Have you ever noticed Thanksgiving and Christmas items showing up earlier and earlier in stores each year? It’s not unusual to plan or even shop for the holiday season as early as September. If you take a moment to look back you may find that you spent the last four months planning, traveling, cooking, entertaining, shopping, and all other duties as assigned. The holidays can be extremely stressful but when it’s all said and done there is life after the holidays.
Let’s see, there’s returning to work, children going back to school, seasonal changes, new year’s resolutions, paying for holiday expenses, and other demands and changes are just a few of the realities that set in as life returns to normal. In fact, many of us find that life after the holidays is even more stressful. But let’s be clear, stress is not necessarily a bad thing, it really is a natural part of life. What makes stress bad is the way in which we handle it.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
Stress is a physical and emotional response to demanding situations, obligations and changes. Stress has the potential to bring out the best in us on a short-term basis. But, when stress sets up residence in your life because it was poorly managed it can have detrimental effects, especially for women and even more so for African American women.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that 48% of African American women suffer from some form of cardiovascular disease and research shows a link to stress among other unhealthy behaviors. If you’re not sure if you’re stressed? Check out some of the signs and symptoms of stress from the American Institute of Stress (AIS) below:
- Frequent headaches
- Muscle spasms
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Weight gain or loss
- Increased anger and frustration
- Chest pain and rapid pulse
Stress can raise blood pressure exposing the body to stress hormones on a constant basis when it’s not in a fight or flight situation. Having too much stress, for too long, is bad for your heart (WebMD) therefore, learning how to manage stress is a lifesaving skill to master!
TOOLS FOR MANAGING STRESS
PRAYER – Set aside time to talk to God daily about your troubles and release them to him completely knowing that he will handle it. “Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” (Psalm 55:22).
CHRISTIAN MEDIATION – When your mind focuses on negative thoughts that bring on worry refocus your entire mind on the God and his character, a favorite scripture, or biblical affirmation for at least five minutes a day. Your mind will thank you for it!
- Turn your attention away from the stress and towards God
- Surrender your desire to control the situation
- Focus on your desire to trust God more in this area of your life
- Reflect on how God worked out an impossible situation in your life recently
DEEP BREATHING – As babies breathe deeply from the belly so should we. As adults most of us breathe quick and shallow from the chest but God designed us to breathe fully and deeply relaxing the mind and body and reconnecting with God’s spirit. Take a few minutes to take 10 deep breaths a day to activate the parasympathetic system so you can rest and digest and lower that blood pressure.
JOURNALING – Release stress through your written words. Writing is very cathartic and allows you to see things from a different perspective.
Some people choose to do their journaling by creating and maintaining an online blog. Certainly this is a convenient way to share your written words with others. For more on this read Blog Your Way To Better Health.
EXERCISE – Not sure what exercise you should do? Don’t fret any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever. According to the Mayo clinic, exercise improves your mood and releases the brain’s feel good neurotransmitters, endorphins
RELAXING SOUNDS – Close your eyes and enjoy the soothing sounds of the ocean, rain, instrumental music, or your favorite song. Sounds can relax the mind and body at the conscious and sub-conscious level where stress seeks to take root. Christian music like the song My Everything from the band PressPlay can be relaxing for you.
ESSENTIAL OILS – Burn a candle or diffuse your favorite oils to set the atmosphere for peace and tranquility. Did you know that one of the major uses of aromatherapy in the U.S. is for stress management? Interested, but not sure where to start with oils? Give lavender a try as it is legendary in its stress-relieving properties and accessible online and in most retail stores.
CREATE – Rediscover your creative side through popular activities like painting, coloring, jewelry making, knitting, candle or soap making. Refocusing your mind on something fun is a great way to re-direct your energy in a positive way.
Try a stress management tool that will work for you and your personality and share your experience, along with the tools listed here, with your family and friends, in observation of American Heart Month in February as we work together to bring more awareness to the links between stress and heart disease for the sake of wonderful women in our lives.
Visit the Sherrell Moore-Tucker website to learn more about her 2017 Mothers & Caregivers Retreat and other services.