Wouldn't it be nice if this was your life? Stress? What's that? If only...
Before I moved to Seattle, I was not exactly known as the most relaxed person on the planet. You know that game you play with yourself where you start to imagine what could go wrong? I like to call it the "what if" game. What if I fail this exam and then I don't get into school and then I have a nervous breakdown and lose my job and can't afford my rent and end up living on the streets? You laugh, but I'm very good at getting so caught up in the whirlwind of my thoughts that it seems not only plausible, but likely, that a bad grade on an exam will lead to me being homeless. The "what if" game is a spiral that I should never go down. But inevitably, I do.
Because of this, I was very surprised when a new friend here in Seattle told me he didn't see me as a stressed out person. I'm sure I gave him a funny look, all the while laughing in my head. Little did he know... However, the truth is I deliberately made the choice when I moved here not to worry unnecessarily about everything. I decided to let go of my downward spiral of mind traps and to try to live in the moment. Of course, this took some practice. There were a couple of phone calls to my friends back East where they had to calm me down. Perhaps a frantic e-mail or two. There was the time I cried in my therapist's office because I was afraid of getting a B in a class. Yeah, I know... Or how about the time I told my therapist I was worried I wouldn't be able to afford to send my kids to college. She suggested that I stop worrying about my nonexistent children. Well sure, if you want to be logical about things.
Day by day, I reminded myself to let go of all the mental balls that I was juggling. I got a B in my class, and I'm still alive. I only worry about my unborn children every once in a while now. I do still send the occasional frantic e-mail, but I'd like to think I do it less than I used to? I guess my friends will have to judge that one. And last week, I found myself studying for a quiz when I looked outside and saw a rare sight: the sun. I had ten minutes before the quiz, and I knew I could either cram a few more tidbits of knowledge into my head, or go outside and enjoy a few moments of delightfully blue skies. What do you suppose I did?
I think I've come a long way from the woman crying over a B to the one who chose a precious breath of sunlight over extra study time. Here's what I've learned. Not every day can be stress free. And some days I have to stay inside and study when I'd rather be outside playing. An hour of yoga a day is ideal, but it's not always realistic. Sometimes, I don't have an hour, but I can usually find ten minutes to spare. And ten minutes might be all I need to remind myself that the beauty of life is in those moments when we let go of our stress and simply let ourselves be.
Here's a list of stress-free things you can do in ten minutes. Make your own list and tack it up where you'll be reminded to do something daily to keep you in the moment.
- Write in your journal. Don't have one? Write on a piece of scrap paper. When you're done, just rip it up and throw it in the trash. No one will see it, but it'll help you get those chaotic thoughts out of your head. There are two ways that journal writing helps me when I'm short on time. The first is to spew out every negative thought in my head and get it all out. The second (and this one works better for me when I'm in a bad mood) is to write affirmations over and over until I start to believe them. See how many times you have to write, "I am happy," before you start to believe it!
- Take a ten minute walk, preferably outside.
- Get out of your chair and s t r e t c h. Even a few minutes of stretching a day can help alleviate muscle aches and pains.
- Make a 10-minute playlist of your favorite relaxing songs. Put your headphones on and tune out the world.
- Meditate. I know, this is easier said than done. If you don't have a daily meditation practice, you can start by finding a guided meditation online. Just google "10 minute meditation" and then find one that works for you.
- Pick a mantra for those times when your own downward spiral starts to get to you. Write it down and put it where you'll see it daily. Some of my mantras for these times? "Release" and "Let it be."
- When you're dealing with a problem, try asking yourself this question: Will this matter ten years from now? If you're a future-oriented person like I am, this will help you to determine what's worth stressing over and what you can let go.
- Spend ten minutes hugging/petting your: dog, cat, husband, wife, partner, son, daughter, friend...Don't have any of the above on hand? E-mail me and I'll send you a virtual hug!
- Find a song that relaxes you and belt it out. I don't know why, but singing Disney soundtracks calms me down.
- If you don't want to sing, then dance it out. I have a dance playlist on my computer for days when I just need to let go.
- Keep a delicious book on hand, something that's easy to jump right into.
- Do you have a hula hoop? No? Buy one!
- Never underestimate the power of a good laugh.
- Also don't underestimate the power of a good juice. In ten minutes, you can make nutrient packed juice that will make your cells happy and make you feel pretty good about yourself.
Stomach Stress Buster
For this sweet concoction, you'll need a juicer and:
1 celery stalk
a handful of fresh parsley
a chunk of red cabbage (about a cup's worth)
Have a lovely week, day, moment...