In my last column, we saw stress as an essential part of our lives.
It can be positive when it moves us to change and grow, but it affect our minds and bodies in negative ways when we are overwhelmed. This happens when there’s just too much of it: more than we can handle given the time, abilities and support that we have at hand.
But sometimes, it is our perspective that needs to change. It’s been said that 20% of our emotional reaction is due to the reality of a situation; 80% is what we bring into it – our assumptions, attitudes and memories.
Most of us don’t think much about stress until we are right in the middle of it. Suddenly, we’re overwhelmed. What can you do each day to maintain a healthy balance and manage stress more positively?
Be a good parent to yourself.
The best advice I can give my patients is essentially the advice my good parents gave to me.
- Be good: live in accord with your values.
My parents both taught and modeled ethical behaviour. Doing the right thing keeps your conscience clear and helps you sleep at night. Telling the truth is easier than remembering all the lies you could tell. Being kind just makes you feel good.
Doing work we are passionate about with people we care about makes each moment more meaningful.
- Think before you speak or act: reflect. If you are operating on automatic, you may end up far from your original destination. If you respond only to your emotions, you’ll be reactive in what you say and do.
Throughout your day, pause and reflect upon your words and actions. “Am I being mindful of my words? Am I doing good work? Am I helping or harming?”
- Choose good friends, and talk to them. We all need the support of friends we trust and who love us without question. They listen when we need to vent, and they care about us enough to set us straight when we’re on the wrong path.
The value of such a support group is even more important when we grow up and cope with the many roles and stages of our lives, including parenthood, relationship crises, midlife and retirement.
- But remember family comes first. I didn’t get it when my mom told me this during my teens. “Friends and girlfriends come and go, but family is always here for you.” She was right again.
Too often we neglect our partners and children because of work and other misplaced priorities. If we wait too long, we mistake family relationships to be the source of our stress.
The time you invest in your most important relationships is never wasted.
- Go out and play. We all need regular (aim for daily) exercise. It can keep you fit, burn off steam and help you manage the rest of the day.
- Don’t skip meals. Schedule regular healthy meals to keep your energy up and your body healthy. What you save in time by skipping a meal, you lose in fatigue and poor health.
- Take a break. Our brains and bodies were not designed to work without a break for more than a few hours at a time. We all need regular breaks to maintain our attention and energy.
- Go to bed. Get enough sleep each night.