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Battery Park, NY. Looking at New Jersey. Photo by Damien Ellison on iPhone 6+
“Stress symptoms may be affecting your health, even though you might not realize it. You may think illness is to blame for that nagging headache, your frequent insomnia or your decreased productivity at work. But stress may actually be the culprit.” Stress Symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior. Mayo Clinic.
For many, stress is a normal part of life. However, mothers and especially single mothers may experience unusual stress levels, due in part to the enormous responsibility of caring for young, innocent lives, solo. Whether you are a single mother or not, there are many things you can do to reduce stress and possibly eliminate the symptoms from your daily life. Below are some of the activities I have used to help manage stress in my life.
1. Stand up and Move.
In 5 50-Minute Habits Get You 30% More Productive (and Energized), Brendon Burchard encourages his audience to get up every 50 minutes from working or sitting. So, if work is stressful and you can’t get away, try standing and stretching. Shaking out your limbs (something I learned in QiGong), releases tension as well. In addition, there are several short videos on YouTube that show yoga postures you can practice at your desk.
Yoga, I find is a very quick way to dump tension and get back to the task at hand, energized.
2. Practice Yoga.
I used to think Yoga was this mysterious activity practiced only by wafer-thin women. Today, almost everyone has a yoga practice, and there is a practice for everyone. It is said to reduce stress. And, I can attest to the fact that it calms your whole body even days after a workout. There are many free videos online, especially on YouTube as mentioned above, that teach yoga poses you can do from the comfort of your home as well.
3. Walk it off.
As I have written in past posts many times, walking is one of my favorite exercises. To me, it’s exercise for the mind, body and soul. For instance, when I’m focused on weight loss, I will power walk or walk up some steps. However, if I want to feel a closer connection to God or just plain want to clear my head, I will find the nearest park and spend some time visually exploring what nature has to offer. In addition, Harvard Medical School research shows that walking does clear a cluttered mind. Finally, an article in Huffington Post Health Living, states that “…walking boosts stress-busting endorphins”. Clearly, there is an abundance of research to support the stress-reducing benefits of walking.
4. Get lost in a Romance or an Action/Adventure Novel.
Although romance is not one of my favorite genres, over time, I have found a few books that have caught my attention and have kept me mesmerized by their story lines. I usually read these in a day or two, depending on how much other work I choose to do. Sadly, though, they tend to leave me longing for more once I’m finished. An action novel such as Robert Ludlum’s The Bancroft Strategy, can keep me lost in the story line for hours on end. Amazon has many free books, mostly for Kindle that you can download even on your smartphone, using the Kindle app.
5. “Netflix (or Hulu) it”.
When life gets a little burdensome and there is a problem I can’t solve right now, I turn to a favorite movie or TV series. Usually, I will watch 4 or 5 seasons of a series that I have watched some parts of before or I will look for something entirely new that catches my interest. For instance, I will load up on Leverage, forgetting my own problems, even if it’s for a while. I will either make a day or an entire weekend of it, depending on how intense my current situation is. This activity allows me to “zone out” from reality, giving myself a temporary “vacation” if you will, from pressing problems.
6. Visualize and Meditate.
Jon Gabriel, Founder of the Gabriel Method, says that visualization relieves stress and reduces stress hormones. Also, according to Havard Health Publications, findings by Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, published in the January 2014 JAMA Internal Medicine, suggest that “mindfulness meditation can help psychological stresses like depression, anxiety and pain”. And according to Hal Elrod, “Meditation is a gift you can give yourself every day….It is a time to be at peace, to experience gratitude, and a time of freedom from our day-to-day stressors and worries.” The Miracle Morning.
7. Write it down (Journaling).
Have you ever noticed that when you make a to-do list, your head feels light, like the weight has been lifted from it? Go ahead. Try it. I have found, over the years that journaling has helped me gain focus and clarity when life was determined to drop me flat on my back. Writing helped me speak my mind — whatever I wanted to say — in private. In addition, Hal Elrod in his book The Miracle Morning, posits that journaling helps you to “gain clarity – the process of writing something down forces us to think through it enough to understand it. Journaling will give you more clarity, allow you to brainstorm, and help you work through problems.”
8. Learn to Look at Life from a Different Vantage Point.
I used to spend a lot of sleepless nights worrying about things that I couldn’t control. Am I gonna get fired? Will I have enough money to pay the rent? How am I going to take care of my kids? I have a feeling I’m not the only one who have experienced these worrisome moments. However, once I determined that i) God was my boss. If he allowed me to lose my job, then He must have something else in store. Of course, I made sure that I do my job and not cheat my employer; and, ii) Worry never paid the rent. Careful planning, earning an income, and sticking to a budget made that possible. Finally, realizing that others cared about my children and most importantly, God was their provider and protector, went a long way in allowing me to hand over their protection to His care.
Absolutely, changing my behavior went a long way in reducing the symptoms of stress such as headaches and sleepless nights I was experiencing.
Although none of these activities may provide any immediate answers to a pressing problem, taking a break from hard thinking might give you a new and/or better perspective on the situation. Pundits agree and research support this view. At the very least you have worked out a mental or physical muscle and, that in itself is a benefit we can all use regularly.