By Darden Reinowski
When stressful situations strike, you could make yourself crazy, or you can take a deep breath, step back and learn how to deal with life’s inevitable hairy, scary moments. Recently, I tested out a few ways to handle the mental and emotional overload when my house flooded. I was out of town and the pipe had been leaking for several days. I admit, I was super freaked out at first, and usually I continue to worry until the final piece of the problem is resolved. This time I knew I didn’t want to feel that way. Instead, I took the wise advice of a friend: take the emotion out of it and deal with the facts. Luckily, I also had some great help from a restoration company! We may not be able to control what life throws at us, but we can feel in control of how we react. Aside from the biggies of death, divorce and dating, major stressful events may momentarily upset our lives but are manageable with a few mental tricks and healthy tips: Mental TricksAfter the initial shock (i.e. the screaming and crying part):
- Seek Support: Chances are if you are really stressed, the problem is too big to deal with alone. Talk to friends and family for emotional support and guidance. Also talk to any other people who might be able to offer practical advice and help you with what’s happening.
- Plan Next Steps: Now that you’ve stepped back from the issue and gotten some advice, plot out the steps you need to take to get the issue resolved. When a situation seems overwhelming, we sometimes feel we can’t face it much less fix it. You don’t have to tackle the problem all at once, just write out what should happen next and what help you will need. After that, if you need a little more time, you can meditate on how best to take action.
- Find Distraction: Also known as keeping yourself busy, this is key for handling your emotions during any kind of stressful situation or crisis. Don’t let your mind become a broken record of worry. Instead, do something you enjoy: go out with friends, watch a funny movie, cook, garden, or even do some work. If all else fails, allow yourself a set time to worry for say 30 minutes and then let it go.
- Relax: This one is hard when your anxiety is high. Start with deep breathing, slowly in and out. Focus on what is right in your life and your gratitude for those things. Next, visualize the resolution you would like to see in the current situation. Imagine it coming true. Being positive helps set the stage for you to more easily get through the situation and to tune in to your intuition. If sitting still and meditating isn’t working, try taking a guided class or do yoga and focus on your breathing in relation to your body’s positions and movements.
Healthy Tips A strong immune system boosts your ability to effectively handle stress:
- Smell the Roses: Scent overrides your rational mind and stimulates the primal part of your brain. Surround yourself with smells you enjoy that give you a relaxed feeling. Perhaps a scented bath or, even better, an aromatherapy massage.
- Get Moving: Whatever you do, don’t sit around and mope. Physical activity and exercise take you out of your head and into your body. Whether it’s walking, swimming, hiking, dancing or even sex, focusing on your body helps you be in the moment without your worry. Plus you’ll release natural feel-good endorphins!
- Eat Well: When we’re stressed, we tend to eat stressed, grabbing for comfort foods that might not be healthy. Load up on plenty of fruits and vegetables and don’t over-do the sugar or alcohol. Of course, one piece of chocolate cake and a glass of wine can’t hurt, right? Food can also help stimulate your five senses and make you feel better. Put some music on and enjoy a meal with someone you love.
- Take Your Vitamins: B vitamins especially are good for stress and give you additional energy to get you through the day.
- Get Some Rest: Slow down, take a nap, and get a full night’s sleep. This is another difficult one when stress hits. Do your deep breathing, have a cup of non-caffeinated tea and try to quiet your mind with soothing music. If you have a lot on your mind before bed, write in a worry journal all of your concerns and what you want to accomplish the next day. This helps your mind relax so you can rest.
By shifting your focus from the chaotic feelings around what’s happening toward the outcome you’d like to see, as well as by paying attention to your body, you can successfully deal with stress. Ask yourself, is this issue as big or bad as I’m making it out to be? How can I make it less scary? Flip your perception of your “problems” to “challenges” and you’ll find it’s just another thing to learn from, work on and resolve (even if you’re still wondering “Why me?”). You can use the stress and obstacles in your life as tools to move toward what is renewing and empowering.
Darden Reinowski is a freelance writer and graduate of New York University. Her professional talents include organic cooking, children's writing, video production and marketing. She enjoys travel, trying new things, and creating art. You can reach her at email@example.com.