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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Are We Really That Stressed? (by guest blogger Maria Hammel)

I love getting emails from other authors asking if they can be a guest on the blog - and today is one of those days that makes me smile...because one of their stories is being published - check out the great blog story below, by Maria Hammel! (Thanks for the submission Maria!)

Are We Really That Stressed?
by Maria Hammel

During the holiday season, I quite frequently hear on the news experts giving advice on reducing the “stress of the holidays”.  I’ve seen magazine article after magazine article about ways to handle the stress of our busy lives.  But what I never see is advice on changing the way we perceive what is going on around us.  Maybe we need to alter our perception of our world so that what is going on in your life is not stressful.  After all, aren’t things like the holiday season things we are suppose to enjoy? 
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that stress does not exist.  We all have busy lives, between jobs, kids, and the occasional hormonal war going on in our body, we definitely have things happen to us that can very easily provoke feelings of being stressed.  Having gone through a divorce and post partum depression after the birth of my first child, I understand that some days can be a little much to take.  I like to call this “hitting tilt”.
But what I am saying is that stress is a very personal thing.  For instance, I see some of the moms at my kid’s school running around like crazy complaining about how stressed they are.  They have so much to do, and they can’t get it done.  Meanwhile, I’m at the same event with my work clothes on, having sat in traffic for an hour, still needing to finish a paper for my Ph.D. program, and Sunday school to help teach, and I’m not stressed.  The difference is in how we perceive what is going on in our lives.  If you go into your day thinking “I have so much to do, I’m so stressed” what choice do you have but do be stressed!  You’ve already set yourself up to feel that way during the day.
I find it is better if I look at what I have to do every day as an opportunity.  I approach everything with a positive frame of mind.  I allow what could be stressful to actually energize me to get more done.  I also schedule my day so that everything has its place in the schedule.  That way, I feel less scattered, and can be more focused on one thing at a time.  Staying focused in this way also allows you to enjoy being in the moment.  When I take an hour to sit by my pool, I allow myself to enjoy that hour.  I no longer let my thoughts wander to the laundry that is waiting to be folded, the groceries that need to be bought, etc.  To help you determine what your priorities should be, and what your schedule will be on a given day, think about what is really important to you and what you will enjoy.  There may be things you can remove from your day, or things that can be done in a different way so that they can be enjoyable instead of stress producing.
As I said, there will still be days when you hit “tilt”.  On those days, the best thing to do is to first take a little time to quietly sit and figure out your plan for the day.  You may find that there are one or two things that can be done on a different day.  If your stress was due to worrying about something, taking a few minutes to think clearly and plan may help you come up with a solution that has been eluding you while your mind was buzzing in “full worry” mode.
And, of course, attempting a little exercise can help.  By exercise, I don’t mean you have to hit the gym for two hours and then further stress yourself out over losing two hours in the day (although I guarantee only good can come from that two hours!).  What I recommend is a walk, even up and down your driveway, to help clear your head.  You might even want to take a <a href=””>stress ball</a> or two with you on the walk to help with the nervous energy you are trying to remove from your body.  It always amazes me how a stroll with the dog or a walk with the baby stroller really gives me an opportunity to clear my head and think straight.  And this gives you the benefit of fitting in exercise without further adding to any financial stress you may have by signing up for a gym membership. 
Although you can’t fully avoid all stress, you can control it by perceiving it differently.  Think of all the positive things that can come to your life by enjoying what is going on around you and putting it all into perspective.  As I’ve told so many of my friends, “Stop taking everything so seriously!”  And make sure to laugh more.  That is one of the best ways to not only reduce your own stress, but share your lightheartedness with those around you.  


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