Over Stressed? Share Ways to Lighten the Load

8 02 2009

The past three weeks have been a life lesson for me in contending with new levels of stress. The economy, many friends without jobs and the state of all of our hard-earning savings is enough to give us all sleepless nights, but the challenge of a serious medical situation for my mother, Turtlefollowed by surgery and a stint in the ICU for my father, finally pushed my stress levels into new territory.

I don’t presume to have the answers, but I thought I’d share some of the “in the trenches” thoughts while in the midst of these medical adventures.

More importantly, I think this is a good opportunity for KIT List folks to share their best tips on managing stress so that we can all benefit from the collective wisdom in our wonderful community. And if you don’t have stress — let us know your secret!

1. Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to lean on your friends and family. They will come through in ways that will touch and amaze you. It’s true that you don’t have to do it alone. Having others share the workload, help with caregiving or other tasks will help you through the long haul. Friends also have excellent ideas and resources to offer since many have been through the same situation you’re facing (death, illness, joblessness, etc.). Many of us mistakenly think we’ve got to be strong all of the time, and that we’d sooner help someone else than ask for help. But the incredible thing is that people truly love to help each other, and that being willing to be on the receiving end is allowing the generosity and kindness to flow…and grow. My friend Ginny was sick herself, yet she dropped off homemade soup, along with her warm wishes, for my folks. That meant the world to me.

2. Have a Good Cry…or a Good Yell
Yes, even the brawniest men out there can benefit from the emotional release. Tears carry toxins out of our systems, and even the strongest of us need to let down and feel the full impact of the emotions going on. When you can’t work up any tears, I endorse a healthy yell, or more, by yourself (the car is a quiet place so you don’t scare the neighbors. But don’t do it when you’re behind another driver — your facial expressions may scare the hell out of them!). There’s something really gratifying about giving your lungs a chance to belt it out.

3. Lean into Your Faith
I’m ashamed to admit to being a lot better at praying when the pressure is on. But what has impressed me most is the number of people who have added their prayers and encouragement, and calls came from unexpected places. Don’t discount the power of the “jungle drums” as people spread the word about the need for prayers and support. My family and I definitely felt the protection and the lightening of the load by the combined efforts of so many. Being part of a community — a church, a club, your neighborhood or a group of friends — can have a tremendous impact on your wellbeing. Volunteering is another way to get your mind off of your own worries. It can give you important perspective when you see the challenges others are facing, while giving you a chance to add your talents to solving a social problem or need. Plus, it gets you out of the house!

istock_fish-bowl-jumping4. Rest Up and Recharge Your Batteries
I hear that the best thing to do under stress is to eat well and exercise. I haven’t done either this last month, and have to admit to savoring a guilty endorphin rush from an old-fashioned doughnut from Stanford Hospital’s cafeteria. But if you can’t get in a gym workout, just taking a walk to get fresh air and take a break from the trouble is worth it. Also, the power of sleep can’t be discounted. My new motto is, “What a difference a day makes.” Sometimes just having a chance to rest gives you a whole new perspective on a situation. And sometimes the situation can change dramatically for the better in just a day. You never know when something incredible is just around the corner, if you can only just hold on!

5. Don’t Watch (or Read) the News
Uncle! Enough negativity already. We already know the bad stuff, and it can be overwhelming to hear the volume of horrible news. I’m limiting how much I pay attention to the news and I’m focusing instead on what I can do to make things better for my friends, my family and myself. The media’s focus is often on what’s wrong with the world since that attracts more readers and viewers. It can give the false perception that the world is falling apart. We’ve been through many tough times before, even far worse ones, and we have the courage and the talent and the resources to overcome these circumstances. Take a look at old headlines over the past 60 years and you’ll see that we’ve been through a lot and came out better and stronger as a result. Life flourishes in spite of (or because of) hardship.

6. Focus on What IS Working
Tonight, when I was feeling so overwhelmed, I purposely stopped and tried to reframe what I felt was bad news. Instead, I decided to mentally list all the good things that happened, or looking at what I was grateful for (things could have been worse). We’ve all heard about keeping a Gratitude Journal, and I have to admit to being pretty infrequent with my entries. But just taking the time tonight to think about what was going right, and what I have to be grateful for helped to tilt the balance from “half empty” to “half full.”

7. Do Just One Thing
My head is often swirling with the thousand things I could or should be doing. I often feel besieged and bedeviled by my endless To Do List. That alone is stressful enough. I’m trying to “do just one thing” instead. Sometimes just getting started on one thing gets the momentum going and I can tackle other things afterward. This helps break the log jam of inertia by making some progress on one thing. Our world is so focused on productivity that we’ve multitasked ourselves into being less productive. Multitasking has become a relentless taskmaster, and studies show that we are actually much more productive when we focus on one task at a time.

