Stress or not to stress? For us, 2020 was a year to remember (or not). We thought 2019 was the year of adversity for us. Chile (African American Vernacular English for child), 2019 was a walk in the park compared to 2020. 2020 was supposed to be the year of the come-up. We had plans. Daniel signed to a team. He would play the entire season and get some good highlights for his football reel. My plans were to be a housewife, chill, and enjoy matrimony before the baby carriage. 2020 fooled us. Below are just a few things my husband and I experienced in 2020.
- A canceled football (soccer) contract
- Relocated to another Emirate
- Communal living situation
- Toxic work environment (me)
- A global pandemic
- No new football (soccer) contract for the new season
- Stranded over 7,500 miles away from home during a pandemic
- Job resignation (me)
- Unemployment at sometime during the year (both)
That’s not everything but these are some of the top stressful life events. All are occurring in the same year within months of each other. Based on the Holmes-Rahe Stress Inventory Assessment found on the American Institute of Stress website, our stress score is 446. According to the Holmes-Rahe statistical prediction model, 300 points or more constitutes an 80% chance of health breakdown in the next two years. All these stressful events can take a toll on your mental and physical well-being. Take the test for yourself here.
Ask Hard Questions
The sequence of events required a serious talk with myself about my well-being and what needed to change to avoid a mental breakdown. I was asking myself some hard questions about my life.
- Should I stay in Abu Dhabi?
- Stay with Daniel?
- Should I stay at my current company?
- What is my next move?
The answers did not all come at once. As life happened, I received conclusive answers to my life questions.
Abu Dhabi? A canceled flight. Ok, I’ll just reschedule.
Daniel? A closed border (no entering or exiting the Emirate). If that’s not a sign to stay put, I don’t know what it is.
Company? A brusque email from a supervisor with a bureaucratic management style. Bye Felicia!
Next move? Replenish myself.
Unknowingly, the multitude of life events took me out of my element. I needed to be mindful of my inner being. The adversities along with an invitation to speak at the beginning of the global pandemic led me to share how I thrived through turbulent (formerly challenging) times.
Below are the strategies I practice routinely to T-H-R-I-V-E and destress:
1 | Time Alone
Time in solitude is therapeutic. I’ve always had a ritual of waking up before dawn. Particularly, listening to the still small voice within and jotting things down as they come to me. My thoughts tend to be very clear in the morning. I treasure this time of the day because there are no distractions. I usually light lavender incense and play soft music with a cup of tea. The stillness, smell, and music create a heightened atmosphere. It’s an exceptional practice to counter the stressors of the day and set yourself up for success. It’s scientifically proven that meditation reduces stress.
“Research has shown that those who practice meditation regularly begin to experience changes in their response to stress that allow them to recover from stressful situations more easily and experience less stress from the challenges they face in their everyday lives.” -Very Well Mind
2 | Help Others
As I stated 2019 and 2020 were some stressful years. I could complain about a lot of things (and sometimes I did). Overall, I knew complaining was not going to solve any of our problems. Instead, I made a conscious effort to redirect that energy to help others. One thing we did was donate groceries to an individual who was making food boxes for people who lost their job during the pandemic. Showing acts of kindness brought me immense joy. She would share with us videos of the individuals picking up the food boxes. The smile or the excitement of the person on the receiving end was contagious. Jesus was quoted saying “You’re far happier giving than getting.”
“[W]hen we help others we can also help ourselves,”…“Stressful days usually lead us to have a worse mood and poorer mental health, but our findings suggest that if we do small things for others, such as holding a door open for someone, we won’t feel as poorly on stressful days.” — Emily Ansell, Yale University School of Medicine
3 | Rest
I’ve never had an issue getting eight hours of sleep and on most days an afternoon nap. Now, I take my rest a step further by unplugging one day out of the week. I take an entire day to rest. Powering off my technological devices to the world. No screen time. Benefits: Uninterrupted quality time with myself or the hubby. The day seems longer. I read more intently. Deep, engaging conversations occur. Life. Beliefs. Religion. Politics. Questions are asked. Questions go unanswered. I feel revived and rejuvenated. Self-reflection and external observation are heightened. The day is carefree. Typically, nothing is planned. For the most part, I stay at home all day and just go with the flow. Most importantly, the world still functions while I am unplugged. Can you believe it? Oftentimes, we think otherwise. Couldn’t be farthest from the truth. I see disconnecting becoming the norm in today’s society. I’m getting a head start.
Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
— James Addison
4 | Invest in Yourself
The University of Sussex in the United Kingdom conducted a study in 2009 that discovered reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. Study participants reading as little as 6 minutes experienced slowed heart rate and reduced muscle tension.
I’m a self-proclaimed Autodidact. I designate time each day to invest in my personal development. One of my personal development practices is to read 30 minutes or more of a personal development book each day. In addition,
- I watch an inspirational YouTube video or two.
- I’m a member of Toastmasters International (leadership and public speaking organization) and an online coaching program.
- Periodically, I try to learn a new skill. Currently, it’s Arabic & Twi (Daniel’s native language).
5 | Voice Your Confessions
“Every thought you think and every word you speak is an affirmation (confession). All of our self-talk, our internal dialogue, is a stream of affirmations (confessions). You’re using affirmations (confessions) every moment whether you know it or not. You’re affirming (confessing) and creating your life experiences with every word and thought.” — Louise Hay
Daily I speak positive confessions over my life. I speak the life I envision myself living. I am mentally preparing myself for the days ahead. Similar to a motivational talk given by a coach before a game. I’m motivating myself for the game of life. I’ll have to admit, it works. After a good night’s rest, time alone with my thoughts, and a pep talk, I’m ready to conquer the day. A scientific study stated individuals that “affirmed their values had significantly lower cortisol responses to stress. The findings suggest that affirmation of personal values can keep neuroendocrine and psychological responses to stress at low levels” which can lead to mental and physical health disorders.
6 | Visualize Your Future
“Where the mind goes the body will follow.”
In addition to voicing my confessions, I visualize my future using my five senses and a vision book. Science Abbey purports that “[v]isualization is a uniquely attractive form of medicine. It is an effective preventative therapy as well as a benign remedy for stress and many of its associated disorders.” Visualization mentally transports me to a place of refuge and utopia. Additionally, it’s popular and successful among many athletes and celebrities in achieving their career goals.
7 | Expect Good Things To Happen
I’ve always been a “glass half full/joy comes in the morning” type of person. The experience of multiple adverse events occurring back to back required me to go the extra mile to face the day with optimism. According to Dr. John Medina’s book, Brain Rules for Aging Well, “[t]he ability for you to stay optimistic produces a buffer against your probability of experiencing depression.” In turn, your natural bodily defenses can fight serious illnesses resulting in a life span increase of nearly eight years.
8 | Exercise
Due to stressful employers in the past year, exercise is now a part of my life routine. The reason I did not lose my mind (or my marriage), I incorporated exercise as a part of my daily regimen. A good workout makes me feel mentally and physically better. According to Harvard Medical School, “[e]xercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators.” In hindsight, I can appreciate the awful work environments for the adoption of this habit.
9 | Eat Healthy
For the most part, I adhere to a Mediterranean diet. For 2021, it is ranked №1 in six different categories (best diet overall, best diets for healthy eating, easiest diets to follow, best diets for diabetes, best heart-healthy diets, and best plant-based diets) by US News & World Report. The Mediterranean diet consists of fish, eggs, beans, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats.
Additionally, green smoothies are a regular food item of choice for me as a meal replacement or snack. Smoothies are a great way to get your daily fruit and vegetable servings. According to a recent study conducted by Edith Coan University in Australia, “[t]he findings revealed people who ate at least 470 grams of fruit and vegetables daily had 10 percent lower stress levels than those who consumed less than 230 grams.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day.
“You should enjoy every day of your life, no matter how long you live. But remember that you will die, and you will be dead much longer than you were alive. And after you are dead, you cannot do anything.”
-5th-century king in his search for wisdom about the meaning of life
These nine practices are scientifically proven to lift your mood to a higher vibrational frequency. I can attest they keep me in high spirits and do wonders for my mental and physical health. I enjoy life much more when these practices are active in my life. Usually, I perform these tasks in the morning to kick start my day. My cup is running over with joy, love, peace, and laughter. Get a handle on stress and T.H.R.I.V.E. by incorporating these practices in your life.
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