Stress Vacation

Achieving a healthy balance of stress in your life begins with becoming conscious of your current state, learning how to intervene when stress is hitting you, and off-loading the stress you are unconsciously carrying with you.

1. Be a compassionate observer. Take a week to observe your life as an outsider might. Pay attention to how you use your multitasking skills -- consciously, or as a default mode? Answer the following questions in your journal each day: Did I awake feeling rested and relaxed, or frenzied and exhausted? Did I take time to unwind before I went to sleep, or was I still dealing with my concerns from the day? Did I wake up in the middle of the night with worries? For what percentage of the day was I fully present?

2. Practice stress maintenance. Take a mini mental vacation daily. Do a Paced Breathing exercise in the morning, at noon, before bedtime, and whenever you're stressed: Breathe in through your nose for a count of four; hold your breath for a count of seven; exhale through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat four times.

3. Move. Your body holds stress and is physiologically revved up by it. To burn that adrenaline off in a healthy way, move your body daily (even just a walk around the block helps) and exercise more vigorously at least three times a week.

4. Let it all out. At least weekly, off-load in your journal or to a friend. The point is not to problem solve or get advice, but simply to "get it out." It's actually best to do this from the most shallow, disgruntled, pitiful part of yourself -- so give yourself permission to whine. Holding emotions inside, even if you are keeping them in check, affects your health. So vent, and have some fun doing it!

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