Life is hard. I just lost my grandmother, the other day. January 13th, 2:52 AM, 2017. It’s one of those things that you know will inevitably come, but it’s also one of those things you didn’t expect to happen so soon. I love my grandmother. Whether or not I have her physical presence, I will always have our memories together and the lessons she taught me. I am sad. I’m going to be sad for a very long time. There are a lot of things in life that you can never really truly recover from. However, even if you aren’t ready to do so, life goes on.
Handling stress and adversity
Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes life is very hard. Sometimes life seems impossible. Sometimes you listen to a stranger tell you his or her life story and you wonder how they could have possibly survived it.
Truth is, you don’t really appreciate how strong you really are until you have to be that strong. You don’t know how resilient and flexible you can be until you feel like you are stretched to your limit and are about to break, except you don’t. You bend more. And you survive. And you tell your story to someone and you impress them with how strong you really are.
I had a stressful situation in 2011. It almost broke me. My retired dad has a very serious brain injury from a stupid and simple accident that happened at his home. However, this post isn’t about home safety. I’m also not here to tell you how to overcome a Traumatic Brain Injury. I’m here to tell you how not to break when you feel like at your absolute worst.
When something terrible happens, your first reaction is to cry and try to find blame. You blame anyone and anything. “If only my parents hadn’t put that stupid coffee table there, this wouldn’t have happened!” Or, “if the builder had put down softer flooring or there was carpet, or the lightbulb didn’t need changing!” Yes, I seriously had those thoughts. This is normal. But then what? You have to at some point move on from blame and start dealing, right?
First step is to take care of yourself. If you are caring for someone else, this will be difficult because your entire world will seem to be consumed by them. In most adversity, it may feel like an impossible task to carve out some time where you are taking care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself can be as simple as:
Listening to your favorite songs while driving or working
Listening to comedy or watching funny movie outtakes or moments.
Eating a favorite snack
Looking at pictures of things that used to make you happy
Watching funny YouTube videos (my favorite are cat videos)
Watching your favorite movies (once you are able to fully watch a movie. It’s hard when your stress is new and all you seem to do is think about the stress. Watching something for a long time may be difficult)
Doing these easy things can lift your mood. When you lift your mood, you feel happier, you feel more confident, and you will feel less stress.
Once you have decided to take care of you with those small steps, you can start incorporating other stress reducing practices into your routine. Here are some of those ideas:
Finding a new hobby
Meditation can seem silly or useless to someone who hasn’t done it before. It’s completely okay to think so, and it’s also completely okay to not like it once you try it. If you are interested in trying to meditate here are some helpful tips.
Start with a guided meditation. Trying to sit with your own thoughts in a quiet room will be very hard and your mind will race. This is exactly what you are trying to avoid. Guided meditations will teach you to focus on something else other than your own mind. There are couple of good apps that you can try for free and provide meditation practice for beginners. Those are Headspace and Calm and are available for both Apple and Android.
Additionally there a number of videos on YouTube you can try for free.
Exercise is another good stress releaser. I like it because just as meditation, it makes you focus on something other than your problem for the time being. The benefits to exercise are of course better health! Start slow, especially if you haven’t worked in a long time.
Walking is a good way to get you moving. Get your headphones, put on your favorite Pandora station and walk. Lose yourself in the moment. Enjoy the walk. Feel the pavement, feel your feet move against the ground. Feel how your breath changes. Pay attention to you, if only for 10 minutes.
Find a new hobby. Or go back to an old hobby you once abandoned. Di d you used to like sewing? Make yourself an apron or make one for your neighbor. Did you used to like to work with wood? Make a birdhouse. You can now even pick up a birdhouse kit at a craft store. Maybe you used to like jigsaw puzzles? Why not browse the toy section of your local department store and see what kind of beautiful jigsaw puzzles are available.
Managing stress and adversity isn’t easy at first, but once you decide to manage the stress instead of the stress managing you, it becomes easier.
These are just some of the things that worked for me. I wish you luck on your journey to successful stress management.
–Your Fairy Godmother, Anna