[Published on Huffington Post] Too often today so many of us are caught up in the daily grind, wondering how we can get off the hamster wheel of life. This can’t help but lead us to experience feelings of overwhelm and the more we feel that way the greater our stress levels.
Our days tend to look like this; get up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Rinse and repeat day after day. With little to no time to unwind, there is little opportunity to minimize the stress from the hectic schedule. One day quickly melds with the next and suddenly weeks and months have passed. The intent to address the stress never gets implemented but should be. With a mere 15 minutes each day, and with discipline to be consistent, stress can be significantly minimized. How easy does that sound?
For those of us who are not great at being disciplined, adhering to this program could take some time to get into action. However, once the habit of setting up the 15 minutes on a daily basis is set, there is often that sense of disappointment at not starting sooner. Have you ever felt that way? You finally get around to doing something that you’ve been putting off only to realize how much better off you’d have been if you’d have started sooner.
So what kind of things can be done in only 15 minutes that will make a difference? Before I share that let me tell you a little about Harriet Beecher Stowe. She lived in the middle 1800s and was married to a preacher. Together they had seven children so you know how busy she was. Harriet was also known as an abolitionist. Her biggest contribution to the abolition of slavery was the novel she is best known for: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, although she did write 30 books. It has been said that Harriet wrote this novel writing 15 minutes a night by candlelight after the children were tucked in bed.
So if she could do that nearly 200 years ago, what could you do with your 15 minutes?
Be sure to set a timer to make it an easy thing to do…more only makes it stressful to try to fit into your schedule and then it seems like work rather than enjoyable.
In today’s world, this might simply be journaling, depending on your intentions. Some of you may want to be authors and get published either on or offline, traditional or ebook. The rest of you might just want to add this type of writing for the express purpose of logging your own journey or to leave some form of memoir for your family.
Whatever your reason, the very act of writing, because of its pensive nature, will allow you to turn down the notch on the stress meter. The very thoughts which you pen will often evoke an emotional release such as laughter, joy, appreciation and gratitude. This type of writing rarely if ever evokes the negative therefore your writing will uplift your spirit and release the thoughts that cause stress.
This usually occurs in a favored quiet place with eyes closed and aiming to clear the mind of thinking. Obviously, this means no activity such as writing or recording audible thoughts. The notion of repeating sounds such as “ohm” type chants which don’t require thinking is often found to be useful for clearing the mind.
The purpose of meditation is to give permission to the body to relax for a time. Breathing slowly, deliberately paying attention to your rhythm, and feeling the stress vacate the body is soul refreshing. It does take practice but the rewards of persevering is so worth it.
It’s always a good idea to get in the habit of collecting inspirational quotes that speak to you. On days when you feel that you are feeling flat and need a boost, this could be your 15 minute activity. The best practice with these is to have them in categories like change, courage, faith, confidence and others. When you choose to do this then it is meaningful to have a choice of topics to be inspired by.
The collection doesn’t have to be set up like a fancy book. The value is in the quotes not particularly in the way they are presented. Taking the time to make it attractive and perfect only adds stress. What can you do to put this together simply and easily? Type them up in a word document, print and put in a binder. Done!
High Power Walk:
Even a 15 minute high power walk can minimize your stress levels. Why high power? You will need to focus on the high energy required to do this. There is no room left in your brain to worry about anything else. You will asking questions like: Where am I going? Can I get to the park and back? Can I do this every other day? Am I going to survive it?
There is a lot of thinking going on but the advice here is to think about the benefits to your body. Think about the fresh air and its benefits. As you become more active doing this notice how much better you feel on so many levels. Healthier body and mind.
Listening to Music:
Get up from your usual place. Go find someplace different where you can escape distractions. Be comfortable as you don headphones and listen to a quieter type of music. It can be classical but if you are not a fan then find some quiet romantic music that you’d like to dance to. You might like heavy rock and in its place, that’s wonderful but remember your purpose here is to relax and de-stress. What music will do that for you? Create your own play list.
Choose Healthy Snack:
It is easy to get overwhelmed and overstressed when we fail to take the breaks given to us during our work day. It just seems easier to stay put and work through them. It is one of those things we should never do. We NEED to take the breaks. The benefits to our minds and bodies far outweigh loosing the time to take them.
In order to get into this habit, set yourself up with something to look forward to. Select high energy snacks which you thoroughly enjoy. Savor ever morsel. Make it an experience. Even it they cost a bit more than your normal fare you will find you don’t have the mid-afternoon carb crash. Your mind will stay clear and it will be easy to get back into the swing of things and refocus once you get back on task.
Cuddle with Your Fur Babies:
Or someone else’s. Many of the senior residences, long-term care facilities and nursing homes are realizing the health benefits of having pets come for a visit. The squeals of delight upon their arrival lifts spirits like nothing else. A lifestyle consultant I know at one such facility takes her dog, Lucky, to work with her. She says that Lucky makes all the rounds as he knows precisely who is waiting for him to visit.
There is much written about the lowering of blood pressure by those who have animals in their lives. When the focus is on caring for a pet, or paying attention to one for a time, there is an opportunity to escape your worries and enjoy the moment.
Not fond of furry babies, then find a baby you can spend time with. Nothing like baby giggles or sloppy licks from dogs or the soft purring sounds of cats to minimize stress. Try it you’ll like it.
Any of these will help you to lessen your stress and allow you to avoid being overwhelmed. Pick one or two to do regularly or mix all of them up as you feel the need. Avoid making this another job to do. Look on it as adding relaxation and fun into your ordinary routine.
Keep to 15 minutes to keep it FUN. Enjoy the benefits you know you will get. And then go “git” it done!
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