May 27, 2024

#8 C’mon, get happy!

Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for those purveyors of positivity, The Partridge Family!  Sing along with me if you know the tune…

🎶 “Hello world, here’s a song that we’re singin’…

C’mon get happy!

A whole lotta lovin’ is what we’ll be bringin’…

We’ll make you happy!”

You know what though, I’d guess that if all we had to do was ride around in a super cool, multi-colored school bus, rockin’ velour jumpsuits and puffy shirts, playin’ tambourines, we might be all kinds of happy too.

…I said “might.”

Alas, those are the ideals of a beloved, candy-colored 70’s sitcom.  Our world looked and felt a whole lot different 54 years ago.  Fast forward to 2024 and it sure feels like a lot less lovin’, and a lot more hatin’…less tambourine, more turmoil.  Stress is a part of all of our lives and stress management is the new “gotta have” skill set.

To make one more TV theme song reference…

🎶 ”Makin’ your way in the world today

takes everything you got…

Takin’ a break from all your worries

sure would help a lot…

…wouldn’t you like to get away?”

Enough Name That Tune (for now.)  I’m going to divide this up in two parts as there are really two big parts to the anxiety pie.  You got your general stressors that we all feel to varying degrees.  Things like, the current state of our nation (especially in this election year,) and all the uncertainty that spirals out from that; the economy, foreign relations, jobs, border wars, overall distrust of the government and its processes etc…

And then on top of that you have the insidious personal torment of worry; for our kids, our aging parents, a toxic society both at work, out in public and our own neighborhoods, just to list a few, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

First of all…STRESS 😖

Unfortunately, not having effective ways to manage stress raises the cortisol levels in our body which has been proven to cause a wide array of serious health issues that compromise the quality and length of our lives.

But I’m not here today to talk about the problem.  I’m here to offer up some simple ways to manage all this heaviness on a day by day, moment by moment basis.  Before you go down the road of the “prescription de jour” (along with its list of side effects as long as a CVS receipt,) consider first what natural ways you could turn to in an effort to relieve some stress and neutralize its negative effect on our body.

Getting in a workout is a great idea.  Before you roll your eyes, consider this.  Focusing on physical exercise gives you a chance to get out of your own head and the process of sweating itself releases endorphins known to lighten your mood. Even a short walk outdoors is an easy way to relieve tension and put your spirit in a place of gratitude.  However it is that you like to move your body is the one you stand any chance in committing to  with any kind of consistency.  Choose one (or two) and in the immortal words of WHAM, “enjoy what you do.”

If you’re stuck in a certain place and not able to create a “state change” by getting physical, you can begin to break through immediate tension by taking a few full, deep breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  (more to come on breathwork in a future column, but start with this.)  Also, diffusing an essential oil like Lavender or taking a supplement rich in Jujube, Ashwagandha and Passionflower are fantastic natural calmer-downers.

And here’s another slice of great news…

Studies have shown that the mere SMELL of an orange can relieve stress by a whopping 70%!  We’re not even talking about the boost of vitamins, water and fiber you provide your body when you actually EAT one!

I don’t know about you…but that sounds pretty a-‘peel’-ing to me (sorry, had to do it 😅)

So grab your favorite member of the orange family (sadly, Orange Chicken doesn’t count 😉 ) and give it a good long inhale while you eat each slice. And as your stress melts and your mind clears, try to come up with a word that rhymes with “oranges…”

…good luck with that 😉

And now for WORRY.

If you’re anything like me, worry is the devil. Personally, I’m too prone to give it rent free space in my mind and it can throw me into a downward spiral faster than you can say “nine inch nails.”  Is it just me, or on some days, if it doesn’t cause me to lose sleep altogether, it seems like it’s right there waiting to jump on me the moment I open my eyes.  Ugh…those days are long, difficult days.

It sounds absolutely bonkers, but I have to ask…why are our own thoughts the very things that hold us captive…worried about tomorrow…living in fear…

…why do we put ourselves through such trouble?

The answers are fascinating and if we can understand it, we can change EVERYTHING.

In 2015, there was a study conducted where subjects were asked to write down all of their worries over an extended period of time and then identify which of their imagined misfortunes did NOT actually happen.

Turns out a whopping 85% of the calamities they worried about never happened AND with the 15% that did happen, 79% of the subjects discovered they handled the difficulty better than expected and it taught them a lesson worthy of learning.

I take an incredible amount of solace in this, all the while having to remind myself of it far too often.  In essence, the things we worry about are not much more than our fearful mind punishing us with exaggerations and misperceptions.

Of course the stress generated from all this fretting causes serious health problems: heart disease, cancer, premature aging, relationship troubles, family dysfunction, clinical depression and even increased risk of dementia as we age.  I, for one, would like to take a hard pass on ALL of that.

Imagine what we could do and how great we could feel if we just let go of all this nonsense.

What if we could actually train our mind to stop worrying about what could go wrong and start getting excited about what could go right?

Literally learning how to NOT believe these self- imposed phantom misfortunes…and in return, lead ourselves to increased odds of living a longer, healthier, happier, and more successful life.

Anyone up for that besides me?

Enter mindful meditation.  Less the lotus-sitting, “om” chanting ritual you might think it is and more the simple practice of getting quiet, focusing on your breath and literally training our attention.  Can you carve out 10-15 minutes a day to do that?  Coupled with daily prayer, this is how I fight my battles.  I simply can’t imagine where I’d be without it.

Mindful meditation, being open with a trusted confidante or formal therapy are wonderful ways to let go of worry.  Remember, 85% of that sh*t ain’t gonna happen anyway!  So find a comfortable way FOR YOU to process worry and to get excited about what could go right in your life.

A fresh mindset will provide you with clarity when worry comes knocking.   You’ll have more energy to give to others and as a result, create new momentum and new opportunities in your life.

As for today, I leave you with a pearl of wisdom from American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson.  He wrote this to his daughter who was worried about a mistake she’d made. I refer to it often and have shared it with both of my daughters as they navigate life and the challenges of young adulthood.  I highly recommend you print it out, put it somewhere that you’ll see it and refer to it every night before ending your day. Here it is…

Amen to that…