Last Updated Oct 3, 2011 11:42 PM EDT
Would you like to hear a story about my broken heart? It's a sad tale, but one with several important lessons that will help you decrease the stress you feel, increase the peace and satisfaction you experience, and help you live a better life. Let me take you back a couple of weeks...
As you know, I'm a big believer in investing the other 8 hours -- the time I'm not sleeping or working -- in creating a better life. Lately this has involved finishing my master's degree in psychology at night, reading, exercising, interviewing experts for Richer Life, raising money and hosting events for my non-profit, the Band of Brothers Foundation, and a multitude of other rewarding activities in addition to playing princess and reading Fancy Nancy with my six year-old daughter. Over the last couple of months, things have been particularly stressful, so I've increased my workouts and green protein shakes to help compensate. Apparently, this hasn't been enough.
A couple of times a month at my gym they bring in outside vendors such as massage therapists and nutrition experts to share their services with members. About a week ago I saw an offer for a "Free Heart Test" that I couldn't pass up. The heart test was an echocardiogram, which provides diagnostic information based of the echoes of the ultrasound waves.
Turns out I have a broken heart . . . the echocardiogram revealed that I am under a great deal of stress and that this stress is having a physiological affect on my body -- or more accurately -- my heart! While the doctor said I wasn't going to die from this, he encouraged me to do something about it.
This was a huge wake up call for me. I've studied the affects the mind can have on the body, so this shouldn't have come as a surprise, but it really hit home when my young daughter, who was watching the whole thing, asked "Are you okay Daddy?" Yes, Daddy (and you!) will be just fine if I follow these six anti-stress tips:
1. Exercise. Regular exercise can help your brain better deal with stress. Contrary to popular opinion, research shows it's probably not the release of endorphins that's responsible for our mental boost, but the release of norepinephrine, which helps the body cope with stress. Whatever the cause, exercise can do wonders to overcome stress and prevent stress. Ideally you'd be able to do some kind of daily exercise -- even a short 20 minute walk would be beneficial.
2. Meditation. Tap into your inner monk. Meditation can take many forms. Simply doing light stretching, deep breathing, Yoga, or Tai Chi can help. Or if you want to get into a deeper level of relaxation, you can listen to a guided meditation program.
3. Take a break. If a work project or the kids are driving you crazy, take a break. If you try to power through the frustration it will only leave you more stressed. Sometimes taking a break and doing something completely different can help.
4. Go outside. Changing your surroundings can help reduce your stress. Have lunch outside. Instead of doing the conference call from your desk, do it while taking a walk outside. Read that report in the shade. There's something magical that happens when we are outside that just doesn't happen under the glow of fluorescent lights.
5. Take deep breaths. This one is so simple and so effective, it's a shame more of us don't breathe to reduce stress. Create triggers throughout the day to remind you to do this such as every time you make a phone call, stop at a red light, eat, take a drink, go to the bathroom, etc.
6. Plan a vacation. Times are tough and money is tight -- did you notice that I didn't suggest taking a vacation? Don't feel badly if you can't afford a vacation. Planning a vacation can give you a mental boost even if you can't afford to go on one, and if it makes you feel better, research shows that the happiness you get from actually going on a vacation wears off much faster than you think (about two weeks). Sit down and dream a little. Plan a trip -- whether it's a month from now or two years from now -- but start thinking about it.
I can't wait to implement these stress reduction tips! I've got it all planned and scheduled. I'm going to create a website community around this right after I write an ebook and record a video series on how to fight stress . . . woops . . . there I go again. Maybe I'll just start by taking a few deep breaths.
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