8. Make ‘Em Laugh
See a funny movie or do something that gives you joy. I passed over more meaningful (but depressing) storylines to see “Paul Blart, Mall Cop” tonight for some much-needed laughs. After a full day after the release from the hospital for my Dad, and meetings with the physical therapist, visiting nurse, and family meetings, a friend was a willing accomplice to get away at the movies. If you have a passion or hobby, make sure you give yourself some time to pursue it. Whether it’s hiking, biking or puttering around the garden (my personal favorite), you’ll find yourself energized and recharged after losing yourself in something else for a while. Most of us can’t run away to a tropical island, but a mini-getaway with a day trip to the beach, the wine country or something else in your area you haven’t explored yet has amazing ways of renewing you. I’ve found just spending even a few hours at the beach blows out the cobwebs in my brain, and the expansive horizon and the changing surf can make a world of difference.

This is not the complete list of stress busters, so use the Comments section for this blog to share your best tips on reducing stress with the rest of the KIT List community.

Let’s see the creative ways you all use to beat stress!

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16 responses

27 03 2009
Allen W

A year ago (pre job-hunting, pre familial health worry, pre economic meltdown and potential for employment despair) I went to a 4-session journal-writing workshop. Almost every day, I treat myself to taking out my cheap little binder and equally cheap pen, and spending about 10 minutes writing a bunch of things on my mind. (it’s the time to drink *half* a latte) There are days when the notes are upbeat, those where the thoughts are grey, and mostly, all the stuff in between. For whatever reason, this little bit of introspection gives me a boost.

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4 03 2009
Karen Gallion-Biggers

I wanted to thank you for the KIT List posting you sent out about “Lightening the load”. I really appreciate your openness about what has been going on in your own personal life. I also took your words to heart and went the following Wed to the movies. This was the first break I had from my job search, including weekends. I went into the theater at 11:15 a.m. and left at 6:30 p.m. It was so great to escape from the computer and phone and go to other worlds and cry for someone other than myself. Thank you for that encouragement. I have since created a separate email account for my job hunt so I can control that more. I made an appointment on my calendar for my pilates class that wasn’t happening because things would book on my calendar.

I feel like I have lightened the load… Thank you!!

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23 02 2009
Pierre Coupet

Close your eyes at every opportunity that you get, especially at night; completely relax; clear your mind of every single thought-in other words, try not to “think” at all; and focus on seeing nothing but “absolute darkness.” Practice doing that daily and perhaps in 10-15 years from now you will be able to do it for a full 30 seconds at a time.

Once you are able to master that, you will never have another day of stress in your life.

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20 02 2009
Sudheer

I feel its a wonderful community to stay in touch. Thanks for all your responses. To keep away from stress, and to welcome positive energy, I do these :

– keep talking positive about the economy that will definitely improve people’s sentiment and in turn the economy
– meditation will keep you away from the bad news and experiences for a while and control your senses in later part of the day
– This is the time to improve skills and become multi-talented as we can use this ‘in-between jobs” time as time to learn things
– Overall optimism, hope and faith will work
– These kind of situations were dealt with before and we enjoyed them
– Bad days are only the symptoms for good days…..

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19 02 2009
Kelli

Hi Sue,

I’m so sorry to hear about your folks. I hope they’re doing much better by now.

I loved your message. I know, we’ve all been feeling it but hearing about it helps. The knowledge that we’re in it together provides a deeper understanding, comfort and compassion for one another.

Warmly,

Kelli

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19 02 2009
David

Unlike earlier downturns this one has legs for the laid off I think, It is very important not to close in on oneself and become dispirited and hermitlike. Friends and family can help of course and all fine if you have a large network of friends but you ned to do EVERYTHING to expand your network not only to find that job but to help live on that reduced budget. There are several groups starting to appear on the web that are locally based to provide real life forums for support and sharing search and business ideas and at least one to leverage the anonymity of the web.

BTW don’t get too frugal. SUre cut out that daily $4 latte but have one occasionally. You do need to feel good. Go see that movie.

And thanks to Sue for provide a forum too.

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13 02 2009
heathergardner

To help relieve my stress level I go into ‘clean-out’ mode. I start going through all my old paperwork from a zillion years ago – you know the phone bills from 10+ years back and start shredding. I save EVERYTHING so this is usually the best use of nervous energy so I start figuring out what to toss (in the recycling of course).

