Monday, January 18, 2010

Stressed - Who me???

Yeah, me. And probably you. I’ve got to tell ya, these days it really does seem that ‘the hurrier I go, the behinder I get.’ We make the best laid plans … to meet a deadline, to lose a few pounds, to treat ourselves better, to appreciate all of the good things life has to offer, to make better use of our time. It all looks good on paper and then, blam. Life interrupts.

I was having one of those days today. I had a book due, our son is about to have surgery, my DH is suffering with some heavy duty back pain, I still haven’t de-Christmased our house, or solidified plans for my next book, or figured out why I'm having such difficulty all of a sudden with computer related eye strain, why I don't get Twitter, AND I had a bad diet day. And just for good measure, add in a generous dose of guilt over feeling put upon by my minor problems in light of the horrendous suffering in Haiti. In any event, I was about to head for bed and attempt to sleep the pressure away when I realized, whoops, I had a blog post to write for tomorrow. I felt stressed. But I figure you already got that.

So, I bop out onto the web to troll around for ideas on a blog topic when what to my wondering eyes did appear but an article tailor made for my current situation: Stress. I know. It’s like kismet, right? Anyway, it was just what the doctor ordered and I figured why not share what I learned with you all. So here goes.

According to a recent article by Drs. Stephanie McClellan and Beth Hamilton, the intense demands of modern-day can and do take their toll on women (and men) in many ways. Okay, so these days we’re not bouncing across the prairie in covered wagons sans microwaves and dishwashers or giving birth without benefit of anesthetic or sterile birthing rooms, but, that’s not to say we don’t have our own unique set of stressors. Since stress can play a heavy duty role in the way we manifest disease, getting a grip on the issue is crucial. Stress can make you feel pressured, rushed, edgy or just totally exhausted. It can cause sleeping problems, loss of sex drive, weight gain, chronic pain or heart problems.

Conclusion: We need to do something about it. Ever searching for ways to help a girlfriend out, I’ve done the research for you (I know. I’m a gem) and have come up with a list of suggestions to help you untie those knots, lift those spirits and diffuse that tension. Ready? Here goes.

1. Take a calming Breath: This is a fundamental relaxation technique that all stress types should practice. You have probably taken a deep breath before plunging into something – a difficult conversation, serving a tennis ball, trying not to cry. This will work while standing in line, sitting at your desk or preparing a meal. When you sigh, you are unconsciously using a relaxation technique by inhaling more air than usual and exhaling. Breathing deeply has a calming and centering effect, and you can do it anyplace, anytime for a quick fix for acute stress.

2. Smile or Laugh: When you smile or laugh, endorphins are released from the brain. These endorphins are naturally produced chemicals that make a person feel good. A hearty laugh can also give the body an internal workout. The process of laughing instigates a cycle that makes you breathe faster and makes your muscles tense. Then your muscles relax, your breathing slows and your heart rate decreases. Smiling and laughing allows you to connect with something other than tension or stress, so think of a fond memory or focus on someone or something that makes you happy.

3. People Watch: Take a moment to enjoy the energy and excitement occurring right in front of you. During your lunch break or while running errands is a great time to let go of yourself, take in your surroundings and watch others. Even if just for a moment, this will help you to refresh and regroup.

4. Go Nuts Over Chocolate: (Yeah baby!!) To boost your brain and calm stress, eat a handful of walnuts and a piece of dark chocolate. Walnuts are full of omega-3s, essential fatty acids that elevate the mood, and tryptophan, an amino acid that, when combined with dark chocolate, provides your brain with the soothing effects of the beloved anti-stress messenger serotonin.

5. Listen to Music, flip Through a Magazine or read a chapter from a super hot romance novel (How convenient: You’ll find several GREAT titles right here on Topdown) Sometimes allowing yourself to be distracted momentarily is a helpful way to refocus in moments where you feel stress building up. By withdrawing your senses from life’s demands and what is troubling you, you can gain control over your attention. Honing in on the music playing in a store or flipping through a magazine while in the checkout line is a great way to relieve whatever might be provoking stress in the moment.

