By Paula Lau
It appears my husband and I are in that trying season of a married couple’s life — the “death of the appliances” season. You know, the car breaks down, then the dishwasher and then the dryer, etc. You watch your hard earned dollars walk out the door with the latest technician. They are always pretty happy about the situation. It’s you who then ponders, “Okay, so how we going to make it now?”
It has been a rough winter, hasn’t it? I don’t believe there are too many people who can point to the past few months and say, “This has been the time of my life!” If you can say that, you are truly blessed. But for many of us, the past few months have taken us on an emotional roller coaster. The reality is we might just be on another slow, uptick to the top of another explosive, downward spiral that will either thrill or terrify. We just really don’t know.
So how do you know if you are handling stress well? It’s important to evaluate your stress levels in four different areas of your life. In an article by Professor Lily de Silva in Understanding and Managing Stress, she reports “The emotional responses to stress are sadness, depression, anger, irritation, and frustration. The behavioral responses are poor concentration, forgetfulness, poor interpersonal relations, and lowered productivity. The physiological responses consist of bodily tensions, which may lead to headaches, backaches, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and even killer diseases. At the cognitive level one may lose self-esteem and self-confidence, which leads to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.”
So in times of uncertainty, what steps are you taking to keep your anxiety levels down and your peace of mind steady? One of the most important things you can do is create a sense of physical safety for yourself. This can be done in a number of ways both small and large. But what it boils down to is that everybody needs a retreat. Retreat by definition means “a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy.”
Are you able to find a place that shuts out the deafening sound of bad news and the cacophony of things that are vying for your attention? This is incredibly important for your sense of well being. If you move through the day from one source of stress to another without a break, you will find yourself in very bad shape mentally, physically and emotionally. Are you taking your breaks at work and getting away from your desk at lunchtime? Those of you who stay at home with your kids, are you making sure that you get a little “me time” during the day so you are able to give the best to your children? Take time to evaluate if you have created a safe, pleasant and easy-to-get-to place of retreat (it is not suggested that place be the local bar). You may enjoy something active like a sport or something that allows you to release pent up energy. If you are a woman you may enjoy spending time with your girlfriends. Research shows that women also benefit greatly from spending time with infants and small children on a limited basis. Maybe music is your thing, or some other artistic expression that allows you to spend time in your brain where the imagination runs free.
The great thing is that everyone has the ability to do this. It is something that doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or require an all expense paid trip to the Bahamas, but it absolutely is essential. Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor who served through numerous wars said, “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.” Good advice in unstable times.