Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The SMALL STUFF (ALS Stress Management Tips)

For me, this past week turned into one extraordinary busy week. You know the kind of week I’m talking about - - it begins with scheduled meetings and appointments, when out of nowhere pops up a new project with a short deadline, an extra-long phone call from a friend and unexpected, but welcome social invitations.  It’s all the extra “stuff” that transforms a well-planned week into a blur of pencil scribblings and exclamation points.  

Not so long ago during my working years, having an extra-busy week wouldn’t even faze me.  I’d say, Bring it on! Let’s add a micro-wave on the fritz and two days of constant snow just for excitement. Or I’d think tight deadlines? I’ll just move faster and multi-task!

But now that I live with ALS, moving quicker is not an option, neither is multi-tasking. My body has only one speed; even at what I think is throttle wide-open I resemble a turtle. Buttons just don’t button-up any faster and whenever I’m in a rush Murphy’s Law takes over; pencils roll off table-tops and computers seem to take f-o-r-e-v-e-r just to fire up.   

It’s the kind of a week that would make anyone throw in the towel and holler, I give up!

But, I didn't give up.

Looking back, I accomplished everything I originally set out to do plus all the extras - - without feeling frazzled or frayed.  Why?  Because I relied on four key habits of resilience; key habits that I use to help me cope and survive the occasional attack of “the small stuff” - - simple habits that you can learn to use too.  

1. Feed your body well:
For many of us, times of stress call for bags of chips and diet Coke - - we feel sorry for ourselves and turn to junk food for instant gratification and reward.  But the real reward your body needs is nutritional support and adequate hydration. Studies show that a good chunk of “fuzzy thinking” is simply a result of being borderline dehydrated. So don’t skimp or skip meals and do drink your liquids.

2. Move your body:
Who has time to exercise when life is raining buckets of stress? You do! Remember, below your brain is a physical body; a body that needs to release tension and endure hours of sitting, not moving and no stimulation. When you have no time for your regular exercise routine (you do have a regular routine, don’t you?) don’t give it up. Instead, break up your original exercise time into small chunks throughout the day. Here’s an example of what I do:
Upon first waking up, I spend five minutes stretching and reaching in all directions.
Later in the day, I'll take several five minute breaks to stand and walk laps around 
the house.
One of the breaks includes chair exercises (for ideas, try my simple “Move-Along video).
Before going to bed I’ll let my body wind down with a simple routine based on circles (wrists, shoulders, waist, ankles…you get it, just keep circling).

3. Get a good night’s sleep:
A few days of busyness is no excuse to disrupt your normal sleep cycle. Your body and mind need the sleep to relax, recover and rejuvenate. Encourage your mind to relax with a hot shower or bath, gentle stretches and a break from T.V., tablets and phones. Once lights are out, practice some deep diaphragmatic breathing which sends a signal to your central nervous system (blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, etc.) to slow down and relax. Rather than lay awake in the dark rehashing worries try this: focus on recognizing three good things that happened to you - - today. See them in your mind, replay them and identify the feelings each gives you: such as pride, happiness, joy, or pleasure. Research shows that this one evening mental exercise if even practiced for just three weeks has a positive impact on our attitude and reduces stress.
4. Keep your emotions in check:
One of our biggest challenges during busy days is staying focused and avoiding distractions. Usually the distractions are our own wayward thoughts.  What if everything goes wrong? What if I don’t get there on time? Why did I say, Yes? …and on, and on and on.  This is the time to practice “being in the moment” and paying attention.  I focus on one thing at a time and once it’s over or accomplished - - I let it go. I move my mind onto the next thing, focus on it and then let it go. I try to be methodical and calm. In fact, I’ve often noticed that my calmness influenced others around me to slow down as well; which creates a much better atmosphere for all of us!

Nutrition                              Exercise                               Sleep                     Attitude

Four key strategies that help me stay resilient. They go a long way towards helping me keep “the small stuff” well, small.

I encourage you to incorporate these into your life now so the next time you find yourself in the middle of busyness and stress you too can say, Bring it on!
Dagmar Munn
ALS and Wellness Blogger

Don’t sweat the small stuff...
and it’s all small stuff!

Richard Carlson

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1 comment:

  1. I look forward to every word you say!! Thank you a million times for sharing ...


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