Too stressed to smile

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by Susan Prosser on January 12, 2010

Dear Susan,

I have read a little on how to deal with stress and anxiety – none of it helps me because life never slows down.  There is just never enough time to do some of the things they tell you to do – meditate, journal, yoga and creative activities to name a few.  I feel that life is constantly demanding me to push and work against time to get things done and to meet everyone’s needs.  Consequently I feel rushed, tired and cranky much of the time.  Is there something I am missing?

- Busy

Dear Busy,

I think we are all struggling with your question to some degree as we deal with the demands to produce on one hand and the demands to be zen-like on the other.  It never feels like we are doing it right.

I think one of the keys is to make peace with time.  One way of doing that is to learn to find some joy in whatever we are doing.  For example, when you are running around doing umpteen different things for your family and or work, take a few seconds to remember to be grateful for the people you are looking after.  When my children were young and they would leave all of their school bags and coats in a heap at the front door, before I got upset I would try to imagine what life would be without them and suddenly the mess seemed like more of a gift than a burden.

Or, when driving to and fro with my children, when I had a million other things that seemed to be equally or more important, I would remember that those moments with them in the car would soon be over and that I could cherish them and be grateful for the time I had with them.  (It was true – they grew up way too fast!)

Gratitude changes our brains believe it or not.  We can go from feeling stressed and grumpy to feeling peaceful with a few simple thoughts of gratitude because compassionate thoughts helps us secrete endorphins.  We can remember not to take things for granted – our health, our family members’ health, our Canadian health system – flaws and all, the beauty of our Gatineau Hills, having gas in the tank to get around…the list can be endless and I promise you, the more you practice, the better you will feel – and it doesn’t take time – you can do this while doing just about anything else.

Another way of getting a quick endorphin hit is to smile.  Often when I am thinking, planning, worrying or brooding I can catch myself and simply make myself smile and I instantly feel calmer – try it – you might be pleasantly surprised!

There are other things that we can do without taking time and they have to do with living life more consciously.  We often talk, listen, hug, and kiss without really registering the contact.  It doesn’t take any more time to register that contact.  Enjoy the hug – make it 60 seconds and 20 seconds for a kiss and you will have more fun.  When someone speaks to you, force yourself to make eye contact.  Not only will you appreciate the connection more but you will listen better and the person you are speaking with will listen as well.  It is a wonderful way to gain more cooperation from the children!

Busyness is a habit that makes us race harder and faster.  We have to decide to slow down and force ourselves to do it.  That may sound odd but when we have trained ourselves to go high speed it feels uncomfortable to slow down and we start believing that we won’t have time to finish what we are doing.  In fact, when we slow down a bit we make fewer mistakes and we can actually enjoy what we are doing.  There are many books being written now about this subject.   It is something we all need to pay attention to in order to be healthier.

So, how about making a New Year’s Resolution to slow down, just a bit and enjoy life just a bit more!  We have the ideal environment to do so – we are blessed.  Happy New Year to all of you!

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