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Handling stress in a fast-paced world

We live in increasingly stressful, anxious times. Just the other day, for example, I read how as businesses lay off workers in a down economy, those left behind are being asked to do more -- and more. This is particularly true in the US, where statistics show workers put in 378 more hours per year than those in Germany and 122 more hours per year than those in Great Britain.

What to do as the pace of life increases in us and around us?

I sensed a great calm within

When I was 18, I left my home in London, England -- I was an only child -- and went out to Southern Rhodesia, as it was then called. My cousin, Ivor, who was editor of a business magazine called the Rhodesian Recorder, had invited me to come out and work for him as an editorial assistant.

It was pretty exciting stuff. Not long after I arrived, I went into a hotel in Salisbury -- now called Harare -- to have lunch. It was amazing. A young black waiter brought me five or six courses, with real meat on the menu. In England, meat was still in short supply for some time after the war ended.

After a year or so I was called to participate in a six-week training camp as a member of the Rhodesian territorial army. And sometime during these six weeks, for reasons long forgotten, I got in an argument with two young white tobacco farmers. Most of the young men in the camp were farmers, strong, suntanned and very much at home in their native land. I worked in an office  and I wasn’t too much at home in my new country either.

At a certain point in this altercation, when things could clearly escalate quite quickly, I had a sudden sense of a dimension within myself that was larger than anything I had previously known. It was a momentary experience of great peace and well-being and it brought an immediate sense of assurance and calm. I realized I lived in a loving universe and the trouble between us could quickly evaporate if I let it – which I did.

5 steps on the path to well-being

60 years have passed since that long-ago day on a dusty African plain. I have come to realize that truly, we do have resources of well-being and wisdom within us that are unfathomable and actually part of our true nature. All that is necessary is to find ways to access this innate well-being and learn to live in balance and harmony with it.

Here are 5 simple ways I find useful to help me stay connected with my own inner well-being. What about you? What are some of the ways that you handle stress and anxiety? Please share, won't you?

 1. Slowly sip some cool, clear water

This may sound a little strange. But believe me, it works. I have been doing this every now and again for 30 or 40 years, and it never fails. Sit down quietly by yourself with a cup of water, and take a series of small sips. I mean SLOW. Really take your time with this. Let each sip be a sacrament between you and the holy, healing power of pure water.

Water is one of the greatest healers you will ever find. Try holding each sip between the tip of your tongue and your teeth or palate for a moment before you swallow.

2. Give yourself five minutes to do some belly breathing

Abdominal breathing is one of the quickest ways I know to lower stress and promote well-being. I try and do it for a few minutes every night before going to bed. I know for a fact that "therapeutic" breathing, as it is sometimes called, helps keep my blood pressure nicely under control.

 3. Go to the gym, or go for a walk

Everywhere you look nowadays you will find a new article or presentation about the value of exercise. Personally, I love walking, and I love resistance training at the gym. I’ve been going to the gym for ten years, and at 79, feel fitter and in better shape than I was 20 years ago.

4. LAUGH

Laughter has amazing therapeutic power. This may sound strange, but it's really only in the past few years that I've learned to laugh. Research presented at a European Society of Cardiology conference in Paris last week shows that watching a funny movie or television show aids vascular function, while a stressful or scary movie narrows blood vessels.

The vascular improvement caused by laughter is similar to the benefits found in aerobic exercise or the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs, said the lead researcher, Michael Miller of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

5. Be still

Stillness is the very essence of true happiness and well-being. A few moments ago I was sitting on the porch of our townhome admiring the beautiful evening when a small finch came and perched on a vertical branch near the top of the 30-foot blue spruce tree that grows opposite our front door.  I thought to myself, as I watched this tiny creature, hasppy just to be still, "What could make this moment any more perfect than it already is ?"

Free wellness tips

Came across a free offering at the Wholefood Farmacy the other day which I think is worth passing on to you. This is an interesting company, based in Tennessee, that specializes in whole food-based meals and snacks and non-toxic personal care items. I've ordered one of their products, a mixture of dried whole grains and fruits that you chew like a trail-mix, and will let you know what I think about it next week.

What I wanted to mention here is that they offer a series of free, very up-to-date and informative e-mails regarding different aspects of a preventative-based lifestyle. It’s called “90 days to wellness” and I totally recommend these free educational e-mails. If you’re interested, just click on the above link and then find the link to download the free emails. Sample titles are “Water and Your Heart,” and "Teach our children well."

That's it for now. I send you blessings and love from Colorado. Never forget that wellness is your birthright, and it’s just waiting to flourish and grow stronger in you regardless of your age even in these difficult times.

Picture credit: helenoftheways

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5222/5595838945_0aac31c69b.jpg

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Timaree September 6, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Perfect timing! My husband who had a quadruple bypass 6 years ago was having a lot of chest pains this morning. I knew he was going to as he got up before I did this morning which meant he was reading political blogs and articles. While we were watching the news he started giving loud opinions faster and faster so I figured something was coming.

