Stress is a killer in our society. Between work, home, school, finances, environment influences and our own thoughts, stress is influencing us on all levels. But it is important to remember that stress is not really the problem. Rather, it is our reaction to that stress. And this reaction can be controlled. While stress can be challenging to manage, it is far easier to navigate when approached together as a family.
Stress seems to be worse when we “stuff” our feelings and emotions about an issue. If we can find healthy ways to express our feelings with a friend, family member, teacher or clergy-person, stress will have less of an impact on us. Share your concerns with individuals you trust. They might not even have a solution, but knowing that someone hears you can make all the difference in how we handle our stress.
When we exercise, we boost the feel-good hormones in the brain. Studies show that exercise can help with physical symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Individuals also tend to be in the present moment during exercise, especially with sports that require intense concentration, such as dance, tennis, trapeze and boxing.
It does not make you less of a person to seek counseling or advice from a professional. There are people trained to help you make sense of your life. You do not have to go it alone.
The good thing about approaching stress as a family is you can hold people to the plan. For example, if you know family members are trying to work on controlling negative comments about their weight or finances, and they go back to the negative script, you can gently remind them that they are being negative. While you want to be gentle, sometimes we don’t even know we have these patterns until someone else points them out.
Being mindful takes practice. It is something that will get easier the more you do it. Pick one activity a week that you all practice mindfully. Maybe it is gardening, brushing teeth, doing the dishes or eating dinner. Do this fully, awarely and staying in the present moment. Encouraging others can keep you all on track.
Traditional meditation is difficult. To still the body and quiet the mind takes a lot of practice. But there is something called a mini meditation that is easy for adults and teens. To do this, concentrate on your breath. On the inhale, think “I am” and on the exhale, think, “at peace.” Repeat this over and over. This is simple and effective at controlling the stress response.
Our brain doesn’t recognize the difference between what we are thinking and fantasizing about--and what is really happening. So, if we relive negative events over and over or dwell on negative thoughts, we will create another physiological stress response. Use affirmations to change the negative to positive. Say, “I am healthy and well.” As opposed to, “I’m not getting sick, I hope I don’t get sick.”
Our mind is incredibly powerful and what we think about can change our bodies. Visualization for stress relief is incredibly powerful. We can imagine ourselves in a relaxing environment, visualize our immune system growing strong, heal wounds quicker and lower our blood pressure.
In a family dynamic, it can be tempting to throw failures or confessions back in one another’s face to get the upper hand. If someone in the family confides in you about stressors or emotions, keep it respectfully to yourself. Using that against them later will just push a further void between you. If something was told to you in trust, hang onto that trust.
Keeping your stress response at bay is not an overnight process. And just when you think you have it down, a different sort of stress will show up. But it gets easier every time. Don’t give up. Instead, persevere. You can do it.
Stress can be quite difficult to manage, but is easier when approached as a family. Using easy techniques, such as affirmations, visualizing and mindfulness, you will find success in your stress management.
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