6. Practice these Eight Words That Can Change Your Life: It’s not all that difficult when receiving an invitation or a request to say, “Let me get back to you on that,” then look at your schedule and see if the invite warrants the effort. It’s a great way of managing your time and giving you the space you may need to reflect on the importance of every event you are invited to.

Okay. Wha'da ya think? Can you work with these ideas? Do you see value or benefit in them? I figure they're a good start but surely we can expand the list. How do you combat stress? What’s your ‘go to’ ‘sure fire’ ‘never fails ya’ technique to deal with stress? I want to know. We'd all like to know. And since I'm dealing with yet one more stresser this month (oh, no, another birthday!!!) I'll give away an autographed copy of FEEL THE HEAT (or a book of your choice) to some generous commenter.


Venus Vaughn said...

My go to is a bath.
Nice and hot, with bubble bath, bath salts AND bath oil. Very hot. And a book. And some ice-water on the side.

Then leave me alone for at least 45 minutes.

I try to do it about once a week, and when I forget my mind and body get... odd. Until I figure it out, then I go soak. :)

I wrote a post about how we create our own stress (and let others create it for us) last year.
You might wanna check it out.

Jane said...

If I'm at home I'll put on my favorite comedies(Wedding Crashers, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and The Hangover) and get some laughs. I also treat myself to a cookie or ice cream.

Laurie said...

I'd add get outside for some fresh air and sunshine! I know that you're in the Midwest, Iowa. I grew up in Wisconsin. Take a brisk walk in your yard or neighborhood, try cross country skiing. Get some sunlight inside or out. Vitamin D is essential to how well you feel! Exercise revives you,keeps you from adding on extra weight, firms up your body and stimulates your heart.

Call family of friends when you're feeling blue. Don't feel sorry for yourself! Write down positive thoughts and quotes. Place these quotes around your house.

I agree with your list! I love music, books and chocolate!

I'd also include a bowl of ice cream. It reminds me of the summertime and I love the creamy texture.

I'm definitely going to try the "I'll get back to you." line. I always have a hard time saying NO to people.

KylieBrant said...

I rarely take baths (who has the time?) but everytime I do I think, "Wow why aren't I doing this more?" There's nothing like a nice long soak (with book in hand of course). And we have one of those super old claw foot tubs with tons of room to stretch out. It's heaven.

Other than that...I'm the last to give advice on de-stressing. But if misery loves company, I still haven't de-Christmased my house yet, either.

Tonight after school I'm going to take on a little additional stress and drag my husband to a carpet store amidst his protests that bedrooms with carpet 20 years old don't need replacing. Um, yeah. Calgon take me away....

Michele Hauf said...

Bath, books and music. The perfect de-stressors. And cats.

Cindy Gerard said...

Baths. Check. I need to do that more. A nice long, hot soak.

Walk. Check. I've gotten out of the habit and it's true. Walking releases endorphins and just makes you feel lighter and better.

Funny movies. Check. I actually had a movie day not long ago. it was amazing.

Helen Brenna said...

Get an extra hour or two of sleep one or two nights a week.

I'm a baby and I need my sleep. I can always tell when I'm shorting myself in that area.

Winters already getting to us, isn't it?

Pamela Keener said...

When I am stressed I ask my dog if she wants to go for a walkie. OH my the loving energy I get from her excitement is amazing. I let her run through the field prior to the walk and she runs by my side just looking up at me as if to say Yes this is the life. She will run ahead but not too far and her tail is wagging the whole way.
Love & Hugs,

Jamie Kersten said...

I have a journal where I write the things that are stressing me out on one page, then on the next page I write an equal or greater number of things that I'm thankful for - that always helps me to put things in perspective. I get my venting out of the way first and then end on a positive note.

Cindy Gerard said...

Sleep is key, Helen. We often tend to forget how important it is.

Pamela - 'love energy' Adore taht visual.

Jamie - hadn't thought about journaling for a long time. I like it.

Virginia C said...

Hi, Cindy! You are woman...I hear you roar : )

My number one personal rule: If you'll live!

Don't let the big things overwhelm you and make you give up before you get started. Chip away at the little things one by one, and then when you do tackle the big issues, it won't be so tough.

Think about Gerard Butler's green-eyed Scottish charm.

My New Year's resolution is to eat more chocolate in 2010.

