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Acute Stress Isn’t Very Cute

By Amy Austin, R.N., PSY.D., LMFT

Someone recently told me they were going to the cardiologist for a stress test. This got me thinking that stress really gets to the heart of the matter; pun very much intended. Stress just seems to be part of our society today with technological advances, multitasking, deadlines, double income families, kids’ busy schedules, staying afloat financially, life transitions, grief and loss, divorce, blended families – you name it. And, when we explore the biopsychosocial (biological, psychological, and social) parts of a person, we can see the importance of living in the present and not just existing or surviving in it.

Living in the present is attempting to stay aware of your mind chatter or the “hamster wheel syndrome” as we like to describe it, and not letting this chatter lead you by the nose, thereby increasing angst and anxiety. We have a choice as to how we want to live our lives. Thinking one thought that is anxiety provoking and letting it control you by ruminating and worrying can eventually cause emotional and physical exhaustion. Hence, the body gets used to increased levels of adrenaline and cortisol (that fight or flight feeling) and you become one anxious person.

Being mindful and taking simple steps to decrease acute stress is important and can be very easy and effective.

Breathing. Breathe deeply at least three times a day. Five slow, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth (like you are blowing on hot soup) can re-oxygenate the brain and energize the body, and feels soothing and calming. Sit while you are practicing this to avoid any dizziness if this is a new exercise.

Mindful Walking. The difference between walking for mere exercise and mindful walking is that you are not just walking from point A to point B. Take a walk while observing your surroundings and observe your mind chatter. Eckhart Tolle calls this “watching the watcher.” Listen intuitively and give yourself permission to let go and relax. Take time to quiet the mind. Turn off all electrical gadgets and get into a state of ‘beingness.’ Remember, you are not a human doing, but a human being.

Make Shorter Lists. Long lists and high expectations. How many of you make long lists and get stressed when you don’t complete everything on them? Make shorter lists. There’s always tomorrow.

Talk It Out. Talk about the things that cause stress with someone you trust. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own; talking helps get things out of your mind, gives you a voice, and often offers new options.

Find Balance. Balancing mind, body, and spirit is crucial for keeping stress at bay while supporting a healthy, happy lifestyle.

Accept Yourself. Self-acceptance and self-care are essential in achieving good health. Put yourself on the top of the list at times. You deserve it!

Now, that you’ve finished this article, take a few moments to close your eyes and breathe in relaxation while letting go of the tensions of the day. A few minutes of this type of self-care on a daily basis can help you to lead a happier, more fulfilled life.

Dr. Amy Austin is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC # 41252) and Doctor of Clinical Psychology in Rancho Mirage. Dr. Amy can be reached at (760) 774.0047.

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