• Madhura

Break that Stress

Hello my dear friend, welcome to yet another episode of Morning Cup of Sunshine or welcome back if you are tuning in for the first time. Wish you a very very Happy Diwali to all my friends in India or to those who are spread across the continents but still celebrate Diwali. It is a festival of light, it brings joy, happiness into our life. I absolutely love Diwali for what it stands for. I love all the preparation, yummy food, cleaning the house beforehand, firecrackers and seeing all the loved ones. I truly miss the real Diwali celebration which we use to have back in India. But, we humans, we try to adapt to any given situation, so we also try to celebrate Diwali with the same enthusiasm here in the USA.

Happy Moment of the week

My happy moment this week was definitely not one moment, but the entire week. I had a busy week in the office and then right after my office hours, I was preparing diwali snacks the entire week. One snack a day. Then on the weekend, we celebrate Diwali with friends and family. Everyday, I realized, I am creating so many memories. I want to cherish all those small moments. We gathered together as a family, had snacks. We dressed up, celebrated all the festivities. It was a fun week. I am super thankful for all those who are in my life and make everyday worth living. This entire Diwali week, was a happy week for me. What about you my friends? I am sure you are having a great week. What did you do? Do you celebrate Diwali? I know, we are approaching holiday season, with Thanksgiving right around the corner and then Christmas. We all have a reason to celebrate, especially with the tough year we had. I am definitely looking forward to all the holiday season, I am ready to turn a new leaf with the new year. Let’s hope the new year will bring health, joy and happiness in the world. So let’s be happy and try to find the small moments that bring you joy. Share your happy moment of the week, in our weekly post for happy moments on Morning Cup of Sunshine community. I love reading your happy moments, so keep them coming as usual. 

Alright, time to dive in straight into today’s topic. Break that stress. Stress is a state of mind, where we experience tension, worries and even anxieties. It is our reaction to the situations of life. It is your body’s response to changes in your life. Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A small amount of stress can be good. It motivates you to perform well. Your brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones that increase your heart rate and raise your blood pressure. This "fight-or-flight" response fuels you to deal with the threat. Once the threat is gone, your body is meant to return to a normal, relaxed state. Unfortunately, with the complications of modern life, that alarm system never stops, it does get a chance to shut off and that is the reason constant stress becomes your uninvited guest. We are here today to find some simple tips to avoid that constant feeling of being stressed out. We all have busy lives and there is a chance that with that busy life, you have acquired many stressors. It is time to find those stressors and work on them. So let’s get to it shall we?


Step 1 : Identify the stressors

It is time to bring your best friends out again. Get your pen and paper. This is going to be an extremely hands on episode. Stress is such a well discussed topic and still it feels inadequate. We all know what we need to do to reduce the stress in our life but still we all are stressed out. Today, I will talk about the tips that worked for me in the past or are working for me even now. Some of them may find shallow, but trust me it helped. Some of them might sound silly, but sometimes little silliness is what  we need. Take a note of the ones that you think will work for you. Again I am not an expert, I am just a simple girl, who wants to help in a way I can. Okay, enough of all the background, let’s start with step 1, Identify the stressors. Have you heard about the term, stress journal? I was also unaware of such a thing for a long time. Few months back, I was really stressed about everything in life. I had too much on my plate as always. I was bursting with new ideas for my podcast, I wanted a nice website, social media content, new episodes every week, with some nice and relevant content. But I was doing this by juggling my full time day job. Realistically speaking, the only time that I could spend on my podcast was morning 5-6, or if I stretch a little bit then till 6.30. But with every new  idea popping into my head, it was extremely hard to fit into my schedule. On top of these two things, I did not want to let go of my workout routine, which took at least an hour in my day. Like all of you, I had other and very important responsibilities too, like managing the home, cooking, cleaning and of course since we all were at home, entertaining kids, setting some activities for them and what not.. The list was endless. I am sure you all have those endless lists, I know I am not any special. But the problem with me was I was stressed out. I started this podcast as my passion project, it is my happy place and I wanted to keep it as my happy place. I absolutely do not want to bring any kind of stress in this podcasting space.  When I started feeling that anxiety even for this podcasting journey, I decided it is time to work on myself. I researched a lot, I read books, I talked to my friends and family. I wanted to understand what can be done to do what you love but without burying under the stress. I have been working on all the tips that I got during that process, I am bringing this topic now, because now I feel confident to talk about the tools that can reduce the stress because they really worked for me. I hope they work for you too. First and foremost, write down, keep a journal. Again no need to go and buy a specific, stress journal. Use what you have. Every time you are stressed out, write down the date and time, what was the reason i.e. cause, what was your reaction i.e. effect. Just be mindful of your thoughts and collect the data. E.g. On Monday, you felt extremely stressed because you were stuck in the traffic for a long time and the effect is that you got late to the important meeting. Simple right? Just keep that journal handy and write down every time, you snap at your kids, every time, you miss your workout and instead sit with a jar full of cookies in front of the TV or miss a work deadline and then lose your patience. All those events, don’t let them go unnoticed. You don’t have to write an entire essay. Just write down the date, time, cause and effect. Write down even the  positive events that caused you stress. E.g. A big stage performance, major life event like getting married or having a new baby, or moving houses. Although positive, these events also cause stress and we want to work on how we can change the effect of all the stressors into more positive and energetic moments. Stress does not actually come from your boss or traffic or loud kids or bad food, it comes from the thoughts you have about these situations. So, we first need to understand our thoughts, that is the basic backbone of this episode. Most of the stress comes from the way you respond, not the way life is. The greatest weapon against the stress is our ability to choose our thoughts, so let’s do that. As I always say, we are here to live a happy, joyful and content life, stress has no place in that beautiful life. 


