How soothing is it to hear the words, "You're too stressed about this. Just calm down!" Whether someone else says it or you speak it in your own mind, I don't think this tends to be the most soothing, stress-relieving thing to hear.
Nor is it very stress-relieving to hear about all the health problems stress causes us. Why?
Partly because the things that stress us out are often not things that we have control over. Or, not stressors we are going to walk away from. Caring for an ill family member or working at a demanding job that you absolutely love might be non-negotiables for you in having a meaningful, heart-ful life. Or, being in a home with some mold or listening to constant traffic noise might be stressors that just aren't optional right now.
"Less stress," to me, really isn't about having fewer stressors in our lives. (Though, if you CAN reduce your stressors, say "no" to some things, quit spending time with people who aren't good for you, eat less junk, etc. - YES, go for it.) More important is how your body handles the stress.
In Chinese medicine, we talk about "Liver Qi stagnation." The Liver is the organ/channel network that handles "stress" of all kinds. It handles the demanding experiences. Emotionally demanding experiences as well as physically demanding ones, like exposure to environmental toxins or toxins in food.
When the Liver network is overwhelmed, we get symptoms related to stress. The Liver network might be overwhelmed because there are simply too many demanding things going on at once - too many for ANYBODY to handle with grace and ease - or it might be overwhelmed because it isn't at its best and could use some support.
It's that overwhelm that I think about addressing, when stress is an issue.
I've mentioned herbs and acupressure that can help. Another small thing to do that makes a huge difference is cultivating MOMENTS OF CALM in every day. This isn't about changing the circumstances you're stressed out about. It's about changing your INTERNAL STATE from one of fight-or-flight to rest-and-digest, from ready-for-action to slowness and peace.
This is about giving your body a break from the stressed-out state of being, about letting your levels of stress hormones decrease for a little while.
Consider what brings you a sense of calm and ease. Try out some new things - for a few minutes a day.
Some things that help me, or my patients and clients:
- taking a walk or run
- meditation (or simply 12 slow, deep breaths)
- listening to music
- a cup of tea (especially a soothing herbal one, like lemon balm, or chamomile)
- drawing or writing
- playing with kids
- hanging out with an animal
- a nap
- a good cry - when the tears are close, let them spill
- watching a comedy
- a bath
... and the list goes on. Try some, and add your own.
Try forgetting about the stressors going away. Forget calming down "about" the stressful things.
Instead, gift yourself brief times of relief.