Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding Peace in Stressful Times

We live in stress-filled times. Stress is making some people sick. It can damage the circulation, the heart, the glands, and the whole nervous system. It is making many miserable and unhappy. Here are a few simple techniques that can help us find peace amid the frustrations and challenges of life.

Replace thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude. Whether our concerns involve relationships, finances, health, or something else, we can choose to remember our blessings. When my husband lost his job, I was grateful he still had his health. My friend Beth, paralyzed from the chest down for 30 years, told me she noticed many people who suffered more than she did and was grateful for that (and, trust me, she suffered a lot.)

Breathe deeply whenever possible. Breathing from our belly helps the parasympathetic nervous system relax us. Breathe deeply if you feel tired, upset, or bored. This is a terrific way to release tension and reduce and is so easy to do.

Slow down. This can be hard to do in a fast-paced world, but consider driving slower, eating more deliberately, and talking at a calmer pace. Listen attentively when someone is talking and enjoy the moment.

Celebrate yourself. Many create their own stress by comparing themselves to others, berating themselves for innocent mistakes, or focusing on their weaknesses rather than their strengths. Although we won’t find peace if we are egomaniacal, we will find peace if we love and cherish ourselves just the way we are.

Smile often. Researchers have found that smiling produces endorphins in our brain, those feel-good chemicals that reduce pain and increase feelings of peace, pleasure, and well-being. Smiling sincerely when you see loved ones, friends, or even strangers makes us happier and reduces our stress. I try to smile at cashiers, baggers, and clerk when I am shopping, and it makes routine errands a lot more fun. Even genuinely smiling when no one is around is helpful.

Set healthy boundaries. If you tend to be a people-pleaser, this is sometimes hard to do. Before someone asks you to do something that you know will create unhealthy stress in your life, breathe deeply, say, “I would love to do this but won’t be able to this time,” or tell them you’ll get back to them after you consider their request. Show yourself the kindness and consideration that you try to show others.

Try these techniques and notice the difference their make in your life. Victor Frankl said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” As we consciously choose to find peace in stressful times, we feel happier and life is sweeter. Today, choose peace.

© Carol Brown

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