Stress is a condition that can make us sick, afflicting us even in our sleep. If we don’t take steps to manage it, stress can drive us crazy.
I had quite a load of it this week—up to my eyeballs, in fact. Try moving homes and facing challenges at work simultaneously. Stressed, spelled backwards, is “dessert,” right? I had a lot of those, too.
Feeling stressed is a natural reaction, though sometimes it can overwhelm us. How to avoid becoming overwhelmed is always a matter of choice and perspective. Taking a step backwards and asking yourself if what you’re stressing about will matter a year or five years down the road often helps in framing and reframing the stressful situation, or person for that matter.
Having a plan B, even a plan C, can be very helpful. When things fall apart, there is always a fallback position, thus minimizing the stress.
It also helps to remind yourself that the stressful situation is time-bound, especially if it’s a project that you’re working on. Keeping your eye focused on the stress-creating goal and telling yourself that this won’t be forever can be calming.
Nothing lasts forever. I always tell myself, “Matatapos din ’yan.”
In the interim, as you are going through the stressful period, here are some strategies you can do to navigate the challenges.
Carve out time each day to give yourself a break. Stress can be physically and emotionally draining, so the more you have it in your life, the more important it is to make time to relax and regroup.
Listen to happy or relaxing music, write on a journal (or on your laptop), get a massage, have lunch or dinner with a friend at a favorite restaurant, buy yourself something nice. Whatever it is that gives you joy but doesn’t break the bank (more stress!), indulge in it during a particularly stressful period.
Take a long walk or a good run in the early morning or evening. Exercise relieves you of the emotional and physical effects of stress. For the last month or so, I’ve tried to get in at least 45 minutes on a treadmill every other day before heading out to work. My motivation for doing so is that it really makes me feel so much better and prepared for the day ahead.
When I am unable to exercise, more so during stressful periods in my life, I really feel like a slug. There are many choices out there—yoga, pilates, martial arts, dancing, swimming—so whatever helps release your stress or get rid of the negativity, go and do it.
Find a way to express your feelings. As a child and adolescent, I wasn’t very good at it and would often keep things boiling inside. Thus, I would often fall ill whenever something major would upset me and eat me up inside.
I remember how my mother—who was never one to bottle up her feelings —would often tell me, “Halika, pumunta tayo sa bundok, doon isigaw mo ’yung mga inis mo.”
Nowadays I no longer need to go up a mountain to express myself. (Too much traffic produces even more stress!) Surprisingly, as I have gotten older, and bolder, when I have an issue with a friend, family member or coworker, I like giving feedback face to face, in a non-confrontational and kind manner, of course. Say it to my face, or say nothing at all.
Turning 50 has made me fiercer and more fearless, but at the same time it has taught me to choose my battles more wisely. If it’s going to be detrimental to my mental and physical health, if it will not matter a year down the road, I’ve learned to let a lot of things go.
Being kind, I realize now, is oftentimes the more prudent choice. And if I feel that I can’t be kind, or my discernment tells me that it’s a lost cause, I walk away and leave it in God’s hands.
And then I channel my energies into something more productive, more life-giving. I’ve also learned that, sometimes, choosing to walk away and not slugging it out is one of the bravest things you can do. Life is short, and in the grand scheme of things, some battles are really not worth fighting for.
I love what author Sanaya Roman wrote in “Living with Joy”: “The path of compassion does not obligate you to love everyone regardless of how they act or who they are. It is a path of seeing the truth of who they are, acknowledging all their parts. It is the path of looking at people and asking is there anything you can do to heal, assist, or bring them in touch with their higher vision. If there is not, then you are pulling down your own energy by spending time with them.”
We can’t save everyone, but we can love them. But you must also love yourself, too. And sometimes, living a less stressful life will require you to love those whom you cannot save by loving them from afar. It’s still love, nevertheless.