Last month we discussed the need to take time to re-charge your batteries and then I heard, “but I’m barely surviving…what do I do now?” Great question! It is inevitable that there will be times in our lives when the question becomes more about survival then it does about taking time out to rest and relax. The illness of a loved one, the yearly cycle of our work which results in periods of high stress, moments of celebration and happiness such as the arrival of a child. Very few of us live lives that allow us to switch gears immediately and set our days to only these events; if you’re one of those folks ~ congratulations! For the rest of us here are some tried and true methods to just getting through.
Remember whatever it is you’re dealing with is likely to be time limited. An infant does not stay an infant forever nor does tax season last 12 months. Annual reviews will be completed. This too will pass. In the middle of the stress it’s hard to remember but just as the sun will rise tomorrow this stress will one day not be a stress.
Take a moment for yourself at some point in your day to just be. Breathe; close your eyes and take a 30 second break. On that note it’s extremely helpful to engage in short deep breathing exercises or practice progressive muscle relaxation. For more info see my post, “Stress Relief Now!”
Use humor when you can. Humor has the effect of lightening the load on our brains and in turn makes stress easier to manage. Watching a funny movie, telling a joke or just laughing over something in the news (did you hear about the kid who climbed to the top of the Freedom Tower in NYC? Can you imagine how much trouble he’s in with his parents?!)
Allow friends to help if it’s appropriate. Can’t get your child at a play date because you’re stuck in the office with annual reviews to do? If a friend has offered to help now is the time to take them up on the offer.
Delegate, ditch or delay what you can. Let’s face it, there are activities we like to do but don’t need to do or that we can delegate out. Is the smell of a home-cooked meal really nice to have? Sure! Can you make due with store bought roasted chicken and a salad? Sure!
Eat well and avoid adding to your stress with alcohol and nicotine. Now is not the time to quit smoking but nor is it the time to add to the stress by adding in an unhealthy habit. If you don’t usually smoke or drink, don’t start now. If you do these already try to be mindful to not overdo it now. Eating balanced, healthy meals will give you the energy and focus to get through this period. If you want to stop smoking or drinking there will be time for that when this immediate stressor has lessened.
Studies point to a more positive outlook and a better quality of life for those who have a spiritual belief system. (The role of spirituality in health care, Christina M. Puchalski, MD, MS, Baylor University Medical Center, October 2001.) If you’ve drifted away from traditions or rituals from your spiritual supports you can always incorporate them now.
Have a pet? If you’ve already got a pet they can be excellent sources of stress reduction. Sitting with a cat purring or a dog curled around you will afford the few minutes of down time you need. Getting outside to walk that dog and have a few moment of fresh air can also be very relaxing.
To allow ourselves to get to Thriving we are sometimes called upon first to survive. As a good friend once said, “it might not look pretty, but can you do it? Absolutely.” Whether you’re surviving to get to Thriving today or on your way to Thriving post-survival I have all the confidence in the world that you can and will get there.
Wishing you all the best in your time of stress.