It sneaks up like a preying lion and suddenly hits. Out of nowhere we bark at our loved ones with short tempers. Or even more subtle, it simmers slowly as we gradually gain weight and/or lose sleep, our thoughts and interest in things we once loved. Stress takes a toll on us physically and mentally and often we aren’t aware until something snaps.
We all can quote the physical ramifications of unmanaged stress: high blood pressure, ulcers, heart disease and stroke to name just a few. But often what goes unnoticed is the mental impact of ongoing or acute stress. Sleeplessness leads to memory loss. Worrying and multitasking lead to forgetfulness and indecision. The ramifications of stress on our brain and memory are ongoing and long lasting.
When the brain is under stress, it quickly decides what’s important and minimizes the energy given to lesser things. What used to come naturally and easily is suddenly difficult. Deciding what to make for dinner or balancing the checkbook become monumental tasks. It impacts every area of our lives, whether we realize it or not.
It would seem eliminating all stress to protect our brains and bodies would be the logical answer. But in reality that’s not possible and some stress is actually healthy and keeps us moving forward in life. So how do we manage and balance what’s good from what’s unhealthy? That’s up to each of us. But here are a few stress management techniques that can help when stress sneaks up:
Find your happy place. This is a reflective exercise we do in our minds when stress invades and threatens to steal our joy. Identify a place, real or imagined, where you are entirely comfortable and happy. Then, when feeling stress rise, go there on a mind mini-vacation! Imagine how it feels there, take a deep breath and be enveloped in warmth, happiness and love. It can literally lower blood pressure, heart rate and take our minds off the stressful situation we are experiencing. Try it-it works!
Breathe. Most any situation can accommodate a few seconds for a deep breath (or two or three). This gives us a moment to deliver additional oxygen to our brains, think more clearly and make good decisions. It’s so easy to react or speak in the immediacy of a stressful moment, but those aren’t always our best decisions. Instead, take a few seconds to breathe, think, decide and then speak or act.
Pray. Often when taking those deep breaths, I’m silently praying as well. It helps me to let go of the stress, remember what’s most important in each situation, and draw upon inner strength.
Do what you can do and let go of the rest. No one can do everything. The best we can do is what only we can do-control our own thoughts and actions. Do what you can do, in the best way you can and then let go of the rest. Preparation and accepting help from others when needed can help in this area. (More on these in another post.)
Try these techniques and see if managing and balancing the stresses of life help you remember more. Summer can be a time when we don’t think as much about stress. But just like that preying lion, it can sneak up and hit us or simmer below the surface before boiling over. Let’s manage stresses as they come and we’ll make even more memorable moments this #SummerToRemember.