Have you been feeling nervous, worried or harried? Do events seem to bombard you more rapidly than ever? Are you wondering why? Well, April is Stress Awareness Month, and you’ve come to the right place for some possible solutions.
Stressors are all around us. Teachers are working hard to prepare students for state assessments. City councils, school boards and county supervisors are stressed about budgets. Nurses are juggling to meet the needs of all their patients. Heck, a lot of people are stressed about politicians’ tweets. There are as many stressors as there are people.
How do you handle stress? Take a walk through Bisset Park? Exercise at the Rec. Center? Go for a long swim at the Aquatic Center? Head out to the garden? Breathe deeply and find your happy place?
Or are you like the remarkably untroubled “Dude” from the movie “The Big Lebowski” most of the time? Do you head down to Kroger in your bathrobe to pick up some milk for your, ahem, morning beverage, oblivious to social conventions or concerns?
Well, following are some simple, generally agreed upon recommendations that will help you be more like the Dude, and less like Walter, his quick-to-anger friend.
Wait…are you stressed about finding time just to read this? Relax, take some deep breaths, and realize that these ideas may help improve your health, enhance your workday and, in fact, save your life.
You’ve got to make your health a priority. Chronic stress can harm you in different ways, including a weakened immune system; high blood pressure; upset stomach; ulcers and acid reflux; anxiety; panic attacks; heart problems; increased blood sugar levels; irritable bowel problems; backaches; migraines; sleep problems; chronic fatigue syndrome; respiratory problems; and skin issues. Whew! If you have any of these conditions, you should see a doctor to rule out other causes, but know that these can be the repercussions of prolonged stress.
So, what do you do?
The first suggestion is to get a good night’s sleep. Yes—Get. Off. The. Computer.—especially late at night. Missing a good night’s sleep makes you irritable, less focused and just plain tired throughout the day, which can make you more susceptible to stress or lead to some of those other health problems. Not that you can’t watch the second show at the Starlite Drive-in or the late March Madness game (especially when Tech is playing), but just don’t make the lack of sleep the norm.
Here’s a stress remedy that is good for just about everything that ails you—exercise. A few ways savvy NRV residents get in some R and R were mentioned earlier, but just walking outside in nature is relaxing, especially if you are mindful of your surroundings and not on a forced march.
The NRV is filled with trails to bike, rivers to kayak, tennis courts to play on and mountains to climb. Sometimes, though, it’s just nice to stroll through Wildwood Park and observe flora and fauna for a while.
Some find their creative muse by taking photos, searching for rare birds or butterflies, identifying plants or just locating a nice place to relax in the sun. The important thing is to get moving, which improves sleep, reduces stress and helps prevent illness.
Another idea is to breathe slowly and deeply. It’ll help get you out of that panic mode when you’re caught in a traffic jam on I-81 and running late.
Now, some people have great suggestions about ways to meditate beneficially, and you don’t have to be the Dalai Lama to find a method that works for you. You can easily Google various techniques. Also, some people meditate by praying, which they find comforting. Some folks just concentrate on breathing as they walk.
Next, get organized and become the master of your time. Prioritize things and be sure to do “first things, first” as Stephen Covey advised. Don’t get overwhelmed because you’ve been procrastinating for days about that presentation you have to make at work.
Eating right and staying hydrated is also essential. You need to cut back on those Dr. Pepper 24-packs and stop drinking 10 cups of coffee each day. It is easy to get in the habit of enjoying some delicious cheeseburgers at Sonic, but remember, there is a cumulative effect. Also, drink water, the best medicine, especially if it comes from the award-winning Radford Water Department.
Some like to escape with a movie, a good book, an extraordinary newspaper (hint, hint) or a play. Hey, let “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” which Radford University is presenting this month, carry you away from your worries. But remember, enjoy Macbeth—just don’t BECOME Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, or…well, you get the idea (we won’t spoil the ending).
Handling stress is a constant battle, but you can overcome it with a few commonsense habits.
Before you know it, when you’re down at Kroger in your bathrobe, the checkout people will knowingly nod to each other as you walk by and comment, “The Dude abides.” And it will be true!
Happy Stress Awareness Month!
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.