Think about Gerard Butler while eating chocolate : )

Be silly. Dance with your dogs, hang out with your best buds, sing off-key at the top of your voice. Watch "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" and laugh a lot and cry a little.

Do your best to get through today. You can start from scratch tomorrow!

gcwhiskas at aol dot com

amy kennedy said...

Cindy -- perfect timing on this article!

Jaime, great idea with the journal and even better because you write the good things too.

I breathe deeply, and now to help me, I take a deep whiff of one of my essential oils: lavender, lemon, cleary sage -- it's an aromatherapeutical deep breath!

Pamela, if I had a field, or could see one past all this snow, your destresser sounds beautiful.

Helen, I'm all about the sleep too -- I'll take 8 hours please.

amy kennedy said...

Err, I like Virginia's idea too...mmmh Gerard Butler...

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say, I nap when I'm stressed and I'm pretty sure that's not a great way to deal with it!

As much as I'd love to read a chapter of a great romance when I'm stressed, the reality is if the book is wonderful, I have a problem reading JUST a chapter. I love to read.

So when I'm stressed, I get a massage. It helps my tense muscles. Helps my tension headaches. and I've been known to plot a wickedly sensual sex scene while getting massaged.

Cindy Gerard said...

Virginia - Gerard Butler. yum yum. I feel my shoulders relaxing already :o)

Amy - aromatherapy is a great idea. For me, vanilla is a mood leveler.

arkansascyidi - massage. Perfect. I'm calling for an appointment right now!!

Liza said...

My go to stress releaver is to take a nap. Once I've rested for a while, I can look at everything in a better frame of mind. If I can't sleep, I read a hot romance. Get my mind completely off my problems.

LSUReader said...

Great ideas--I especially like 4, 5 and 6. Thanks for sharing.

lois greiman said...

These are great ideas everyone.

I recently read a book that our wee Michele Hauf loaned me. It's called No Impact Man. I highly recommend it. His theory, after a year of living as environmentally friendly as he could, was that our techno world actually makes us more stressed rather than less. We have to work so hard to pay for all the gadgets we don't need and that keep us running too fast to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. I think there's a good deal of truth in that.

Cindy Gerard said...

Liza and LSUReader - you guys are right on target.

Lois - I haven't read that book but I totally agree with the message. I was thinking the other day - my grandchildren are growing up in a world that has NO idea what it's like to live without cell phones, remotes, computers and Nintendos. It's very sad, really. That's why we so love getting them up to our cabin in the woods where they have to interact with nature to entertain themselves.

Sandi said...

Best way to de-stress for me is a Good Book! Preferrably, a new Black Ops book by Cindy Gerard. Can't wait for May!

Virginia said...

My best destresser is reading a good book, calling my sister or taking a long walk on a pretty day. There is nothing better then these things. Ilove a long walk when the sun is shining. Can't wait for spring.


Keri Ford said...

I started telling myself, I'll get to it. Period. I will get to it. I know, it sounds hooky, but hear me out.

I finally learned I had to shrug it off, get in there and think about. I have to remind myself when that stress urge comes on that stress leads to headaches and moodiness and weightgain and everything horrible and terrible about the world and then where will I be? Not only stressed, but feeling like stuff and so worn out and stretched that the work will never get done.

So I just let it go and tell myself, It will get done if you quit using all your energy stressing over something and put that energy into getting that something done.

It's a mind zone thing. And you have FMS, so you need to get in the zone. And I don't mean auto zone.

Terry Odell said...

I am so with you. Trying to sell the house. Have to keep it clean. Have to skedaddle when there's a showing. Get home, and nobody's shown up. Are they late? Not coming at all? Dare I start cooking or do laundry.

Go to recharge my little picture gizmo my kids gave me. Crashes the USB drive on the computer, or something. Internal IT guy (hubster) tries to fix it. Gets most of it going, but keyboard and mouse still not behaving. End up on phone with non-native English speaker help desk. Trying to get out of the house for aforementioned appointment. She wants me to do everything I've already done 3 times. Why does it take so dang long to re-boot a computer?

Manuscript is almost done, but do I try to sub it to small press or start trolling for agents again. New genre, new market. Read blog that says people in my situation are highly unlikely to be picked up by a NY publisher.

