Are You Stressed?
By Tamara Joy Patterson January 16, 2013

I picked up an O Magazine at the market the other day. Who doesn't love Oprah's Favorite Things List? As I perused the cover I realized that she had included a list of " ways to relax" inside the magazine, and as I looked up, I realized that almost every single December issue of a magazine displayed before me had some sort of article touting the relief from holiday stress.

Stress is something that most of us know a little bit about, but when is it too much? Sometimes we do not know when we need to take steps to regain balance because everyone around us seems to be more stressed than we are. Enjoy taking the stress questionnaire adapted from Dr. Shawn Talbott's book, The Cortisol Connection, below to find out if you are in fact negatively affected by stress.

Begin by printing this STRESS TEST FORM then when complete, please read the article below.

What was your score? Hopefully you are as cool as a cucumber. If you are alarmed at the number you tallied, then read on as we will discuss options to help you regain balance. In the meantime, take some deep belly breaths amidst your tense moments, and daydream of your holiday wishes coming true.

As you reviewed your results from the Stress Questionnaire in Part I, I hope that you had an extremely low number that made you feel proud, and not a number that made you fall out of your chair.

Being in the field of health and wellness for a good part of my life has allowed me to realize that most Americans (even those who are considered " healthy" ) are juggling more stress points than they can handle. In time this out of balance teeter totter begins to display itself as high blood pressure, regular headaches, achy joints, or other common ailments.

As you begin this 2013, allow yourself a few moments to cultivate a wellness plan including stress reduction in areas that are appropriate for you. There is a common quote about knowing what you can and cannot change and this is the first item to tackle as you look at your life.

There are stressors that you cannot change such as: the death of a loved one, a medical diagnosis or illness, loss of a job in a tough economy, or the end of a relationship. These are stressors that can be debilitating, to say the least. Often, just trying to wake up in the morning and plastering a smile on your face is the best you can do to function. Beautiful people accept what they cannot change and take steps to find positivity and avenues to filter the emotional roller coaster that ensues.

On the other hand, there are many stresses that you DO have control over: busy schedules, poor eating habits, watching negative images on your computer or TV, poor lifestyle habits such as excessive drinking or smoking, or negative thinking, to name a few.

Your physical body reacts to a negative image or thought in the same way it would if you were actually experiencing impending doom. For example, many of us watch shows before bed about crime scenes and criminals. If a scientist were to look at your brain waves and take your vitals while you watch these, you would have similar stress related responses as if you were actually in your TV experiencing these crimes in real life.

Keep the above in mind when you look at the suggestions to follow.

You must first begin by giving yourself permission to authentically release poisonous emotions that may want to fester, and then try one or two of the suggestions below to keep a positive and hopeful outlook on your journey into a balanced 2013.

  1. Take time to sit with your thoughts and feelings. When calming your nerves and sitting in silence we can hear our heart. This is often a great place to start observing how we are truly feeling. If you feel anger or sadness, take action to release it in a healthy way. Sometimes when clients are silent in a safe place with me I will encourage them to emote in the way that they need without judgment. This proves to be quite cathartic. Tears are allowed. Punching a pillow is a great idea.

  2. Exercise. Find a way to move your body that is fun and that leaves you feeling refreshed. The hormonal affects of exercise are great anecdotes to stress. 30-60 minutes, 3-5 days per week is the recommended dose. Exercise does not need to be painful or strenuous. You should enjoy it!

  3. Create positive affirmations for yourself. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, create a safe place where you can affirm something like, " I am peaceful" . It's OK for me to relax. I expect the best to happen.

  4. Nix the guilt. Look over your schedule and ask yourself, " What can I say NO to?" Often we feel stressed when we are trying to please everyone else. Many of our " to dos" CAN wait.

  5. Listen to your favorite music, and by all means, sing along ...with fervor.

  6. Use Heart Healing Posture. I have mentioned this in past articles. The act of sitting and crossing your wrists and ankles while thinking about a stressor will allow your brain to balance the perceived stress and will calm your nerves.

  7. BREATHE. Calm your breathing. Tell it to slow down.

  8. Try a relaxing tea to induce the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous response in your body.

  9. Learn about meditation. Meditation is about LISTENING to your heart.

  10. Pray outloud.

  11. Eat well. Regular meals 3-4 hours apart in balanced quantities will keep your pancreas happy and your mind alert.

  12. Touch someone. A pat on the back. A hug. A smooch. Enjoy your partner, and allow yourself to feel loved. We are created for connection.

  13. Add to this list. Where are you when you feel the most peace? Who are you with? Cultivate these moments as much as possible.

I wish you all a happy and peaceful 2013!