Stress is your response to what is happening around you. While you don’t have control over what is, you have control over your response, which affects your hormones and health. Thinking can set off an adrenaline and cortisol surge that can have damaging effects on your health if left unchecked. Having just experienced over a week without power at home and work after the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, I had to put into practice some stress management skills that I teach.
I had no power or phone at home or work and was trying to run a business and respond to patient requests from Starbucks and the libraries (those that were open). It was a challenge trying to find a power source to keep my phone and computer charged, as they had become my lifeline to communicate with the world. I got to meet many people going through much worse. Since I read and write a lot about stress management, I thought I would share the tried and true tips that I used. My situation was minor but I had been through much, much worse at times in my life. I know people are going through far worse and don’t want to minimize their pain and suffering.
Acceptance: I always go back to the Serenity Prayer. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” We couldn’t change the fact that there was no power but many of us formed community in Starbucks by sharing power outlets and making room for people to charge up. Random acts of kindness can take the sting out of wounds. Knowing others are going through the same thing can build bonds.
Attitude: Make a decision to make the best of things. With a refrigerator and freezer full of food that would have been thrown out, neighbors and I had community barbecues and long candlelight dinners with great conversation, food and laughter. We created a stronger community bond. All of us made the best of it by walking at night in groups with flashlights, enjoyed what we could of some sunshine and tried our best to take care of what was essential. At night, the absolute silence and darkness was an ideal time to meditate, stretch, and practice yoga and deep, healing breathing.
Gratitude: Someone always has it better or worse. Comparison can help or hurt. I consider myself lucky that I didn’t lose my house and all of my belongings and was grateful for that and was able to see this as an inconvenience that will pass. Those who suffered devastating losses cope with the fact that they and their families are alive and well and things are replaceable. As hard as it may be, find something you are grateful for and focus on that.
Compassion: Having compassion for yourself and others, lending a helping hand and giving back to those who are in need sends forth a positive energy and can be healing and give a sense of control.
Let’s reach out to those who need help and find something to be grateful for.