Step 2 : Find ways to avoid those stressors

Here it gets extremely practical. Now that you have collected data about your stressors. Work on them one by one. Getting stuck in traffic is your main source of stress, so try to adjust your travel time in such a way that you avoid the rush hour traffic. If you feel rushed when you bring your kids to their activities, start early, keep some time in hand instead of reaching just before the activity. If you feel stressed when the work deadline approaches, plan ahead. Break your task into smaller chunks, and assign a date for each smaller task. You will feel less stressed, if you see the progress. In this step, we are treating the stressor at its core. Try to completely eliminate the stressor as much as you can. If a dirty kitchen sink stresses you out every morning, make it a point to do your dishes after dinner. Let me tell one of my weird stressors. I feel stressed if I enter a messy home after spending a day out doing fun things. It happens right? In the rush of going out, we don’t bother to clean up. I lose all the joy that I had while we were out if I come back to a completely disaster mode house. This is my stressor. So, now I make it a point to clean up, pick up or a quick tidy up of the house before I actually step out of the house. It makes me feel calm when I come back to see a tidy house. Find your stressor, don;t underestimate it thinking that it's not a big deal because all these small, insignificant stressors together can cause a full blown melt down, so identify them and treat them at their core. One important way to avoid the stressor, is to say no to the things that bring you stress. I have an entire episode on how to say no, I will link it in the show notes. I suggest you listen to that episode, it will give you the tools to say no when you want to say no. This helps immensely to reduce your stress. This is the hardest thing to do for me, I simply can’t say no most of the time. So, I am constantly reading books, articles on improving productivity by better scheduling and by saying no. For the past few days, I have been reading a book called, “Joy of Missing Out”, I highly highly recommend that book. In this book, Tonya mentioned a strategy called the sandwich strategy. When you want to say no to something, or someone, include your no between two positive and kind hearted statements. What do you see when I say sandwich? It typically has two slices of bread with some middle part, maybe cheese, or veggies. Those two slices of bread keep the middle part intact right? This is how sandwich strategy works. Your no is being protected by two positive and uplifting statements. E.g. If your boss asks for your availability to work on weekends but you already have plans with your family that weekend which can not be changed. Instead of stressing out over how to accommodate both the things in that one weekend, isn’t it better to say no to your boss in a polite way? According to sandwich strategy, you should say, “I have plans with my family, so, unfortunately, I am unable to work over the weekend. I am really interested in learning more about the project, though! Is there another way that I can contribute that doesn’t require me to come into the office this weekend.” The book is filled with gems like this. Do read it, if you want to learn more about the productivity and joy of missing out.  Avoiding your stressors, eliminating the root cause of those stressors is the way to avoid the stress. Remember, every moment is a fresh beginning. You start fresh every morning. It is simply a good day to have a good day and remind yourself of that. Everyone is struggling with stress and fear, it is your attitude that will help you come out of the other side with a bright smile and a happy life. Nothing is permanent in life, not even stress. Is that correct? Life is a journey, it will have stress, anxiety but it will also have happy and cheerful moments, it is you who has to decide what moments you want to cherish. Everyday brings you a choice, to practice stress or to practice peace. It is your choice, my friend. It is you who has to refuse to stress out over the things you can not control or change. I totally understand that you might not always have a good day, but it is you who can decide to face the bad day with a good attitude and that is what is the final step in breaking this stress. You know your stressor, you avoided some of them but some there is no choice other than facing them head on. For all those stressors, let's find ways to reduce or relieve those stressors. 


