I hate stress. I hate the word, hate feeling stressed, hate the way it makes my heart race and my head hurt. I hate that when I teach children’s yoga, it doesn’t matter how young they are, they all know what the word means.
Yoga is a great way to relieve stress. Any exercise, really, is great for getting rid of stress. But, outside of throwing a mat down on the floor and cranking out a few sun salutations when my buttons are pushed in day-to-day interactions, we need to use other more instantaneous techniques when we’re feeling stressed or anxious in our daily lives.
Here are some common scenarios you might encounter during your day that create stress:
The person in front of you at the grocery store is taking a long time and you’re in a rush
Someone cuts you off in traffic
Your friend is late for your meeting/date/dinner
That email you sent out isn’t returned and its been days
The coffee shop’s internet service just went down
You finally made it to yoga class and the class is sold out/door to studio is closed/ you’re too late to get in
Your neighbors are loud and you’re trying to get to sleep early
It’s late and you can’t find a parking space
You check your bank balance, look at your pile of bills and realize you’re going to have to make some critical decisions about finances
You go into work thinking you’ll be able to coordinate your own day and you arrive to an email from your boss that he’s got a huge project due by Friday
So, what to do? You’re always good to start with your breath. Take a few deep breaths to start out. Deep breathing is a great way to relieve stress. In all my children’s yoga work, I always teach deep breathing and we talk about the lungs, oxygen, fueling the body and how we feel when we take deep breaths. Even in young children, they can articulate how relaxing deep breathing feels.
Here are some other tips, some of which are inspired by others:
For time related stressors, things that involve being late, take a moment to really evaluate how important your appointment is. Many times it’s not so much that our appointment is important, it’s more that our importance is affected by something outside of our control. Once we realize that things will okay if we’re late, we take the pressure off so we can manage the situation in front of us. Feelings of self-importance create stress. Try to let go of some of that.
For work related stress, recognize that your time is not your own. We like to think that we’re in charge of our day, but many times, that’s not the case. The challenge is how can we move through the day without being stressed by changing priorities? This requires less attachment to results and more of a “do your best” attitude in whatever it is you’re doing.
For scenarios that involve late friends, missed emails and neglected phone calls, in the words of Don Miguel Ruiz, the author of “The Four Agreements,” try not to “take things personally.” We create stress when we make up stories in our heads about what we believe others are thinking. How can we know what others are thinking? We can’t. So stop trying.
For stress related to finance, think more about what you have over what you don’t. This sounds trite but when we look at our world from a place of scarcity, everything we do is influenced by that mindset. When we look at things from a position of abundance, we can open the door, even slightly, to see things that we might not have seen otherwise. Now, in these tough economic times, this mindset is harder than ever. And I do not presume to know the depth of some of the challenges people face. But I can say that mindset can have a positive affect on your outlook on life. And it costs nothing.
Ah, technology-related stress! Who knew we’d have to manage this? The internet in your favorite coffee shop goes down. The service in the airport doesn’t work. Your cable is out. Your phone doesn’t work. We enjoy the pleasures and performance of these gadgets but they’re sources of stress as well. Who ever thought we’d need to legislate something like not typing into a hand-held device while driving? For anything technology-related, just get up and do something else. Continuing to obsess over the non-functioning device will only create more stress. Remove yourself from the situation and try again later.
Stress is a factor of life but we don’t have to let it ruin our days. Start with your breath and see what else you can do to make your health a priority!