AND, I keep focused on my paperweight that says “What would you attempt if you know you could not fail?” This was of course a gift from old manager when I first became a direct hire recruiter – 10+ years ago! See, I save everything!

Thanks for sharing Sue! Focus on the positive and share the wealth and knowlege.

Best,
Heather

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10 02 2009
Marty Silberstein

Hello Sue and all,

A friend gave me a terrific tip to help reduce stress and regain focus. Having followed this advice, I was very surprised how emotional an exercise it was. Little I’ve done in terms of goal setting, tactics, timelines, etc. etc. has been as effective.

Here goes: write a letter to yourself as if it was the last day of the year. Hand write it, not type. FEEL the year’s accomplishments as you proudly list them. Feel your satisfaction about how much distance you’ve crossed, the people and events that have been a wonderful part of your year. Feel the WOW — you really did it, although you may have thought something out of reach.

Now centered – with this vision and the feeling/energy in mind – you can outline the how’s, what’s and when’s that will get you there. Writing the letter calms you, decreases the panic about the year ahead. And how fun to open it later as you celebrate New Year’s Eve!

Marty

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9 02 2009
David Dull

Thank you, Sue!

Since all the things I was supposed to do have been done, I now stand in the stillness and watch for miracles. My spirituality has grown 10x since my last layoff.

Just reading your list has helped relieve some stress today. You have done a lot of the things that I do, too!

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9 02 2009
Jens Francis

Hi Sue-

We’ve not met, but I’ve followed your list since the old days.

I just want to say thanks for writing this, it is timely, meaningful and awesome!

Cheers, Jens.

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9 02 2009
Myra O'Ferrall

Hi Sue – thank you for these inspiring ways of stress relief. I have found that yoga and meditation (which can be done for a few moments anywhere and anytime), has provided me with a break in the mundane drain these days. It’s just a few moments, but it does change the blood flow and provides a slight glimmer of hope.

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9 02 2009
Connie Thomasser

Hi Sue,

Thank you for some great insights, I was in a similar space a few years ago, with a newly diagnosed Type 1 Diabetic child, a father with stage 4 lung cancer (he is in remission!) and my personal relationship a mess (we are happily married still) and unemployed (recently again!). Gee anything else to add to the list? I realized that all of these things are not unusual, and that friends are helpful for emotional support, but a good trained therapist can help you learn skills to handle these situations in an objective way with tools to use now and for any future events. And don’t forget our furry four-legged friends, our pets are always here for some unconditional love, support and levity!

Thank you for all you do for our community, I appreciate your efforts and know that you will make it through, you are stronger than you know!

Kind regards,

Connie

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9 02 2009
Dan Dalton

Sue

My recommendation to overcome the stress of today and FUD (Fear, Uncertaintity and Doubt) is read “Face Your Fear” by Schmuley Boteach. This book will change your life…

Dan Dalton

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9 02 2009
Deb McClanahan

Hi Sue,
Thanks for sharing your positive message about managing our stress levels with all of the forces coming at us these days. It’s also a time to go back to basics – focus on your family and friends, manage the business and assets you do have effectively, and work on the issues that you can control.

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9 02 2009
Susan Monroe

Wow! You’ve echoed everything I’ve been thinking/doing/thinking of doing, Sue. “Doing one thing” has calmed my anxiety over how much there is to do and how I just haven’t gotten to it all. (A long walk after I got my one thing done yesterday felt wonderful, too.)

Optimism seems to help, too. Nope, I’m not a Pollyanna, but my favorite quote these days is from Harry Denton of the Starlight Room: “Optimism works, no matter where you are, in the long run.” Tunes the brain to a better class of expectation, I think.

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9 02 2009
kate

As a consultant for 16 years, I have learned a few mental tricks to create some positive energy. First, I am between jobs not just out of work and there is a future and I am in it (it also helps to have someone tell you this). Also, I let myself worry for one hour a day as I can obsess about not having work or the cash runs low. My new job is to find a job so as soon as I wake up I fire up the computer and search, email folks, etc. After “work” I work on my second job as a creative writer and artist. I also tend to feel like a failure without a job, so I remind myself that success is defined many ways, but most importantly, those personal qualities such as honesty, compassion, trustworthiness etc are the measure of a successful life. When between jobs, my other “work” is with the less fortunate so I volunteer time to help my favorite charities. I also give myself one extravagance when pinching the pennies and for me that is a cuppa joe or chai – it lifts my mood. Folks already mentioned an exercise program, networking, etc. I hope some of these ideas help. However, the blue meanies will jump up and bite so just let them buzz around and it will pass.

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