. Diaphragmatic breathing helps oxygenate your blood and will help you relax almost immediately; as little as 90 seconds will have an effect.
2. Take a brisk walk outside for just a few minutes. Let your mind focus on what you are noticing in your environment rather than mulling over your problems.
3. Just say no. Trying to do too much, over-scheduling yourself is a direct route to becoming over stressed. Set reasonable limits for yourself and stick to them.
4. Stretch. A great stress relieving stretch is a yoga pose called the child pose. Kick your shoes off, kneel on the floor (on a rug or mat), sit back on your heels, then lean forward and put your forehead on the floor, arms forward on the floor, palms up. Hold for a few minutes.
5. Eat a snack while practicing mindfulness. Slowly savor a piece of chocolate or a delicious piece of fruit.
If you feel overwhelmed and are experiencing significant problems such as mood swings, problems sleeping, loss of energy, changes in appetite etc., because of worry and stress, it may be helpful to consult a professional counselor to help you develop specific strategies for your situation.