Mental wellness challenge.
Last week I challenged you to three different activities. I hope you enjoyed the fruits of participating in the challenge!
You should now have the beginnings of a smile box and a place to put little smiles you collect along your way. I hope you find many smiles to put in the box and that you look back on them from time to time – especially in those times when you need a “smile”.
You would have written a supportive letter to the “you from 10 years ago” and posted it. You might have even received the letter back in the mail by now. I’ll talk more about this letter in this weeks challenge.
Lastly, you have started to look for stress in your life and where you carry it.
I’d like to share a little about the stress piece.
I never really thought about stress much until I was buried in it. To me, stress is pressure. It’s pressure that continues to build and build in me. Sometimes the pressure changes quickly and I am aware of the change, other times – that pressure builds really slowly and I’m not even aware of it. Some times the stress is caused by good things like the birth of a child and sometimes the stress is brought about by not so good things, like the loss of a friend. It’s all stress, it’s all pressure and it’s crucial to my well being that I gain an awareness of it.
I find the quick onset stress easiest to be aware of. That feeling that I get when a policeman pulls me over and I’m not certain what it is that I have done. To me that’s bright red stress. It’s acute, it’s very strong and I can feel the tension building in my body. I find the intensity of this bright red stress dissipates fairly quickly too. For me, my brain tends to hang onto things – so the fact that the policeman stopped me just to do an operator check will sit with me. I know folks that wouldn’t have any issues at all with letting go of that stress and getting along with their day. I tend to have a difficult time in letting go of my stress. My brain sets me to ruminating on what I should have/could have done differently… like I had any influence on the decisions the policeman made.
The slower onset stress in my life is more “insidious” in nature. This stress for me is dark grey, dark dark red, almost black. This is the stress that I wasn’t aware that I packed around with me. This is the stuff that brings a sense of dread to my life. “A persistent feeling of impending doom” are some of the words that I have used to describe this stuff. This stress sits at the back of my tummy – almost against my spine. Its weighty, thick and stubborn. This dark red (burgundy/black) stress is some of the stuff that draws me down into a depression and makes me live with that anxious feeling. I tend to ignore this type of stress – not intentionally – only because I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t think about – I’m un-aware.
I experience other sorts of stress too. I feel a yellow stress when I get complimented unexpectedly, a bright blue stress when I discover the solution to a long held problem, white stress when I engage in a heated discussion with my spouse. I carry most of these stressors in my chest, shoulders and neck. These types of stress for me tend to be shorter duration… that is – if I can let them go. I can only let them go if I am aware of them. I am only going to be aware of them if I am paying attention to my body, my feelings, my thoughts and my actions. You see, for me, ALL OF MY STRESS comes from me.
NOTHING OUT THERE CHANGES.
I have to be aware of my circumstances. I have to be purposeful in how I interact with the stimulus around me. I am, I MUST BE, responsible for my reactions to the world around me. So – in a nutshell, all the stress, good and bad, whatever colour of the rainbow, comes back to me. Comes back to how I deal with it.
I’m wired in a way, through my ADHD, nature/nurture, genetics, etc that I don’t process my stress in the most effective ways all the time. I recognize that 100%. So, WHAT DO I NEED TO DO???
Some of my ways to deal with my stress are:
- Journal – this helps me to identify my stressors by getting them out of my head.
- Talking with a friend, my spouse, my adult kids… this helps me ground myself in understanding that I don’t always have the keys to the problem. My circles of influence only go so far.
- Exercise – going for a walk, chopping firewood, even cutting the lawn. This really helps with burning off the effects of that dark red/burgundy stress that sometimes keeps me from sleeping.
- Laughing! Spending time doing things I really enjoy. REALLY ENJOY.
- Doing things that take my total concentration. These are my “hobby” kinds of things like welding, interpreting the electrical code, and electronics.
- Taking a few minutes every day to think about my stress, what I am doing with the stress and what purpose keeping the stress in my mind and my body is serving me.
When you get your letter back from the mail – find a quiet place to be alone with it. Carefully read the words of support you wrote to that “self of 10 years ago”. Drink in the kindness, the caring and love that the letter conveys. These are words written to you by someone who believes in you!
How can I say that with such confidence? I can say that because you are here – you’ve made it through that really tough time.
When I read my letter it was very difficult for me to accept the words that I had penned to myself. This is a “thing” I struggle with. My life, my circumstances have taken me to a place where I don’t have a great deal of self esteem. I truly struggle with “I am enough!” I work hard at fixing this. Really hard. So, when I read the encouraging words that had been written to support “the me from 10 years ago”, I discount/ed them. This is MY struggle. So, I do this exercise when I really need to build myself up. It isn’t a panacea – or it would have been one letter and done. I have lots and lots of ‘boo-boos’ to repair in my life. To help me absorb the kindness, the support and love, I read the letter each day for a week or so. Sometimes I will keep my letters in my smile box.
This intentional act helps me to feel self loved, self appreciated. In some ways I feel proud of myself for having courage and taking the time to go out of my way to do this for – well, myself.
So – here is the challenge for you this week. THREE parts.
- Continue to identify where stress “lives” in your life. Look for it. Take a couple of minutes each day to see “what’s in your stress wallet”. Once you are aware of it, you can start to identify strategies to reduce the harmful toll stress takes on your life.
- Take 30 minutes of stress relieving exercise every other day. Go for a brisk walk, a peddle, a swim, chop some wood, cut the lawn – just do something that gets your heart beating!
- Read the letter “to yourself from 10 years ago” each day for the next week. Soak in the support, soak in the love, soak in the kindness. Let that be a gift to yourself. YOU ARE ENOUGH!
That’s it, I challenge you.