Then he complained about the pains as we did crosswords and asked for 1/2 an aspirin – that means he was having real difficulties. So I told him to take slow, deep breaths. Then we started joking about stuff and he actually started laughing out loud. (I was joking that he didn’t need to build a safety fence for our dogs against rattlesnakes as he was going to drop dead and I’d just move and give the dogs a safe home elsewhere- that’s our kind of humor and he got the point).

Soon, the pain lessened and he was okay again. Yep, these points you outline here really do work! I knew about humor and breathing but not the others.
Timaree recently posted..Sambo and another Portrait

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Christopher Foster September 6, 2011 at 3:32 pm

Hi Timaree,

My goodness, that’s quite a story. Many thanks for sharing it. I’m trying to figure out where you guys live. I loved the artwork at your blog by the way. It looked to me as if you live in a place where green mojave rattlers live. And they don’t sound like very people-friendly critturs to me. Opening the front door and seeing one of them stretched out just outside well, not quite my idea of a leisurely awakening, what happens here is I open the door and there’s a copy of the Denver Post waiting for me tyo read and share with JoAnn.

I do wish both you and your husband well. Yes. Keep him laughing. Sounds like you’re on top of it. Norman Cousin, author of a great book called Anatomy of an Illness, was sick nearly to death in a hospital, decided to leave, got himself into a hotel, got a bunch of funny movies and started laughing — and improved in a way that amazed his doctors. Blessings.

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Alex Blackwell | The BridgeMaker September 6, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Christopher,

Number three works best for me. When my stress level is inching upward is always a sign I need to head to the gym for an hour of physical decompression.

Thanks for these important reminders,

Alex

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Christopher Foster September 8, 2011 at 10:24 am

I’m with you all the way Alex. I started going to a gym 10 years ago and it has made a huge difference in my life. My body looks forward to a bit of resistance training the way a dog looks forward to a walk.

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Cathy | Treatment Talk September 6, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Hi Christopher,

Wonderful list! I’ll remember your ideas. For me yoga has helped me immensely with calming down and finding balance. My stress level and anxiety are always lower after I leave a class.
Cathy | Treatment Talk recently posted..What is Addicted to Addicts: Survival 101?

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Christopher Foster September 8, 2011 at 10:21 am

Thank you Cathy, yoga is a tremendous blessing, no question about it. Thanks for adding yoga to the list. When I was young I enjoyed standing on my head, my parents thought it was very strange but there you go. I’m so happy at the way this list has been filling out a bit more. Keep going with the yoga. Blessings.

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Metod September 6, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Christopher, thank you for sharing your insight with us. I find a big help in time of distress in music. Listening to my familiar tunes can put me on a right track.
Also walking…especially in nature and observing the beauty around can be very healing for me. And having a happy dog 🙂 …who could resist such excitement?

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Christopher Foster September 8, 2011 at 10:15 am

Hi Metod,

Oh yes, music is wonderful, isn’t it. But look, I love that you have a happy dog. Could I ask what his (her) name is? I was mentioning in another response JoAnn and I don’t have a dog but there are a LOT of happy dogs in this neighborhood so I get my fix that way. Anyway, give your mutt a pet for me, won’t you?

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Metod September 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm

Christopher, at the moment, I’m like you…getting fix from my friends dogs. We have very busy schedule right now so I know it would not be far to him/her. A friend of mine has this amazing dog called Honeyboy which is so special and fun, great with kids. He’s here with my youngest boy.
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1728280456727&set=a.1419228490621.2057390.1529913645&type=1&theater
best wishes…

Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition September 6, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Chris,
I love all your tips especially about sipping water very slowly.
I’d never heard that. I’m going to try it though.

I also like walking and watching nature when I’m stressed.
Thank you for a very informative article.
Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition recently posted..Giving Up The Illusion of Control When Things Don’t Go Your Way

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Christopher Foster September 8, 2011 at 10:11 am

Lovely to hear from you Angela. Please let me know how the ‘slow sipping’ approach works for you, or if it works for you. I can’t remember how I got started on this. Maybe it just works for me and not anyone else but I thought it was worth sharing. Best wishes.

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Ken Wert September 7, 2011 at 11:25 am

Laughter truly does have medicinal value! I recently commented elsewhere that I once read of a man who was diagnosed with cancer. He decided to spend his days in the hospital bed laughing. So he watched Marx Brothers movies all day and laughed himself better!

You are so right to remind us of the therapeutic power of laughter. It saves lives, marriages, and sanity.

