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take a deep breath: how to calm down in the midst of stress

Gotta write a paper. Gotta get to practice. Gotta clean that mess. Gotta do the laundry. Gotta change another diaper. Gotta get to work, then go home and work some more. Would like to do something fun...eventually. That feeling of weight on your shoulders! The tension headaches! Wondering how in the world you are going to get everything done! Whether fourteen or forty-four, a common American characteristic is STRESS! I find it shocking that I have children in elementary school come to my office for counseling on how to handle stress! think we all need to slow down but that is another topic for another day :)

Speaking of stress, both my girls have been crying all day! One is teething and the other one is, well, a toddler! I just want a few moments of quiet this afternoon! Wherever you are, I know you are not immune to crazy days either, so I want to give a few ideas on how to handle stress from everyday life. I use these myself, as well as many of my clients who come looking for helpful suggestions. It is often referred to as "self care." It is vital to take care of yourself for your own health and also to benefit those around you. You cannot be effective if you are not healthy.

Rest - I know, I know! It is hard to get the 7 to 9 recommended hours. I find that after the girls go to bed is the only real quiet time I have during the day so it is tempting to get into a project or try to finish a few more chores late at night. I have to set a time that I quit and do something relaxing like watching tv before bed. Remember to get away from cell phones, ipads, and the like at least an hour before bed, as they can keep your brain awake!

Breathe - Even children in school who feel anxious when taking tests benefit from breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds and hold for four seconds, then exhale for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds. After a few rounds of breathing this way, the stress should slowly lessen. Go ahead, try it! It may feel silly but it really works to relax.

List - If there are tasks to be accomplished the next day, it may be difficult to try to remember them all, which causes even more stress on top of the tasks themselves. Before you go to sleep, make a list of tasks to complete the next day. Also, let go of any feelings of failure if you fail to complete each one. Prioritize what has to be done first, then work your way to ones that can wait.

Exercise - Get some sort of physical activity in for thirty minutes 3 to 5 times per week. If you are a teenager, enjoy those extracurricular sports. For you moms out there, strap the babies on a stroller and take your children for a walk around the block. Identify all the nature you can find, and talk about how God created this world beautifully. Even if you cannot get thirty minutes in at one time, break it up into 3 ten-minute sets.

One Touch - It is easy to feel overwhelmed when your home and/or work space is cluttered. We have a one-touch rule at our house (well, most of the time). Whatever we touch, we immediately put it back where it belongs. If we bring it inside, it automatically gets put away. This saves an exorbitant amount of time, since it gets put away plus saves the added stress of having to remember to put something away that was simply thrown down to be put away later.

Daily Chore List - Create a list of chores or daily responsibilities for each day of the week. These are helpful for adults as well as children! I may be a mom but I still like charts and stickers :) This way, tasks are evenly distributed so they do not become a daunting load all at once. This creates a more calm environment so you know exactly what will be accomplished and it will only take a few minutes. Also, the organization should help avoid stress from trying to do it all in one day.

Watch People - Be careful you put up healthy boundaries and say no when necessary. Watch that you do not overcommit or allow people to pressure you into more than you can handle. It is perfectly fine to say no. In fact, it is a vital word to learn in life! With honest communication and letting people know you simply cannot commit to another task, most will understand. Those who do not are responsible for how they handle your response - you are not responsible so take that burden off your shoulders too! Boundaries are essential and definitely a topic for another blog!

Fun - Try to find one bit of fun just for yourself throughout the day. It might be a bit of retail therapy such as getting your nails done or buying a fun piece of jewelry but it does not have to cost money either. I often make some coffee with my favorite flavoring as a treat or work on a fun decorating project for the house. Take a hot bath, light sweet smelling candles around the house, listen to fun music. Whatever makes the day special, go for it!

Quiet Time - By quiet time, I mean a few minutes spent alone with God Himself. I have heard that when you think you do not have time for quiet time with God, that you do not have time not to. We need Him every moment of every day, especially when we are making decisions or going through difficult circumstances. He can slow our minds and remind us that at the end of the day, he is in control and has us in His arms.

One of my favorite verses is "He holds the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart (Isaiah 40:11). Let Him carry you today whether you are enjoying a fabulous day or feeling pressure from life. Let Him restore you and give you rest, my dear friends.



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