I Don't Want To Feel This Way: Coping With Stress

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I'm not really talking about beauty today. True, dealing with stress for long periods of time can certainly change your appearance. But forget beauty. Let's discuss stress.

I've been living under a constant, unrelenting boulder of stress for years and years. In fact, it's been that way for so long, I don't know what life would be like without it. I'm not talking about the kind of stress where you don't know if you're going to pass a test. I'm talking about the kind of stress that never goes away.

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My life could sound like a country song on most days, if I chose to sing that melody. I try not to, but it's a catchy tune and it's easy to get it stuck in your head, on repeat. I'm sure many of you have the same song available, if you choose to hear it. While it's always better to focus on the positive, it's not always easy to get rid of those kind of ear worms.

I'm not the only one. According to the APA, 44% of Americans say that their level of stress is up and affecting their daily lives. And those thoughts of, "if the house was clean, if I had more money, if my job was secure, if I could exercise, eat better, focus on the positive and get out of this rut" aren't actually helpful. Or even true.

"Americans cite lack of willpower as the biggest barrier to adopting healthier behavior. But 70 percent believe that willpower is something they can learn or improve--if only they had more money, energy or confidence in their ability to change", says APA Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Anderson, PhD. However, research shows that we must teach people how to structure their environment to increase the likelihood of making healthy choices at any given time. And that isn't always easy. So what's left? Sure, exercise would certainly help. But if  I can barely manage to hit the gym, how can I tell you do that? There are other things you can do to help curb that gnawing pain in your gut that keeps you awake at night.

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I recently took up practicing transcendental meditation. Yes, it's expensive. But I am finding a quiet peace in my inner mind and for those 40 minutes a day (which usually fly by). It's effortless to do, is effective even if you don't believe in meditation and isn't a cult. Sure there are some wacky ideas at the top of the TM food chain, but you don't throw out all of Judaism because of Kaballah. If you might be interested in learning transcendental meditation, there is most likely a center in your neck of the woods. For me, it's been kind of life-changing. Seriously.

Fix your TMJ:
TMJ is one of the most annoying parts of suffering from stress. I've actually shattered the disc that sits between the jaws from clenching. (I'll never forget that sound, the awful popping crunch in my head!) I've tried night guards from the drugstore, fancy night guards made by the dentist, inter-cranial massage and just about everything else. The only thing that has helped me is the Kacelia Tru-Align Body System. This super simple system realigns your body in just a few minutes per day. You just lay face down on the mat and the special padding and let gravity realign your body. It's been amazing for my TMJ. And TMJ isn't the only thing it's good for. According to the website, it works on everything from headaches to sciatica; pinched nerves to slipped discs. It feels so good. So. Good.

Yup. You loved it as a child for a reason. It helped take your mind off of whatever was bothering you. It helped improve hand/eye coordination and allowed you to be creative and focus on something else. Today, coloring mandalas is seen as a type of active meditation. There are several unbelievably gorgeous adult coloring books available. I love Creative Cats, Unicorns Are Jerks and Color Therapy: An Anti-Stress Coloring Book (which comes in hardback, so you never need a desk).

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Let It Go:
I'd like to believe that holding on to anger or resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I want to be ready to make nice, but I don't know how. I'm sure the key to letting go of my anger and hurt lie here. But how to do that easily? I have no idea. If you've got the answers, fill me in, will ya?

I did recently have the realization that I need to protect myself more. That means not giving time or energy to those who will only use my generosity against me. While my first inclination is to help anyone and everyone where I can, pulling back is the only way I can protect myself. So to do that, I have to fight against every fiber in my being to save my feelings. It's a weird concept and I'm not at all used to it yet. I understand it, but putting that concept into action is another story entirely.

How are you coping with stress? Have you tried meditating or coloring? Is it helping? Share your story in the comments below!

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