And so it goes. Chocolate. Then stress about weight gain.

Watch the news. Feel guilt about being stressed.

Time to go read a book.

Cindy Gerard said...

Sandi - thanks!!

Virginia - spring absolutely makes everything smoother ...

Keri - sounds like you've got it figured out, girlfriend!

Terry - so right. so many things. and then the world news puts things in perspective and the guilt starts in. vicious circle...

catslady said...

Truly reading is the only way I can destress. It's the only thing that keeps the wheels in my head from going round and round. I've had some stresses lately (food poisoning and a cat that passed away to name just a current few) so I read until 3:30 AM last night so I could fall asleep exhausted. Thank goodness for books and authors that write them :)

Debra Dixon said...

Cindy-- Great questions. Let me get back to you on that.

And that made me laugh. So, yeah, these suggestions are working for me.


Christie Ridgway said...

Reading is a great de-stresser for me, too. I have a tendency to use it to avoid writing, though, so it can be double-edged.

I've got to start using my daily walk with dog as de-stresser. I've been instead thinking of it as just one more Thing To Do, now that we have Hank the Pup.

Just loving my pets help me de-stress. Hank is always up for hugs and kisses. Goblin the cat will appear pained by PDA (public displays of affection) but she can't hide her purring.

Cindy Gerard said...

Christie - so true on the pets. Every day they give me several grins and many laughs. I feel very lucky.

Deb - LOL. You've got it nailed girl!

Catslady - bit hugs, sweetie. You have more than enough reason to stress. Hope things settle down for you soon.

Indigo said...

I just finished packing up my Christmas stuff. That alone was causing me undue stress.

How do I deal? I try not to sweat the small stuff. As for the bigger issues it depends on which is weighing heavier on me. There will never be enough hours in a day to get to it all. For me it's a proven fact.

One of the things I practice is rewarding myself. If I accomplish something I needed to do, I reward myself with something I enjoy, time to read or a movie I've been wanting to watch. I even keep expensive truffles around for those days it's harder than most.

At the end of the day no matter what I did or didn't get done, I make sure to read before bed. This single thing helps take my mind off whatever the day held. (Hugs)Indigo

Nutty Mother said...

I, like many others, am feeling your pain! Hubby just got a new position that will have him traveling off and on for 18 months, have 1 kid in Gifted Program, the other just qualified for an IEP and oh yeah...I am still in the unemployment line!

My biggest stress release is baking! It is my comfort action. My son loves it because he gets to take lots of homemade snacks to school :) But I have had to learn to not eat what I bake. It doesn't really improve the waist line!

I also take some books to the tub and do some deep breathing! And if that doesn't work, I will take a nice cup of tea and go sit in the dark for about 30 minutes. No music, no kids, no husband - NOTHING! It is amazing what a little bit of quiet can do for you!

I know how hard it can be to get some time for you but sometimes it is so necessary in order to recharge!

I am sure you will find 1 or 2 things that work perfectly for you!


Cindy Gerard said...

Nutty Mother - So great you get stress relief from baking. BAKING stresses me out. Betty Crocker is definitely NOT in my family tree. Bet there's lots of baking going at your house with all you have happening. Good luck with all!

Great advice, Indigo. I sent my novella into my publisher this afternoon. No I can tackle that 'to do' list that's giving me knots in my shoulders. First thing on the agenda tomorrow - get rid of Christmas. Bah Humbug. Even though I love the holidays, I know I'm going to feel sooo much better when those darn Santas aren't grinning at me any more. :o)

Cindy Gerard said...

Nutty Mother - So great you get stress relief from baking. BAKING stresses me out. Betty Crocker is definitely NOT in my family tree. Bet there's lots of baking going at your house with all you have happening. Good luck with all!

Great advice, Indigo. I sent my novella into my publisher this afternoon. No I can tackle that 'to do' list that's giving me knots in my shoulders. First thing on the agenda tomorrow - get rid of Christmas. Bah Humbug. Even though I love the holidays, I know I'm going to feel sooo much better when those darn Santas aren't grinning at me any more. :o)

mariska said...