Step 3 : Find ways to relieve the stressors

Attitude, attitude is the biggest building block in relieving the stress. Change your attitude and change your life. Change your attitude to focus on how stressed you are instead, focus on how blessed you are. Instead of saying, I have to clean the house, think, I get to clean the house because I am blessed to have the house. Instead of stressing over work load and saying I have to work too much on my job, say, I get to work and that helps me provide for my family. Instead of saying, I have to work out everyday to lose weight, say I get to work out to take care of my mental and physical health. Change your attitude, make peace of mind your number one priority and then arrange your life around it. Slow down, take a deep breath, feel your lungs with that fresh air. When you feel stressed, just pause for a moment, take 5 deep breaths, it always works out. Just always remember, it’s not a bad life, it’s not a bad day, it’s just a bad moment, take a deep breath and start again. Stopping in between the moments is as important as keeping on going. I know, things are hard sometimes. I understand, there are times when you feel defeated, you think it is impossible to get through these moments but trust me, you can get through this if you just slow down and change your perspective. Let me tell you a funny story. When we were supposed to travel to the USA for the first time, both I and my husband were supposed to travel together. But at the last moment, my husband had to travel first. I panicked. I know for most of you, this will be a silly situation, not even worth any stress. But, I was stressed, not because I have to travel alone. I was stressed because I have to travel alone with a 6 months old baby. I lost my sleep, my appetite over this. If you are a regular listener, you can probably imagine how much research I would have done about traveling with a baby. I had a long 20 hour journey, with 3 hours break at Heathrow airport. I had to change the terminals. I had so much luggage with me and of course a tiny baby. I was never stressed this much in my entire life. But you know what got me through that journey? I kept reminding myself, that this time will pass too. These are only 20 hours of my life, which are so less compared to what I will be spending with my husband and my baby. Deep breaths every few hours to  keep on going helped through those 20 hours. I know, this is not a scary or a real stressful situation, but try telling that to a new and young mom like me in that situation. Those were the longest 20 hours in my life but I was able to come out of it unscarred. So, believe, no matter where you are or what you are going through, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel, just believe that. 

