When I started thinking about stress, I thought that perhaps I was giving it too broad a definition—so I turned to the dictionary. Turned out I was right: there are all sorts of negative emotions under the stress umbrella: worry, fear, anxiety, panic, apprehension, consternation, dismay, trepidation—you get the picture.

A different definition of stress deals with mechanics: “The action on a body of any system of balanced forces whereby strain or deformation result.” Well, if it makes sense for buildings, airplanes and bridges to malfunction when stressed, the same must be true for us humans.

It’s safe to say that we’re going to experience at least one aspect of stress in our lives fairly frequently. Since we aim to have healthy and contented lives, we need to have at our disposal an array of positive emotions and actions to deal with anything that might cause us to malfunction.

One method that I use is pretty simple—distraction. In fact, I used this method this morning after I received an unexpected, early morning call to come into work. My mind had to reset its rhythms—and I experienced tension, panic and anxiety because of the pressure to get to a place on time. As I was driving—and getting frustrated and impatient with the traffic, I shifted my eyes away from the highway with its ugly cars, trucks and concrete and looked at the trees and hills in the distance. Letting colours and shapes come in and take hold, I instantly felt calm and at peace—realizing that getting my emotional knickers in a knot wasn’t going to make traffic disappear, nor get me to my destination any sooner. Inhale, exhale, ahhhh.

A second approach is doing a routine of either yoga and strength exercising, or a cardio workout—which result in the obvious mental and physical benefits. Exercising equips my mind and body to be able to face the different aspects of stress with confidence and strength.

Sorting out my nest is a third way I deal with stress. Rearranging the furniture, producing or hanging artwork, tidying closets, eliminating clutter—any endeavour to create a pleasant environment helps me enjoy my living space. We all need a refuge, a place of sanctuary where we can feel calm, safe, secure and even invigorated. We all need to find the different fuels that keep us powered up to deal with the various obstacles and craziness that we encounter on a regular basis.

[Img.Src: Bridge, Elephant]

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