Over the years, I’ve looked for available and affordable ways to help manage my stress and anxiety levels, especially when our darling fourth child, Heidi Ann, was born with Down syndrome, and then a few years later, became dual-diagnosed with autism. Life was crazy. With never-ending worries, constant physical fatigue, concern over finances, extra obligations, and emotional heart-aches for my family, we bravely smiled and faced the storms of life. Today, I’m very grateful we’re all alive, stable, healthy, and happily engaged in life. (Experts tell me, this successful scenario is rare.)
If you love someone with health problems, a syndrome, or special needs, you’ve probably already experienced some heavy storms. Perhaps you’ve been drenched to the skin and don’t know how to protect your loved ones from this challenging, yet very rewarding realm.
I offer practical, tried-and-true concepts to build a symbolic, but sturdy, umbrella of support with universal “stress-busting” concepts to help protect you from light rain sprinkles, to the serious lightning-and-thunder storms of this life.
In today’s hectic society, there’s a ton of opportunities and obligations yet we need to strive for balance of mind, body and spirit. The four legs of my chair are mental, physical, spiritual and social — and if I really pursue one area while neglecting others, I get pretty wobbly.
Like the colorful sections of a large Umbrella, my acronym S.T.R.E.S.S.E.D. uses eight vital concepts:
- S– SIMPLIFY ~ Please simplify wherever you realistically can, such as buying machine washable clothing, and analyzing each family member’s schedule. Remember, while each of us may have great opportunities, we can’t blindly “go for the gold.” Believe me, that golden road leads to Burn-out City. Carefully ponder and decide which activities your unique family can truly handle. Countless neuro-typical teenagers are caving in to negative behaviors because they’re overscheduled by well-intentioned parents. (I know most parents feel that our “normal” kids need extra activities, friends, and achievements – because of the many sacrifices they make for their sibling with special-needs.) Please use careful consideration. Another simplifying technique is de-cluttering your house/car/workplace consistently. This helps diminish the stress of misplaced items and the dizzying visual stimulus. (Most of us can create more peace and order in our homes with less shopping for “stuff” too.)
- T– TALK ~ T stands for talking about what is worrying or bugging you. Communication truly helps defuse your stressors, yet, let’s remember to speak about issues without them turning into a gripe session or pity party. Also, please use a normal volume and pleasant tone when speaking with others. Discuss what can be improved, delegated or dropped. It’s good to know people can also use professional counselors for complex issues if needed. (Most churches/schools/community centers offer therapy with minimal or no expense). However, even a notebook, journal or blogging group often helps. Putting situations into words creates clarity. There’s nothing like a sincere face-to-face conversation, yet some people like emails, where content is more carefully worded. Remember that an occasional cry also releases stress. (Yes, guys, that means you, too.) To help minimize stress in our home when our girls were younger, one family rule was no name-calling, yelling or swearing. This helped lower everyone’s anxiety level.
- R– RECOMMIT ~ Recommitting to your priorities is a biggie. When important aspects are back in line, you feel more peace – no matter what evolves. So, get back on track as best you can, and genuinely work on priorities. Perhaps your marriage needs strengthening, so commit to a weekly “couples date.” For many, their goals are curbing their spending impulses, and recommitting to better health habits.
- E– EXERCISE ~ This is a phenomenal natural stress-buster. Remember to actually sweat, because perspiration naturally expel chemicals/toxins accumulated from this modern era. You don’t need to a gym or fancy spa, simply walking briskly is an excellent way to get fresh air, get your blood pumping, and receive vital oxygen to your brain. I’ve found having an exercise partner helps me stay accountable.
- S– SLEEP MORE ~ Statistics indicate 96 percent of Americans are not getting enough sleep – especially children. Our bodies and nerves heal when we’re asleep. If you’re under a lot of stress (and who isn’t) sleep is vital, and naps help “sharpen the saw.” Remember, the sleep before midnight is the most beneficial. Let’s do this!
- S– SOLITUDE ~ Peace and quiet is something very important, but rare. Please schedule or find time every day, to really relax and listen to the whisperings of your soul. When growing up, I found solace around our animals. Today, I love simply sitting in the sunshine, because it soothes, recharges and gives free vitamin D. However, I need to turn off media and “tune-in higher frequencies.”
- E– EAT HEALTHY ~ It’s easy to grab junk food or fast food. But, remember, “You are what you eat.” To be happy, healthy, and able to endure the long-term, we all need various fresh veggies, proteins and high quality vitamins/minerals/supplements. Think about it, Americans eat white bread, white sugar, white potatoes, white rice, white dairy and white shortening. Nutritionists recommend we turn from a white diet to color-rich foods. I really like healthy frozen berry/greens smoothies or juicing raw fruits and vegetables to increase nourishment.
- D– DEITY ~ Whether you are into religion, yoga/meditation, or just giving gratitude for what you have, take time out in your day to give thanks for the positive attributes in your life.
Sometimes I wish everyone had easy-breezy blue skies and fluffy clouds, but an Arabic proverb reminds me that ‘Too much sunshine creates sunburn and deserts.’ Hopefully, we can grow through our challenges, just like grass and trees grow more strong, beautiful, and potentially productive from rain and snowfall.
Together, we’ll be weathering the storms, figuring out things, doing what works, and embracing the joys. Remember, keep your chin up, looking for rainbows. They’re there.
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