This past summer was one of the most stressful I’ve ever experienced. We had moved from Okinawa Japan back to my home state of Massachusetts. We arrived with nothing but a few suitcases, the clothes we were wearing and a few boxes I had shipped home.
And so began weeks of: getting cell phones, cars, insurance, registration, re-introducing the girls to family they hadn’t seen in 4 years or in some cases ever met, house hunting, work, etc…all while caring for 3 small children and trying to let them not notice how stressed we were getting as the weeks ticked by. Each week more busy than the previous.
2 weeks before the start of school and we still didn’t have a house, our belongings or the girls registered in school. For a mom, my world was falling apart around me, and I was no longer doing a good job of keeping things together.
My workouts were suffering because I was so tired from staying up late trying to find us a home. I had a quick temper to hide the tears that were just beneath the surface bursting to break through.
My heart beat was racing. My skin was breaking out. I had no appetite. I was depressed and had lost hope, and at my lowest, my faith. It was one of the hardest times of my life.
We eventually found a home to rent. Registered the girls into a fabulous school and I thought the hectic schedule would end….but it didn’t.
The summer schedule was replaced with fall sports, school activities, getting the house set up, cable and internet installations, finding doctors, etc. Then on came Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and birthdays.
I soon came to realize that the stress, the busyness, wasn’t going to go away. This was our new normal. So either I had to change how I was dealing with it or it would continue to negatively impact my health.
Stress can be both positive and negative.
It can positively spur us to action. To stop a child from running into the street. To take a new job. To run a race.
In small, short doses, stress can be useful. Pushing us beyond what we had once thought we were capable of doing or being.
It can also negatively impact our health if it becomes a daily habit. One that occupies every minute of our day, courses through our blood, increasing our heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, tensing our muscles. All of this killing us, little by little, every day.
So how, then, do we use stress to our advantage?
- Don’t Try to Eliminate Stress. It will only make you stress MORE! And its an impossible task. Instead, be aware of the stressors in your life. The ones you can do something about (like the dirty dishes in the sink) and the ones you can’t (like being sick on the day of your big presentation).
- Let Go of the Stressors You Can’t Change. Yup…easier said than done. For me, its that whiny voice my children use when they’re tired and don’t want to do something I asked them to do. Its like nails on a chalk board. I can’t stop them from using the voice….but…..
- Change the Things You Have Control Over. Like the way I respond to those whiny voices.
- Find One Way to Reduce The Stress. It may be exercise, yoga, meditation, reading, journaling, deep breathing exercises. The key is to have it be something that relaxes you AND can easily fit into your schedule. After all, if it doesn’t, it will just become ANOTHER thing for you to stress over! Eeeck!!!
- Celebrate the Small Victories Along the Way. When times are tough, like they were for me last summer, its easy to get lost in believing EVERYTHING is hard. When you celebrate the small victories, like getting in all your workouts this week, you start to see all that you can achieve and then see more possibilities.
Stress will always be a part of our lives. But finding ways to LIVE WITH it, is what will stop making you a slave to the stress and instead, keep you Healthier and Happier!