When you are stressed out, try to think, are you feeling rushed all the time? Do you get some time to slow down? Do you get some time to sit and relax? Remember, just because you can fit something in your schedule, doesn't mean you need to fill that void with something to keep yourself busy. Always, remember when you say yes to something, you say no to something else. So, choose wisely. You can have some whitespace. What do I mean by whitespace? Whitespace is just a blank canvas. It means sitting in peace and quiet without any distraction, no phone, no TV, no book , no blaring music, absolutely nothing in the background. Spend at least 5 minutes in this whitespace. This time, this blank canvas will not only relax you but will give you new ideas, new perspectives towards life. I started doing this recently after reading this in one of the books that I was reading. After my journaling, and podcast episode planning, I spend 5 minutes doing nothing before I can get up and start my morning chores. I keep my phone away, my laptop away. I just sit in a company of my silence, this is not the time to  think of to-do lists or plans for the day. This is not the time to reflect on my past. This is the time to soak in the beauty of the coming day. These 5 minutes recharge me. Sometimes, I get new topic ideas in those 5 minutes. I was able to think of the entire episode about confidence in those 5 minutes. We all need 5 minutes of blank canvas. Try this for the upcoming week, you will notice the difference. Don’t fill your schedule to the verge of spilling. Today, I want you to slow down, take a deep breath and remember you don’t have to be everything to everyone all the time. It is okay to take time for yourself. It is okay to prioritize yourself, your peace of mind. There are simple ways to boost your peace of mind. Just go for a long walk, let that cool air brush against your cheeks. Soak in that warm sun. Nature is the best medicine for all your mambo, jumbo thoughts. Life is beautiful and it is really not worth to stress over the small, petty things, when you can experience the beauty everywhere you see. Your thoughts create stress, so get your thoughts in control to control your stress. Exercise always works wonders for me. A long, sweaty workout session makes me forget all the worries. I forget what’s bothering me when I start working out. Another thing that always works out for me when I feel stressed, is something which you might find funny. It is shallow, compared to what we have been talking, Are you ready? I feel complete 180 degree turn in my mood when I watch 1 episode of Friends. It just changes my mood. Those 20-25 minutes make me laugh so hard that I totally feel refreshed. Same thing is playing with my kids, they have their own world and I love to be part of their world which is totally free of all worries and has numerous possibilities, nothing is impossible in their world. I absolutely feel like new after spending some time with them. That is my happy place, Find your happy place and go back to that place to recharge whenever you feel stressed. Your happy place could be totally different from mine, so find your happy place.  I have a friend, who always says that dancing it out on the tunes of her favorite songs help her relax. Now that she is a mom of a little one, she uses a baby carrier to hold him and still dance to the tunes of her favorite song, because that is her stress buster. It is her happy place. Yoga works wonders for a lot of us. For some of you, sharing your thoughts with close friends helps them get back to their happy place. For some of you, lighting a nice aromatic candle and taking a long, hot bath could be the happy place, for some of you, working in your garden or working on some DIY project or working on your hobby or cooking or even cleaning and organizing ,anything that makes you happy, makes you feel all your worries, go back to that happy place. Hold on to that happy feeling when you come back to reality and think from that newly found perspective, you will find a solution to your stressor. Attitude is what matters. Look for happiness in small things, we all have heavy and hard things to tackle but it is our responsibility to look for small and beautiful things to balance the hardship with happiness. Stress happens when we think we have to solve everything at once all by yourself. Take one day at a time, you are strong, you can do it. Just be mindful , live each moment to the fullest, slow down. If you are always rushing through the moments, how will you enjoy the moment you are in? It is time to break the stress and enjoy your journey of life and for that you need to slow. You not only miss the beautiful scenery by going fast but you also miss the sense of where you are going and why? No one has ever benefited from overanalyzing the situation, no one has ever benefited from the negative emotions, no one has ever benefited from stressing over things which are beyond your control. So, why should we waste our time and energy in doing that? It is far too easy to feel sorry for yourself, it is far too easy to feel bad for not having big, luxurious things in your life. But it is extremely important to be grateful for things that you have. It is far more helpful to focus on the gifts that you already have. Be grateful for the healthy body , wise mind, beautiful heart, loving family and abundant friends in your life. 

I know, we all feel stressed sometimes, but it is our choice if we want to let it affect our entire life. Why can’t we decide that , “I want to have a simple life without much stress and worry. I am okay with less stuff but what I want is abundant happiness” Always remember, positive thoughts lead to positive vibes and positive vibes lead to a positive life. Learn from the stressful moments, use it as a way to teach yourself a life lesson, and then come out of it stronger and better than before. Always remember, the truth is stress is caused much less by our situation than our relation with the situation. So, break that stress, it is a beautiful day to live your life to the fullest. 

Recap

On this note let’s recap today’s episode. Today,we discussed all about stress. How stress is caused by our thoughts and our reactions to the hard situations. We decided work on our stressors by following these steps

Step 1 : Identify the stressors

Step 2 : Remove the stressors

Step 3 : Relieve the stressors

There are simple ways to break that stress. Keep the journal to find your stressors, try to eliminate those stressors at its root. Finally, slow down, find your happy place to relieve those unavoidable stressors. No one wishes to have dark days, sleepless nights, grumpy mornings. No one wishes for stress in their life, it is an unavoidable side effect of modern life but remember tough times don’t last, so, don’t stress, try your best and forget the rest !! 

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