Psychologically Speaking: Quick fixes in times of stress

While we seem to have many gadgets around to supposedly make our lives easier and more stress free than our parents and grandparents had, in truth, much of the stress we bring on ourselves.

stressed out 88 (photo credit: )
stressed out 88
(photo credit: )
I found myself with just 30 minutes to grab lunch, prepare dinner for the family and return calls in an already much too busy day. As I drained the last bit of steaming water from the pasta, I brought the deliciously hot pot to my face. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply. Three slow deep breaths. I imagined a wonderful facial and massage in my make-believe vacation spa. The sun was shining and it was nice and warm. The warm moisture from the pot felt great and I was completely relaxed. Slowly and sadly, I opened my eyes, washed the pot, put the pasta away, returned several phone calls, checked my e-mail quickly and returned for another 5 hours in the office. It was a great vacation, albeit far too short. For the moment, it would have to do. We all live with various levels of stress in our lives. While we seem to have many gadgets around to supposedly make our lives much easier and more stress free than our parents and grandparents had, in truth, much of the stress we bring on ourselves. These very tools designed to make life easier cause increased stress and strain. We've inadvertently brought it on ourselves and have created our very own pressure cooker. Time controls us and we forget to appreciate the small things in life. We all need those mini-vacations, be they 10 minutes, 10 hours or 10 days. Here are 10 quick suggestions for making the most out of life when your load seems just a bit too heavy. * Stop whatever you are doing, sit down and practice relaxation for 10 minutes. It's easy. All you have to do is visualize a relaxing scene, close your eyes, breathe evenly and starting with your feet and working your way up to your face, practice making each part of your body feel relaxed and loose. If you practice daily, I promise you, this works. * Pick a time each evening, make yourself a nice cup of hot tea (preferably herbal) or hot chocolate and sit with someone you love (hopefully in person, but by telephone or virtually will work if you are really stuck). Ask that person all about their day. All you have to do is listen. Say "tell me more" when they finish and enjoy just being there for someone. * For an entire 24-hour period focus on the positive. Tell the children you appreciate something special they did, look in the mirror and pat yourself on the back for something nice about yourself and with every conversation, focus on seeing the glass half full and not half empty. * Look at your life and see if it is devoid of humor. Take note of the last time that you really laughed. If you can't honestly remember, then you are taking life far too seriously and you need to find a way to lighten up before it is too late. * Find time to get away. Every relationship needs time for refueling-be it with our partners or our children. Set aside a time for a "date" and make sure that you make the time to follow through. If you wait for a better time, it just won't happen. Life is precious. Don't lose the moment. * De-stress. Take a relaxing bath, go for a walk or read a good book. Turn off the computer, the cell phone, the television and spend some time with yourself just appreciating the moment. This is much harder to do than it sounds but being comfortable with yourself helps you feel good about yourself and your everyday choices in your life. * Think for a moment about how you can improve your life. Do you need to develop better eating habits, go to bed earlier, sleep less, exercise more, get out, stay home, work less, talk to your partner more? Pick one of these things and make a plan to begin to work on it. Make sure this plan is realistic and focus on an easily obtainable goal. Start small and ensure success. * Unclutter your life. Look around you and see what can easily go. Whether it is excess paper or "things," e-mail that has not been deleted in 6 months or clothes that would get more wearing if given to someone else who could use them more, downsize and recognize that cleaning out "your mess" cleans out the "stuff" in your head as well. * Find a way to do something nice for someone else. This can be something as small as finding a way to say thank you. By opening your heart to someone else, you'll feel better about yourself. * Write down three things about your life that are special. Now, stop for a moment, look around you and appreciate everything you have in your life. Life is short. There are no guarantees about what tomorrow will bring. You have a choice. You can savor the moment, grab it and make the best of it or you can stress out and let life pass you by. Given a choice, I'd certainly pick the former. Good luck. The writer is a licensed clinical psychologist in Ra'anana. This column offers general psychological advice and is not intended to replace treatment by a mental health professional.