Stress isn't just a mental health issue; there's evidence that your body's physiological responses to stress can affect your physical health, as well. Here are some tips for helping you maintain a healthy mind-body balance.
- Swap in smiling for frowning
You may find it annoying when a well-meaning friend tells you to turn that frown upside down. But it's actually good advice. Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his best-selling book Blink that your facial expression can actually trigger the autonomic nervous system to create its corresponding emotion. So a smile, even a forced one, will help to brighten your mood.
- Swap in counting to 3 for counting to 10
We've all known how to count to 10 since we were four or five. Why, then, despite all the advice about counting to 10 when we get angry, is it so hard to put into practice? Some meditation teachers say it's because 10 is too many. It's easier and perhaps more realistic, they claim, to count three mindful breaths to help you stay calm and cool during life's challenges.
- Swap in observing instead of reacting
Once you've got those three mindful breaths working for you, try this on for size. The next time someone does something that upsets you, take those three mindful breaths and resist reacting. Instead, observe what is going on around you and how you are perceiving it. For instance, if someone criticizes you for being late, instead of reacting defensively, take a moment to let it sink in. Then ask yourself if there's any truth to what you just heard. Can it be that you are, at times, insensitive about keeping other people waiting? So genuinely thank your accuser for reminding you about an area in your life that needs improvement.
- Swap in quiet for noise
We live in a noisy world. Some of it is out of our control, but there's plenty we can shut out of earshot if we choose to. Problem is, many of us have gotten used to distracting ourselves with sound. You don't have to read Fahrenheit 451 to know this isn't a good idea. So turn off the TV, pull out your ear buds, tell the kids to go outside and play, and enjoy a little quiet so you can hear yourself think.
- Swap in being instead of doing
Another way we distract ourselves is with long to-do lists. Busy-ness has become an American status symbol; so much so that this is considered a normal, friendly exchange:
"How are you?"
"Crazy busy. How are you?"
(mutual smiling and chuckling)
But we're human beings, not human doings. So instead of scheduling more and more activities into your life, carve out some much-needed down time for rest, relaxation and rejuvenation.