Circa 1980 something
My mother: So if everybody else goes crazy does that you mean you go crazy too?
(* I swear, I wanted to say ‘yes’, but something told me that was the wrong answer. Perhaps it was her irritated tone.)
Our conversation was in response to a phone call that my mother received. Our principal’s staff had personally called each and every parent.
That day there was chaos at the school that he had never seen before.
It was the year that one of those popular horror movies first came out.
Apparently, there was a white van in the movie? And, apparently, if you saw the white van, you should start running.
Well, that ordinary school day a white van was circling the school while we were at recess.
Some of my schoolmates believed that it was the same white van that was in the movie and oh my goodness.
Children were screaming, running in random directions, falling and running on top of one another. Several of my schoolmates ran banging on the neighbor’s doors seeking “safety”.
Of course, I felt silly later. But that was later.
I hadn’t seen any advertisements for the movie.
I didn’t see the van at school.
I didn’t know why I was afraid.
But the other kids were terrified. So, there I was, screaming, crying, yelling, and running in circles.
Later that day, I was even sitting at my desk holding my hands together, rocking back and forth listening to the other kids tell horror stories that never even happened.
No one was grabbed.
No one got out of the van.
No one threatened to hurt children in the middle of the night.
But those were the rumors.
Awareness v. Anxiety
We should be aware of danger.
We should have a plan to meet it head on.
Still, in times of chaos, we tend allow ourselves to inhale the fear of others and really build ourselves into a frenzy.
That isn’t helpful.
Further, it can lead to anxiety for those of us who have been dealt with trauma.
I think all of us can look back on events like that in our lives and see that we have more control over our reaction to fear and stress than we often realize.
Even when threats are real, it is best to use our natural adrenaline to respond to the threat.
The ability to maintain a sense of calm is an acquired skill. Therefore it can be learned. Luckily, you can teach yourself to handle stress in a manner that minimizes it.
However, the more stressed you feel, the more challenging it can be to relax.
11 Ways you can relax your body and mind when your stress levels are out of control:
1. Take a moment to stretch.
Stand up for a few minutes and stretch your body. Release the tension and stress in your muscles. Shake your arms and legs individually and get back to work. Try this. It works!
If you have more time available, 30 minutes of exercise can work wonders. Avoid limiting yourself to the standard walk or jog. Play a match of tennis or attempt to break your personal bench press record. Consider whether you’d prefer to exercise alone or with others and make it happen.
3. Listen to music.
Music can be very soothing.Choose music that you find relaxing. Some days that is easy listening from the 1970’s. On the other hand, some days, hip hop is my go to for relaxing. I can’t explain it. I just go with what works.
Meditation is simple, but challenging. You can learn to focus your thoughts and relieve your tension. Keep your thoughts focused on your breath and return to these thoughts whenever you get distracted. What could be simpler?
5. Reach out to others.
Some of us find relaxation in being alone, while others feel better with others. Reach out to your friends and family. You can discuss your feelings and the challenges you’re facing. You could also choose to use the people in your life as a distraction. Go out to dinner or watch a movie. Have a little fun.
Maybe laughter is the best medicine. Pull out your favorite video or spend the evening at a comedy club. Call your funniest friend for a chat. Read a book of jokes. Find something or someone that will make you laugh.
7. Feel gratitude.
It’s easy to forget about all the wonderful things in your life during challenging times. Make a list of all the blessings in your life. Focus on feeling gratitude. By reminding yourself of all the good things, the bad things won’t seem nearly as bad.
8. Take a nap.
One of the best ways to reset your nervous system is sleeping. Find a quiet place and lie down for an hour. A nap can be the best stress-buster.
9. Think happy thoughts.
Remember a happy, past event. Relive it in your mind. Creative visualization can be an excellent way to take a break from your stress. Be creative and enjoy yourself.
10. Drop the caffeine from your diet.
Caffeine and stress don’t combine well. Give your nervous system a reprieve and avoid caffeinated beverages. Do you really need to be any more stimulated?
11. Close your eyes and listen to the sounds around you.
You could also cover your ears and focus on what you see. Block off one of your senses and focus on your environment. This is an excellent way to be more present. Giving your attention to your surroundings will stop your mind from creating more stress.
Stress is a part of daily life. Learning to manage it makes life more enjoyable.
Did you know?
The best time to address stress is the moment it begins.
There’s a momentum to stress.
Once your stress reaches a high level, it’s far more challenging to reduce. Most stress-reduction techniques provide a small to moderate amount of relief. Use them sooner, rather than later, and prevent a meltdown before it happens.
Tonya is a Social Justice Info Expert with over 23 years experience. She holds a BS in Organizational Management & Development. Her cat MiaBelle is her co-writer.
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