Probably the first and most important thing that I had to come to terms with is that stress is a personal situation. We can become somewhat dismissive of stress when we compare our lives to others and think they have it worse. The realization that what may seem trivial to one person can be a high stressor to another, is important. Also, allowing ourselves to admit that stress is having an impact on us and on our lives which in turn impacts those around us.
Measuring ourselves against others does nothing to enhance our own lives
Chronic stress is not normal, though our reptilian brain may have us believing otherwise. Our body and mind can become conditioned to stress by not really allowing recovery from stressful events in our lives we seem to have an endless capacity for more, however there is a breaking point.
What do I know about it? Well, the list can be endless (single mother, self-employed, death of parents, child with cancer, assault survivor, healing from motor vehicle accident, financial struggles...) but I think what is more important is the methods I used to recover and the long term actions I continue to take
One of those that ignored and kept piling on the stress, a few years ago my body made me stop. Not just for a day or two but with a long term illness that stopped me in my tracks for several months. Being a holistic practitioner I knew this was not just the physical illness and so it was from that point that my work towards wellness began. Admitting and acknowledging to myself the stressors and their impact upon my life was the first step towards wellness. Understanding the "why I let this happen"and taking responsibility to make a change was next, and then began the search for methods to heal the emotional and physical effects PLUS take action to ensure I didn't allow myself back into this space.
I created a list of things I loved to do and was surprised at all of the many passions I had let fall to the wayside. Through this period and the stressors beforehand Dance was one thing that had and continues to have an amazing impact. When the music is on and my body begins to move I get completely out of my head. The stressful thoughts disappear and my body just moves. Some experience this through other physical activities, for me it is dance. So I increased the amount of time spent moving to music.
I looked at my work schedule and the demands it made upon me physically and emotionally and realized changing this was my biggest challenge. At the time I was running a retail store, had a busy holistic practice, taught belly dance classes and belonged to a performance dance troupe. While I absolutely loved each of these, I was working 24/7 to keep them all afloat and knew that something had to give. In closing the store and retiring from the dance troupe it gave me the room to focus more on my first passions...assisting clients through my holistic practice and sharing a dance/art form that I love with others. My whole being took a huge smiling sigh of relief.
But I took further steps with this. Looking at my work day and ensuring I had enough time between clients to prepare for each of them, take breaks myself and ensure I was taking days off. Break my dance classes into two evenings so rather than dancing 4 1/2 hours in a night and being completely exhausted for clients the next day, spreading my energy more evenly. This is something I go back to re-assess regularly to ensure work is remaining more balanced. I love the work I do and can easily slip back into habits of overworking.
And then there is the out of work time that I had to schedule at first in order to create the habit of even taking time off. Making plans with friends, turning off the phone, laptop and alarm, pulling out creative art projects, booking a holiday, ordering seeds for gardening... It took a while but now I've become a big fan of P.J. Days, Afternoon naps, walking with no destination, etc
My first attempts at all of this failed, but I kept at it despite that it seemed to be really stressing me out. Adjusting my life seemed an insurmountable task. It has been a few years and I do occasionally find myself slipping back BUT the long term effects have been well worth it!
What steps do you take to ensure your stress is kept at bay?
Does it seem insurmountable?