I grew up living in a cul-de-sac where I knew all of the neighbours, from the retired seniors to the babies that arrived after I did. There were forty children in that neighbourhood. In the summer we had some pretty big games of hide and seek and tag. With those many children around it was just a matter of time until feelings got hurt and tempers flared up. During one of these games, an incident occurred and I lost my temper. I cannot remember the details, but I do remember that my neighbour, Mr. Hacking, came out of his house to diffuse the situation. Mr. Hacking warned me that I had better learn to control my temper or it would get me into trouble. I must have taken his advice to heart as after that day there were few incidents where I allowed my temper to take over. When it did still arise on occasion, usually fuelled by stressors that I was experiencing at the time in hindsight I realized if I had remained calm I would have obtained a better result in the situation.
With the daily pressures we experience in the workplace and in our personal lives, it is important to develop coping skills that work for us. Here are a few suggestions that have worked for me and my family over the years.
A few years ago, my sister introduced me to a simple meditation site called Calm. She would call every few days and we would both sign onto the site and choose a five-minute guided meditation. You could choose from various streams of nature-inspired sounds such as the waves lapping up on a beach, a small stream gurgling or rustling tree leaves. The guided meditation would begin by instructing us to close our eyes, take slow deep breaths and focus our mind on each part of our body to relax, starting at our feet and moving to our legs, hands, arms, chest, and head.
I am sure we have all been told to calm down and take a deep breath. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to the brain which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, triggering neurons in your brain which tell our body that it is time to relax.
My wife enjoys her daily walks with our dog and those occasions when I join them. Brisk walking boosts endorphins that can reduce stress hormones. A daily walk will serve to reduce our stress levels and keep us all calmer.
My sons work out at the gym. Physical exertion is great for getting our body and mind relaxed and focused. It has been suggested that you should undertake physical exertion such as working out, walking, jogging or cycling before making tough decisions. The endorphins you activate in your brain enhance your ability to deal with the stress of difficult decisions.
Being able to forgive others easily and focusing on positive outcomes also serves to reduce stress and infuse calmness. Consider situations where you have been wronged. You can carry that anger for a long time at the expense of your happiness and peace of mind. You will be happier if you can learn to accept and forgive in such situations, and then let it go.
In 1988 Bobby McFerrin released the song “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” He gives the advice in his melody that when life does not go well just Don’t Worry, Be Happy. There is merit in this advice. Worry uses mental energy and increases stress as we focus on things that we may often not have any control over.
So, take a deep breath, enjoy a walk, run, cycle or ski in the beautiful Elk Valley. Live in the moment and forgive others and you will feel less stress and greater happiness.