I’m amused to learn that National Stress Awareness Day on April 16, the day after tax day, is no coincidence. In fact, it was designed to wake everyone up to the anxiety pangs exercised by everything involved in getting your income taxes to the IRS on time, and the importance of releasing that stress before it does any long-term damage.
Whether you’re actually experiencing IRS-related anxiety or some other brand of it, releasing it should be a priority. Let go of those hot potatoes fast or risk being burned. If you’re not already aware, stress which can be triggered in any number of ways and has the potential to turn your life into a series of crisis-dodging experiences. The good news is, it can all be avoided, and it’s just a matter of attitude.
Sure, some stress is naturally woven into our daily routine and actually helps get work done. But an excess of the kind that impedes your ability to function is an obvious indication that changes must be made.
It’s such a common topic that there are many insightful quotes on the subject. Dr. Wayne Dyer, who recently died at age 75, made an entire career of helping people look at the bright side of life. He said, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
Stress is mighty and versatile and can wreak havoc on your body resulting in headaches, muscle aches and tension, chest pain, depression and anxiety, low energy, mood disorders, anger, loneliness, insomnia, memory loss, lack of focus, poor judgment, TMJ, constant colds, mental strain, nervousness, skin conditions, PTSD, and general body pain.
But just as your mind processes stress and makes you sick, it can also avoid it using a practice called mindfulness, also known as living in the moment, paying attention to your breathing and allowing your thoughts to pass without judgment. Your mind may gravitate toward catastrophic visions and the worst-case scenarios, but being mindful of this tendency is half the battle. The other half is breaking through to the other side of reality. In other words, issues are often much larger and scarier than they appear. If you spend entirely too much time worrying about things, you can also make the choice to acknowledge that most of what we anticipate never actually happens. The rewards of choosing optimism over pessimism are numerous.
Dean Smith, men’s basketball coach, said, “If you treat every situation as a life and death matter, you’ll die a lot of times.”
It’s a choice we make on a moment-to-moment basis.
According to Psych Central, a positive attitude is like medicine with no side effects.
“Some researchers think that pessimism may stress you out, too, boosting levels of destructive stress hormones in your bloodstream,” says Psych Central’s blog called “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Jane Framingham, Ph.D. “Of course, it’s also possible that having a positive attitude toward life makes you more likely to take better care of yourself. And you’re more likely to attract people into your life (and keep them there) — which in and of itself may boost your health.”
Ironically, the recipe for reducing stress is the same as improving your power of positive thinking because they have the same ingredients. Things like deep breathing, dancing, exercising, taking time out for yourself, reading well, journaling, expressing yourself creatively, listening to uplifting music and eating well all help eliminate stress reduction and change your outlook on life.
Following your passion and building your life around your interests, dreams and things that matter most to you also stir up more positive feelings about everything. Life is too short to do what others expect or think we should do. Lee Iacocca, American auto executive, said, “In times of great stress or adversity, it’s always best to keep busy, to plow your anger and your energy into something positive.”