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  • 5 Things You Can do Today to Lower Your Stress

    Clients ask me all the time what they can do at home to reduce their muscle tension and Stresspain. My response, of course, is unique to each individual but usually involves a few ideas to help them reduce their stress. Today, I’m sharing the top 5.

    1. Say “No” to something each week (or better yet, each day) – Just because someone wants you to do it, doesn’t mean you have to; even if the person who wants you to do it is yourself. Ask yourself these 3 questions: 1) Will I enjoy this? 2) Do I really, actually, have the honest-to-goodness time to do this, without stressing myself out further? 3) Will the world end or spiral into uncontrollable chaos if I don’t do this? A “No” to any of these questions means No to the request. *Note: I’m not talking about normal, everyday, responsibilities like going to work, taking the kids to school/daycare, grocery shopping, etc. (although the world won’t end if you play hooky for a day or have a “creative” dinner because you didn’t go shopping). I’m referring to the requests you receive to be on a committee, make cookies for the PTA meeting, volunteer for an organization, drive all the neighborhood kids somewhere, etc. I’m also referring to your insistence on cleaning your whole house top to bottom each day (or even each week). No one will die if the cupboards don’t get washed out each week or if someone else has to make the treat for the PTA meeting (or heaven forbid, there isn’t a treat),or if, for once, someone else has to step up and take their turn on the committee that no one wants to serve on.
    2. Do something you enjoy and then schedule time to do it as often as possible – The more joyful the activity makes you feel, the better. Joy is a major antidote to both stress and pain. Nuf said.
    3. Change your expectations – I know I’ve said it before, but it makes no sense to expect a liar to tell the truth, a slob to be neat, a control freak to not micromanage… You get the picture. It’s not as if liars never tell the truth or slobs never clean, but it’s crazy and stress-inducing to expect them to do it all the time, just because you want them to or “they should.” It’s really so much easier to meet people where they’re at instead of wishing they were otherwise and getting upset when they’re not. This one can be hard to get started with, but if you remember this piece of advice from  Don Miguel Ruiz it’s a lot easier: “Don’t take anything personally.” (From his book The Four Agreements). The liar doesn’t lie to you alone, they lie to everyone. The control freak micromanages everyone and everything that crosses their path. It’s nothing personal. Their behavior speaks volumes about them and says nothing about you.
    4. Make you your number 1 priority – It’s like the flight attendants say, “Put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others.” They know that if you run out of oxygen while helping someone else, it’s likely that you’ll both die. But if you make sure your mask is on before you start helping others you’ll be much more effective and you’ll be able to help a lot more people. Self-care is NOT self-indulgence, it’s the way you recharge so that you have something to give. Your chosen method(s) of recharging will be unique to you, but some common ones include: having some alone time, getting out with friends, dancing, singing, exercising, reading, and spending time on a hobby.
    5. Be grateful – Gratitude is another of the big antidotes to stress. You don’t need to have the deep and profound gratitude of a mystic or a poet in order for this to be Gratitudeeffective. A gratitude journal is a common way to make a gratitude practice part of your life. There are as many ways to keep a gratitude journal as there are people. A few suggestions are: you can make simple bulleted lists, write gratitude poems (they don’t have to rhyme) or stories, or  list not only what you’re grateful for, but why. You can also speak your gratitude in your daily prayers. Feel free to ease into the practice by starting with the big things in life like having a job, or having a roof over your head, or having enough food to eat. From there move on to the people you love, those who love you or care for you, people you trust, those you have fun with, folks who make you laugh, and people that you can cut loose and be yourself with. You could also be grateful for lessons learned from some of the hard times you’ve gone through (maybe being laid off from a job you hated allowed you to get a job you loved – or at least liked). You can be grateful for small things like a smile from a stranger, finding a penny on the sidewalk (I’m always grateful that I have 1 cent more than I did before and that I was open to receive this small blessing from the Universe – as opposed to sneering at a penny as somehow unworthy of my notice). The possibilities are truly endless.

    If you want less stress-induced muscle tension or pain or just less of any of the other side-effects of stress, pick one of the items from the list above and start taking care of yourself. Today.