Seventeen years ago, at the age of 22 years, I walked out of a store in Philadelphia with a small black rectangular electronic device with a built-in antenna and 12 numerical buttons that gave me immediate access to the world at my fingertips. I remember calling my parents in Cleveland as I walked down Walnut street, proudly announcing my first step into the world of accessibility thanks to technology. I remember the sheer excitement I felt, holding a piece of the world in my hand, the incredible power of knowing that I was part of something bigger in our world.
Today, as I drove into work I bounced back and forth between CNN and MSNBC, a morning and evening routine that I have adapted to over the past two or three years. I often find myself on my morning drives through congested construction and jammed freeways, feeling agitated, overwhelmed and anxious over the jarring amount of information overflow and sense of urgency and uncertainty in which we exist today.
I am a child of the 80’s with memories of cassette players and watching the 5 pm news with my dad, a teenager of the 90’s collecting CD’s through paper magazine clubs and watching MTV at my friends’ homes, and I am a young adult of the 2000’s with the heavy emergence of technology, access to information, and connectedness through electronics that often fills our minds on a daily, hourly, even by the minute basis. I still remember where I was and what I was doing the day the towers fell, I watched the Saddam Hussein Statue be brought down, I have seen chemical warfare and felt the repeated threat of nuclear war through my television screen, computer, car, and phone. I remember the minute the death of Michael Jackson was reported, and when Bill Cosby was arrested. I remember the moment we made US history as the first black man was elected president and still remember going to bed on November 8th, 2016 feeling overwhelmed with emotion and uncertainty… which has only intensified at a rapid pace in the last 18 months.
As a society, we have rapidly evolved into a fast-paced, information overload world. I have noticed more of my colleagues and friends posting “gentle messages” on Facebook, expressing a feeling of being overwhelmed based off the daily inundation of what is going on in our world and needing to place imagery of a cat, cute baby, or kind quote in an effort to re-establish some sort of normalcy in what feels like constant chaos, and an emerging imbalance of stress in our daily lives, whether we are fully aware of it or not. I wish I had a magic ball I could shake up and be assured that in a few years all will calm down and we will feel settled again, but without magic powers we are all left to deal with the overwhelming inundation of information and growing tensions of the moral compass of our democracy and society as a whole.
Stress is quickly becoming the silent killer and has a significant impact on all of our lives, regardless of the genes we were dealt. Stress ages the body and mind, it reroutes neurological pathways and can create great strain on our guts, our hearts, and our brains.
In a recent presentation I sat through, the speaker pulled up a stat that indicated 50% to 80% of all doctors’ visits were stress related! Stress messes with our hormones, our sleep, and our food cravings! How many of us can relate to being an emotional eater? I know I can! However, most importantly, if we aren’t balanced and managing our stress, then we are passing that on to our kids and students, and because of that, we must all find ways to cope and manage our stress, especially for the sake of those whom we serve.
So how do you manage stress? Most importantly, know that you are in control. Much like Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” no one can control your stress but you! You have to make choices to manage it in the same way that we manage our weight and make the choices that support a healthier you! So here are a few strategies for managing stress.
Look at it like a menu, pick one or two and practice it for 30 days, if you like it, keep working on it, if not, try another:
- Set times throughout the day to take a “time out” from media and internet.
- Exercise daily… this may vary from person to person, but anything from getting outside for a walk to lifting weights.
- Take up Yoga or Thai Chi.
- Eat healthy balanced meals throughout the day (avoid spikes from sugars which actually further activate stress on your body).
- Meditate – even 3 minutes a day has shown proven benefit, you can even find meditation apps on your phone!
- Do something social with another human… connect with them and disconnect from media.
- Get 8-9 hours of sleep a night (turn off the tv, turn down the room temperature, get under the blankets).
- Journal your thoughts, feelings, emotions.
- Get a Therapist! I am a huge advocate for having an objective party to talk through stressful times and moments. Everyone needs to have a good therapist to talk to every now and then… if Anthony Soprano could do it… so can you!
So, what is my “stress management” routine? For me, stress management is a practice that I continue to try and hone. Some things I do really well, others not so much. I exercise every single morning. It sets the stage for my day and helps me decompress and balance before work begins. I have grown to love weight lifting and have pretty much cut out most of my cardio, other than walking on my recovery days. I feel empowered and in control when lifting and can’t think of much else other than form and how darn heavy those weights are when I am at the gym! I also try to eat healthy and balanced but do love cookies and candy and that sometimes take me hostage! As I said before, I am a huge advocate of therapy. I don’t go on a regular basis, but have in the past and will seek it out again in the future if I need it. I am working on trying to move closer to 8 hours of sleep and am considering turning off the TV at night, but that is a bigger hurdle than I am ready to face today! It is about grace, not perfection, and progress towards greatness!
We are all on a journey to be healthier and to manage stress in a world that is growing increasingly uncertain. The biggest thing you can do is take a step forward, do something to help yourself, and to be better for those around you.
So what did I eat for Breakfast this morning… I was starving!
- Delicious Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Toast with vegan butter
- Collagen Peptide powder in my Green Tea
- Detox Smoothie (spinach, ginger, turmeric, peaches, strawberries, ½ banana, ice, and water)