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Saturday, October 3, 2009

7 Mantras to Reduce Stress

I know we are only three-quarters of the way through 2009, but if I had to pick one word that embodied this year so far it would be family. I thoroughly enjoyed the time at home with my husband and daughter, the week I was able to spend with my family during my mom’s kidney transplant, and the experience of having my mom healthy again. I am so grateful for these experiences and memories, but truth be told I am ready to embrace a new chapter.

I am ready because if I had to pick another word to apply to this past year it would stress. I recently took a stress test and was surprised to find that I rated much higher than I thought. Between my mom’s kidney transplant, the loss of income from my maternity leave and the economic downturn, my broken foot, my daughter’s broken collar bone, and returning to work full-time, I have experience 5 of the top stressors.

According to the American Psychological Association’s 2006 Stress Survey, the top 10 stressors are:
1. Sick family member
2. Money
3. Your own health
4. Children
5. Work
6. Personal safety
7. State of the world
8. Terrorism or natural disasters
9. Intimate relationships
10. Discrimination based on race or ethnicity.

To take a complete stress survey, visit StressTest.net.

During the past year, I have lived by a variety of mantras, quotes, affirmations, and sound bytes.

Here are 7 mantras I have used to reduce stress:

1. This too shall pass. I held this mantra so close to my heart that after I recovered from my foot surgery I was ready to get it permanently tattooed over my scar. I haven’t gotten the tattoo yet, but I still feel strongly that understanding the temporary condition in which we all live is critical to getting through hard times.

2. You are in control of your own destiny. Stress is not caused by an actual event, but rather it is caused by our response to an event – namely, the fight or flight response. The lack of control that a person feels over a situation correlates with the amount of stress a person experiences. When a family member becomes ill, or we lose our job, or a natural disaster hits, the immediate response is to feel a lack of control. But, even though these things are often out of our control, we can choose our response. And, choosing our response helps us feel empowered and ultimately less stressed.

3. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. This is my mom’s favorite quote and the one she lived by even before experiencing kidney failure. While it’s important to take control of our destiny, we also have to practice acceptance of the things we cannot change. And just as importantly, we need to know the difference between the two.

4. What’s meant to be will be. Whether you are religious, spiritual, or questioning, having faith has been found to be a significant stress reducer. Holding a belief that everything has a purpose and a reason, whether or not we understand it, greatly contributes to our ability to accept the unpredictability and uncertainty of life.

5. It could be worse. Remembering that everyone has challenges and realizing that our situation could always be worse helps put our stressors in perspective. Counselors often recommend keeping a gratitude journal or counting your blessings when you feel stressed. (For more on gratitude, check out the Gratitude Series.) This is not to say you should minimize your situation, but rather to shift your focus on the positive aspects of your life to find the strength and energy to deal with your challenges.

6. What doesn’t break you makes you stronger. These were words that I lived by during a bad breakup, a miserable working condition, and most recently during the painful days after my foot surgery. As low as I felt, I knew that getting myself through those hard times would make me a better person. And they have.

7. Things will all be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, it’s not the end. When all else fails, use humor. When we laugh, the body’s fight or flight response is temporarily turned off. We cannot physiologically be tense and relaxed at the same time. Laughter releases the tension in our face, jaw, stomach, and chest.

What is a mantra that you use to reduce stress?

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1 comment:

Kelseyalice said...

great advice joy! And poor Jade, I didn't know she broke her collarbone :(