I will make a Pan of Brownie, with
lots of chocolate. Well, chocolate usually can ease my Stress.

and i agree with you, Cindy at #2 : smile or laugh always a very good cure :)

joder said...

To destress I put on my iPod and listen to Barry Mannilow's Copacabana and Spice Girls If You Want to Be My Lover and head bang like crazy. Those two songs just put a smile on my face.

Elizabeth (Beth) LaMie said...

Great, practical ideas - thanks! My preferred stress-buster is dark chocolate and staying up late to watch the movie Mamma Mia! with no interruptions. Works like a charm, then I'm refreshed and ready to face the next day.


Anonymous said...

loved reading this posting :)

my stress reliever is a long, hot, bubbly bath...


Dawn said...

Wow, sounds like I destress like many others! I think that must mean I'm on the right track! (At least for me...)

My favorite way to destress is to take a vacation- by way of a great book. A book with strong women, hot men, and a "fast ride"- maybe with the top down! Add in some rich chocolate- preferably with nuts and a really good cup of coffee and my stress begins to melt away. Ahh...


Mitzi H. said...

My MIL taught me a long time ago that there are way to many things that are out of our control...(she would know after raising 7 kids).

Anyways, Her motto is: Oh, Well.

She said that I had to learn how to let it go or I would drive myself crazy....and she was right!!!

I've taken her advice to heart and when things feel so overwhelming I think I can't deal with it....I shrug my shoulders, take a deep breathe and repeat that simple saying....Oh, Well.

After all, the world will not end and everything will continue (with or with out us) and there are only so many things that we can control in our life...the rest is Beyond Our Control and We Must Learn to Live With It!!!

Which is very difficult for me to admit...I'm the type of person that likes (All My Ducks In A Row).

I think your destress ideas are great too. Lord knows, many of us can use all the help we can get!!!

Cindy Gerard said...

Mitzi - I think i love your MIL!

Dawn - you go girl. You've got the right idea!

KarenK - bubble bath has come up too often to be wrong. I'm there.

Beth - Loved Meryl Streef in Mamma Mia!!

And Joder - OMG. Barry Mannilow? CopaCabana? I LOVE that song. Thought I was the only one in the world who did. It's so much fun! Thanks for making me think about it. I feel less stress already :o)

Linda Henderson said...

If I'm stressing out it's usually while I'm at home so I try to get out. I usually call one of my daughters or my sister and we head to Starbucks and then hit every bookstore in town and then sometimes we hit the antique mall. I like digging around in antique stores and we have been known to go to the flea market.

Cindy Gerard said...

Linda - love antiquing too and it's been far too long since I've been. Great idea!

Laney4 said...

I just love reading all the similarities (and a few differences) between the readers. Thanks for offering a great blog topic!

I too enjoy reading an entire book in a hot tub ... and cuddling up in a warm bed with a good book ... and going for a long walk (but not on really cold days) ... and baking brownies (and better yet, EATING brownies) ... and eating my comfort food of Kraft Dinner ... and enjoying some hot chocolate/cocoa, again while reading or watching a good show (like NCIS, where I'm sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time) ... and calling up a girlfriend to chat for a couple of hours. My favourite thing to do, though, is to go on a tube water slide over 2000 miles away from here. I could tube all day! It's just a pity that I'm so far away!

kristan higgins said...

Chocolate? Did I hear chocolate? I find paper bags are helpful too, Cindy...for hyperventilating, that is. A quiet moment can do wonders as well...

David Smith said...

1. Chardonnay
2. Xanex
3. Big bowl of grits
4. Big bowl of mashed potatoes
6. Play Wii games
7. Drink chardonny and play Wii games
8. Big bowl ice cream
9. With chardonnay on it.

(All right, SOMEBODY on this forum has to stand up and salute the serious vices, lol)

deb smith said...

I'm not David Smith, I'm Deb Smith. Can't quite figure out why Google keeps putting Cousin David's name on my stuff. lol

Cindy Gerard said...

Kristin - dear one! Would plastic bags also work??? No??? Well, there's yet another reason to go green :o)

David/Deb - I knew who you were :o) And grits? Hum. That's one I'd have NEVER thought of. Now ice cream and chardonnay - now you're talkin'