I received workout DVD a few years ago for Christmas. It’s been collecting dust on my shelf, (Why bother with workout DVDs when there’s millions of free workouts on !?) but I finally decided to give it a whirl.
And let me tell you, holy moly great balls of fire! That DVD kicks my ass! I have to practice Lamaze as I try to walk down the stairs or sit on the toilet – my whole body aches with soreness.
Considering it’s called “30 Day Shred”, I imagine Jillian designed this workout to be completed in 30 consecutive days.
But that’s where I draw the line.
Call me a big loser, but when I recognize stress, I know that my body needs time to rest and recoup. Because rest plays an important role not only in our physical lives, but our mental and spiritual lives as well.
Stress is a tricky little bugger, isn’t it?
It’s all-consuming, and can leave us feeling exhausted, depleted, sick and unhappy. According to the American Psychological Association, over the past seven years, “60 percent of adults have tried to reduce their stress. More than half (53 percent) are still trying to meet this goal.” Sounds like we aren’t doing such a hot job at it, eh?
Sadly enough, we live in a culture where worth and merit are awarded based on hard work and effort. Sure, hard work is great – hard work gets shit done and makes dreams come true. But have you ever found yourself pushing so hard that you’ve lost sight of the overall purpose of your efforts? Have you worked yourself so hard and so long that other aspects of your life start to suffer ? Maybe you feel like you are beating your head against a wall – creative ideas used to come easy to you, but now – no matter how HARD you think, you can’t seem to come up with anything.
When we exercise, periods of rest allow our muscles a chance to repair and strengthen themselves, so we can achieve even more during our next workout. Without rest, your body weakens and you are more susceptible to injury.
The very same idea applies to your soul!
Have you ever gone on vacation, let your guard down, and then had a brilliant creative breakthrough, or solved a problem you’ve been brainstorming on for weeks?
When you work hard for too long, you block one of the most useful and valuable tools available to you– your inspiration . Inspiration requires trust, ease, and freedom – all qualities that are unable to develop when you are under stress.
Well Brittany, that’s all fine and good – but how do I know if I’m stressed? And how do I know when it’s time to rest? What if I don’t even know HOW to rest?!
Chill out now; I hear you loud and clear.
Sometimes, we become so accustomed to our schedules, it’s hard to even recognize when we are stressed. Maybe you stayed late at work during a big project a few months ago, and now your boss expects you to stay late every night.
The trick is not to let stress become the new normal.
Only YOU can set those boundaries and break the cycle.
How would it feel to reclaim your time and life again? Would it feel like a weight was lifted off your shoulders? Well by golly, that’s the feeling of stress leaving the body!
Stress is a HARD HABIT to break, but it can be done.
First, the key is to recognize when you are stressed.
Stress feels like something is off; your mind feels preoccupied. It can be difficult to separate facts from fear. Stress clouds your judgement and it can hurt your relationships. You will feel like you have overextended yourself – you will wish that there were 3 of you to accomplish all the tasks and demands of your current lifestyle.
And that feeling sticks with you and it eats away at you. It doesn’t allow you to truly BE the person that you are fully meant to be, and therefore it doesn’t allow you to do the things you are fully meant to do.
Stress can even present physical symptoms, such as tense muscles, hair loss, or a rash. Sometimes, you might not even know you are under stress!
I remember years ago I was the lead in my high school musical and I felt like I had everything under control. I was also applying to colleges, touring the nation auditioning for programs, plus planning my junior year prom. I broke out in a huge rash opening night and I had no idea why. I went to the doctor and she balked when she heard my schedule. “Well of course – you are stressed!” she said. I could hardly believe her, because I felt like I had a solid handle on what I was doing. I was busy, but I didn’t feel stressed.
But realize, feeling stress doesn’t mean that you are doing a poor job. You could be kicking-ass and still be stressed.
In order to recognize your stress level, ask yourself some serious questions: How am I feeling right now? What area of my life am I placing most of my focus? Do I feel well-rested? Do I feel excited for the day ahead?
How do you feel about those answers? Do you notice a trend in your responses? Would you say that your answers are primarily positive or negative in nature?
Then ask yourself one last honest question: If I don’t change a thing, could I continue my current schedule for another year, 5 years or 10 years and still live a safe, happy and healthy life? If the idea of continuing with your current habits and schedule makes you scream, you might be feeling some major stress in your life.
And if you have a tender, empathetic heart – you will have to make EVEN MORE of an effort to escape stress. Because you might be carrying the stress of your loved ones and friends around with you without even realizing it! You care SO deeply, that you try to carry that burden for them. And for you – I say this: Rather than stress for your friends and family, focus on finding productive ways that you can support them instead. You help them the most by living your life fully, in a happy and healthy way.
The important thing to remember when conquering any type of stress is that listening to these emotional, mental and physical signs is your body’s way of letting you know that it’s time to rest, and more importantly, that it’s time for growth .
Because that’s exactly what rest is for – a new phase of growth!
It’s like when you play a video game. You might work really hard to get to the next level, put in hours upon hours in front of the TV, playing the game and earning the right to the prize. And when you beat the level – it feels great! But what do most old school video game consoles do after you beat the level? They come up with a little screen that says “Saving…do not turn off machine” and you have to wait for the next level to load. That period of rest is crucial. If you are impatient and you interrupt that restful period by “turning off the machine” – you will have lost all that you worked so hard to achieve. Rest literally brings you to the next level of the game called life!
