How to Develop a Stress Relief Plan
Stress is something natural we all endure at some point, however chronic stress can lead to health problems over time, some of which are life threatening. Many people see stress as normal and don't really consider all the ramifications it can cause mentally, physically, spiritually and emotionally.
What's the first thing you think of when creating a plan to benefit your health? Chances are you first consider physical health - exercise or a healthy diet. Those things are important of course, but how many stop to develop a stress relief plan? If you had a life changing event happen suddenly that brought on an extremely high level of stress, would you have a plan in place to help yourself cope?
When Life Gives You Lemons....
To be honest, I never really thought about it either until a life changing event helped me to understand how important it is. My 12 year old son was in a school bus accident that caused serious injuries, including a very painful compound fracture of the leg that required 2 initial surgeries. His recovery was not only painful and long, but very stressful. He had several post traumatic stress episodes in the months that followed. One day I dropped a glass in the kitchen and it shattered and he started screaming. It was terrible. Then there was my own stress of dealing with a child in a full leg cast and wheelchair, the upheaval to the family, the pain of seeing his pain, having to rework our lives, schedules etc.
The doctors all focused readily on his physical therapy and healing, but nothing prepared us for what those chronic high level of stress were doing to our bodies. I gained 20 pounds despite no real changes to my diet, thank you cortisol. After several weeks, I knew something had to give, so we made a plan of how to deal with our stress and we worked through it together.
Elements of a Stress Relief Plan
Express Yourself – Let Things Flow
We used journals and art projects to express our emotions and get our feelings out. After an accident like that you face so many conflicting emotions, gratitude, joy, fear, anger, anxiety about the future. My son had always been artistic and I always loved to write, so we used those as positive outlets to release our emotions. Holding on to anger, sorrow, etc. slows physical healing as well as emotional healing. Focusing on the joy and gratitude for life and second chances promotes healing on all levels. Although my son had a great attitude all along, that doesn't mean he wasn't experiencing real human emotions of anger and resentment and he needed a positive outlet to release those things, instead of bottling it all up inside.
Holding on to anger, sorrow, etc. slows physical healing as well as emotional healing. Focusing on the joy and gratitude for life and second chances promotes healing on all levels. Although my son had a great attitude all along, that doesn't mean he wasn't experiencing real human emotions of anger and resentment and he needed a positive outlet to release those things, instead of bottling it all up inside.
Look at the Lighter Side of Life
You've heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”. We looked for things to laugh about in the situation itself. Although it was a difficult time, looking for the lighter side of things made it easier to cope. We spent time watching funny movies, joking about the situation and the awkward parts – like having to be helped into the shower and all those other less than ideal experiences. What
What 12-year-old boy really wants his mom to help him bathe or get on and off the toilet? Clowning around about it made the experience less awkward and embarrassing. Laughter heals, it's a great way to approach life. When you can keep your sense of humor, the rest often seems to fall into place.
Breathe.... Take a Moment
Breathing. We learned to do a lot of breathing techniques when he was doing physical therapy to help cope with pain and just to relax in general. It's amazing how just focusing on your breath can clear the mind, relax the body and ease tension. That process of full and present awareness was something I already knew and understood from years of meditation practice.
Most 12-year-old boys don't have a real strong desire nor the patience to learn meditation, but he enjoyed the calming, cleansing breaths a few at a time. This can benefit anyone at any time. Stop. Sit up straight and just breathe deeply and slowly a few times while concentrating on the breath itself. It's energizing, soothing and cleansing and it only takes a moment.
Sometimes these sudden changes in life can really cause upheaval. There is a desire to try to be superman/woman and do everything, but the end result of that is usually a bigger mess than what you started with; things that are done wrong and have to be redone on top of things left unfinished.
Sometimes you have to realize and accept that it just isn't all going to get done. Making a “to do” list and prioritizing your commitments is key. That last load of laundry is a lot less important than that work deadline. I developed a habit during this time of writing out my to-do list and then numbering it in order of importance. It seems like just an extra step, but it truly helped me better manage my time. I didn't feel pulled in a million directions at once because I had a list of clear priorities to move through one by one. If time is a major stressor in your life, use lists to make it work for you instead of against you.
I spent so much time during this period giving all of my attention to my son, which was natural, but also left me feeling very tired and depressed. We all need personal time, even if it's just a few minutes a day or a couple of hours on the weekend. Take time to unwind and set down your burden.
This is not selfish, far from it. Meeting your own needs ensures you have enough energy and enthusiasm to care for those who depend on you. After the first couple of months, when things were more settled, I started taking time every day to go for a walk or read a book, something to just step away from it all for awhile. It helped keep me from feeling overwhelmed.
Harvard Forum on Managing Stress - Packed with Great Information
There are many sources of stress in life, from the daily grind to those sudden, life changing events that seem to blindside us when we least expect them. Whatever the source of your stress, having a plan in place to counteract it will help you move through without suffering severe repercussions to your mental, emotional and physical health.
Do you have a stress relief plan in place for those challenging times in life? If so, please feel free share your ideas in the comments.
Learn More About Stress and Stress Relief
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- Major Effects of Stress
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- Natural Remedies for Anxiety and Depression
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