Thanks for the awesome post, Christopher!
Ken Wert recently posted..22 Lessons Learned “When Sorrow Walked with Me”

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Christopher Foster September 8, 2011 at 10:08 am

Ken, thanks so much for your words here. I really appreciate your comment. A little more laughter in Congress might not be a bad idea, don’t you think? After I finish up here I’ll check out your latest post, sounds VERY intriguing. All the best.

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noch - be me. be natural September 7, 2011 at 9:59 pm

i’d add an extra step – get a pet too. patting them and playing with them helps release stress
i am suffering from stress – induced depression, and after the worst period, we got a puppy, and now she makes me happy and forces me to get out of the house, and be still, just watching her

noch
noch – be me. be natural recently posted..do I look like I fly economy?

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Christopher Foster September 8, 2011 at 10:03 am

Hey, you’re talking my language Noch. Thanks so much for this tip. I live in a townhome complex and while we don’t have a dog, I get to pat and pet other people’s dogs every day when I’m out for a walk. It’s one of my favorite things. I am very glad to hear that your puppy is being so helpful to you and I wish you well on your journey.

I’ve been in a depression myself and it is a hard and sometimes terrifying journey, but my experience is that if you persist there is joy on the other side of despair.

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Phil D. Malmstrom September 8, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I have to tell you Christopher, I never leave reading one of your posts without a smile. 🙂

You, my friend (and I mean that… I’ve come to consider you a good friend), have an obviously innate sense of connection to our Creator which I love reading in your posts. These are truly wonderful tips, and I use many of them myself. I would like to add one though, if I may…

Prayer.

Now, in some respects you’ve covered this in the “Be Still” section:

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10

But I find that the silent, communal times I spend with God melts away any anxieties and fears that have poisoned my spirit throughout the day. That one-on-one time with God can make everything else fit into it’s proper perspective, and makes all the difference in the world.

Thank you once again Chris, for all you bring to your readers.

Have a Blessed Day!
Phil D. Malmstrom recently posted..Thankful Thursday: Passing the Tradition

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Christopher Foster September 10, 2011 at 12:46 pm

Phil, amen to the friendship and everything you say here. It’s a blessing to me. I want you to know I look forward to your comments so much, conveying, as they do, a spirit of steadfast love and reverence for the silent Presence that illumines and sustains all our lives.

I’m so glad you added this dimension of prayer, and I agree with what you say absolutely. I’m approaching the big 80 next May (a few months behind my wife, bless her heart she leads the way for me in this and in many ways). But I find that this adventure of communing with what is timeless and permanently at peace in myself is an adventure that never ends.

My love to you and your loved ones. Stay well.

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Justin | Mazzastick September 9, 2011 at 7:15 pm

Hey Christopher,
You lived in Rhodesia, That is now known as Zimbabwe. It was named after the man that Created the infamous “Rhodes Scholar award.”

So let me get this straight. You were born in London, Moved to Africa and now live in Colorado? Wow, you sure do get around.

I bet you have found some creative ways to keep your cool.
Justin | Mazzastick recently posted..What Matters To You

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Christopher Foster September 10, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Justin, I’m always so happy to hear from you. Hey, live long enough, and you have to find creative ways to keep your cool:-) But however old, or young, we are, challenges come to us all. What I am so thankful for is the remarkable resilience of our mind, body and spirit. Give it half a chance, it will bring us thru even the most frightening traumas.

Be well, my blogging friend.

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Sheila September 11, 2011 at 10:16 am

Laughing does the trick to relieve me of any stress or anxiety. Thanks for sharing the other tips. I will do tip #1 more often, too.
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Jane September 12, 2011 at 11:59 pm

As they say, laughter is the best medicine and studies show it relieves stress or anxiety. I believe also that this reminds us of the therapeutic power of laughter and how it can save lives, marriages, and sanity. I want to congratulate you for posting this article because this is really awesome.
Jane recently posted..LoveNuts Love Blog

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Christopher Foster September 13, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Thanks so much for writing Jane. Laughter truly does have great therapeutic power — just like smiling. So happy to connect with you in this way. Blessings.

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Dr. Robert Doebler January 16, 2012 at 7:06 am

Hi Chris,

One of my favorite ways to be stress free is by surrounding myself with my loved ones. It’s good to hang out with them as they encourage and motivates you to complete your task. Not only that they are your inspiration but also they give you a reason to laugh and channel positive energy to make you feel better.

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Christopher Foster January 17, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Oh I do so agree Robert. This may sound strange, but since meeting my wife JoAnn 15 years or so ago I’ve learned to laugh in a way that never happened before. I laugh and laugh — and it’s fun laughing, isn’t it? It does indeed make you feel better, just as you say.

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Christopher Foster September 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Best wishes to you too Metod. It was nice to hear about Honeyboy. Sounds a cool dog. We have so many mutts in this complex I’ve kind of given up trying to remember all their names… a coward’s way out I know. Hey, would you give Honeyboy a pat for me?

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