To find the best ways to rest and de-stress for you, ask yourself these questions: When do I feel most at ease? When do I feel most carefree?
Oftentimes stress can impact our decision making abilities, so it can be hard to decide HOW we should rest. That’s why I’ve found it helpful to have a “resting plan” in place, a go-to set of activities that automatically relieve stress in a healthy and productive way. Here’s what you will find on my own personal rest list:
- Listen to lectures at Agape – (This is my favorite spiritual center, and they store an archive of services online so you can enjoy them any day of the week! Want to feel like you are part of the action? They live stream 2 of their services every Sunday)
- Write in my Journal – Journal writing is such a stress-reliever for me. It’s the one place where I can blab on and on about what I’m thinking and feeling, and I don’t have to feel like I’m being judged, or that I’m burdening another person with my problems. Journal writing is also a great tool to gain clarity and achieve greater perspective; if you take the time to read your old journal entries, you will realize that most of your old problems no longer apply to your life. Phew, that’s a relief!
- Do something you WANT to do right now – How often do you take the time to do something that you enjoy – without planning or feeling guilty about it? If you are a planner like me, I doubt it happens as much as you would like. Take the time and surprise yourself with something fun. What do you feel like doing right now? Maybe it’s watching a load of chick-flicks. Or painting a picture. Or going for a long walk, exploring a new part of town. Slowly step away from your calendar… and just DO. Actively seek joy in whatever form that might take at this time. And don’t you dare feel guilty about it!
- Take time to enjoy the little things - You know those little moments that make you sigh? Seek them out and add them into your life. Roses smell so good for a reason! Each peaceful moment relieves the pressure of your stress. Relish in them, and make those moments last as long as possible. Revel in the ritual.
- Read a book – Nothing can do the trick like a good book; Especially a self-growth or spiritual book. Books have this amazing way of delivering the message that you need the most in this moment. They fire up the creative part of your brain, the part that has been stifled and suppressed by your stress. Take the time to get lost in a book and your stress will get lost too.
- Daydream and Plan for Joy – One of my favorite stress relieving activities is planning something fun. I always make sure that I have something fun to look forward to at all times, and planning is where I derive most of that joy. Have an upcoming vacation that you are saving up for? Daydream and plan for it now ! Envision all the fun things you plan to do, eat, see, and experience. Come up with a daily schedule for your time on that trip. Even if your joyous occasion isn’t set in stone just yet, or if you are still saving up money – disregard the logistics that could induce stress and just find joy in the process of daydreaming again.
- How do you usually use your brain? – As you can see, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is all about balance. In order to relieve some stress, figure out how you can balance the type of activities you do. For instance, when I used to work at a restaurant, I wanted nothing more than to sit down and rest my feet after a long day. But now that I work in front of a computer all day, I want nothing more than to be active on my time off! Do the same, but for your brain . For me, I’m talking and writing all day long. So when it comes to rest time, I find that activities that use my hands and engage my concentration in a different way are very relaxing to me. Cooking is a HUGE stress reliever for me (well…only when it’s going well. Not such a huge stress reliever when smoke is billowing out of the oven!) but I love it because it engages my full attention in a different pattern than normal. How do you primarily use your mind during the day? Find relaxing hobbies that use it in a different way, and you will feel the stress begin to lift.
- Listen - This is the biggest stress reliever out there. Learn to listen . We often feel stress because we are moving too fast, trying to complete too much, and we are disregarding important parts of our lives that impact our health. Take the time to slow down and listen. Listen to your heart beat. Listen to the sounds around you and LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Listen to your thoughts. What are you feeling? Have you taken the time to really check-in with yourself and be honest? You might be keeping a cool and collected face for your employer, friends and family – but you don’t have to wear a mask around yourself . Take off the mask and listen to what YOU need right now. A great way to put listening in action is by meditating. If you are stressed, starting a meditation routine will take practice and patience. But meditation will teach you how to listen to your thoughts, honor them, and let them go. What’s left when you let go of your thoughts? Trust in the stillness. This was one of the biggest lessons that I learned when I was on the road to finding my purpose. When life feels like it is crumbling around you, when you feel like you can’t keep up with the life that you have created for yourself, you have the power to slow it down. It’s all up to you. How do you choose to spend this moment? There’s no first prize for racing thoughts. When you take the time to listen, honor your answers, because they come from the deepest parts of your heart.
There are so many ways that you can learn to rest and relax – try some out and see what works best for you.
You will know you are relieving your stress when you feel most connected to who you truly are. When you are doing, saying, and thinking things because they feel right to YOU, and no one else. The biggest way that you can help others around you is by honoring yourself. Stress creates a barrier between you and your strengths. Seek each day to take the time to relax and recoup, so you can go back out there and accomplish your largest goals and dreams.
How do you rest when you are stressed? Share your best stress-busting activities in the comments below! Be sure to sit back and relax a bit this Thanksgiving – enjoy the time with family and friends, and don’t invite stress to the dinner table!