The rate at which people in this country are suffering from stress and anxiety has virtually skyrocketed in the past decade.
"Stress" is a term used today more than it has ever been used in the history of our culture. It is as common a description for how someone feels as is "fine."
Has life become that much more difficult today than it was in the past?
We are all aware of, and victims to, the same increasing pace and overwhelming amount of things to accomplish in each day. And many of us are grappling with it, big time.
We seem to have a clear understanding of where the stress comes from in our lives, but the problem is many of us feel there's little we can do to alleviate it.
My first notion is to say that as our lives fill with doings, and goings, when we're organized about it, we seem to fare batter. Interestingly, the organization doesn't actually diminish anything from our day, but feeling well-organized about our chaos does seem to help us feel less stressed.
Several people have described to me the feeling they get as their stress comes on. Most will offer that the overwhelming amount of things they think about takes them to a place of feeling out of control and, thus, the stress comes on.
Our thoughts run not just to the actual tasks that need to be accomplished, but also the things we can't fix or do in one day, such as financial concerns, marital troubles, parenting issues, not to mention what is going on in the world, in the news, in politics, etc.
Besides the obvious medication solutions -- anti-stress and anti-anxiety medications, of which the rate of prescriptions has tripled in the past decade -- the country seems to have found a few physical activities designed to help in the managing of stress.
Yoga, meditation and, of course, working out are the most common attempts to attain good health and stress management.
People report that although fitting these activities into their day can actually add stress, in terms of scheduling them, the result is somewhat effective and comforting.
Others claim to find comfort and relief in more mundane activities such as computer games, television, just vegg-ing out, turning their minds off, and distracting with something else.
Take a Step Back, Reach Outside Yourself
Therapy, religion, counseling, friendships, denial, psychics, astrologists, life coaches, trainers, talk shows, talk radio: They all provide a sense of support in one way or another, but there does not seem to be one single answer for a stress-reduced life.
We are all wired and formed differently, so our best hope is to know ourselves well enough to be able to figure out what works.
Taking a step back to be able to see our lives more clearly can be a huge help, if we can find the time.
Staying organized, saying no to things, learning our capacity, these are all skills that can help encourage easier living.
There is one thing I know can be effective for everyone, no matter how you are wired or who you are.
In speaking with a myriad of people, I have learned that the brain, along with our emotions, can spiral emotionally when overloaded.
What I know to be effective, believe it or not, when thoughts begin to haunt and taunt and you feel there is little to do but live with it, is this: Go anywhere outside your own life and immerse yourself in something for someone else.
Sometimes taking all the consideration off yourself can be the most effective, productive thing you can do. I don't even mean it in a "feed the homeless so you can be grateful for your life" kind of way. I mean, do anything for someone else completely.
Get your mind wrapped around something completely different, from yourself and your worries.
Help someone, call someone you know who is sick and ask if they need something. Take the time you haven't taken, and spend a whole hour with your child, your husband, your mother, anyone you really care about and learn something about them, let the time become a break for whatever it is that's going on for you.
In the middle of your stress? At a time when you don't have time? Yes, that's the point. It can truly be an empowering, mind shifting experience.
It will remind you how incredibly immersed we can become in our own lives, and offer exactly what it is we need, a break from ourselves, and a reminder that nurturing others is a way to nurture ourselves.