Lightening your load – paths to reduce stress and to a balanced life

emotional health monday blogs Aug 12, 2018

Many of us are used living with heavy loads where we try to balance the facets of our lives. We try to equally balance our family life, our work life, our spiritual life, and our personal life. Often we are left feeling that we carry heavy burdens. What if there was a way to feel lighter? Would you like to know what it feels like to let some of that heaviness go? Me, too. I mean, yes, it’s true that the North Shore of Hawaii will reduce stress but what if you are in the 108 degree heat of southern Idaho? Then what?

I’ve been really thinking and mediating about ways to do that. I put some things into practice recently that have been a tremendous help. There are some easy ways of lightening the load to reduce stress we carry. But when we are under such weight, we struggle to let things go. The things I’m going to tell you about have really worked for me, and I hope they are of service to you, too.

Ask for help

Asking for help is such a simple solution, but it’s not the first thing many of us try. We don’t want to bother other people, or we worry they will think we are weak. Perhaps we even worry that people will lose respect for us if we need help. Recently I was feeling overwhelmed. I called my boss and asked to talk. Even before we came up with ideas and solutions, I felt better simply because I knew I had support. Now it’s true, I have a really good boss. But here is the key to this being a solution: having someone else brainstorm ideas helps alleviate stress and worry simply because there is another perspective. In many cases, once we ask for help and feel support, we realize we don’t actually need as much help as we thought.

Perhaps the help you need isn’t conceptual but physical. The same applies. People like to help, and once you feel support, you may not actually be as overwhelmed as you thought.

My neighbor, Lori, has taught me a lot about asking for help. She freely asks for help when she needs it. Rather than feeling annoyed or put-upon, I feel happy she trusts me enough to ask. I enjoy helping!! I feel good knowing I’ve helped. This also helps me to be brave enough to ask for help in return. And the cool thing about this type of help is that it never looks identical when it’s reciprocated. For example, Lori might need help with her dogs (who we LOVE). For helping, she’ll send us home with fresh tomatoes or we’ll enjoy a glass of wine together (ok.. it *may* be more than one glass sometimes) on the weekends. Helping feels good. It also helps to build relationships because it fosters trust. Think about how cool that is for a second!

Let people know what’s up

Many times the simple act of letting people know something is happening in your life is enough to reduce stress and anxiety. It’s important to note this isn’t license to complain… that won’t do anyone any good. That doesn’t mean you can’t be authentic if something hard is happening. Here is the difference.

Complaining is talking, and talking, and talking, and talking about all that is wrong with no solutions. Complaining is shutting down all potential problem solving because you are being fueled by the negativity of the complaint. Complaining actually depletes you. And if definitely depletes those around you.

But you can be authentic and say, “this is happening and this is hard right now.” without complaining. The difference is that you are open to support and problem solving. You are solution oriented…or at least open to solutions if you can’t come up with them on your own in that tough moment. This is another way of asking for help. And the best part is, it lightens your load and reduces stress.

Hearing that people care about you is often very healing. Knowing you aren’t alone in your experience is like salve and soothes a hurting heart or overburdened body. Besides, you instantly become more human to the people around you. This is also a relationship builder. Wait. What? Both of these things build relationships?!? Yes. Absolutely.  This leads us to the last load-lightener.

Let it go

Sometimes we just have to move on. This is not sarcasm or tongue-in-cheek. Sometimes you just need to stop focusing on the hard stuff and change your perspective. Occasionally, this alone is enough to reduce stress.

In the course of 8 days in July this year (yep, just last month) we were rear-ended in an injury accident, our oldest dog died, and my daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis. It was overwhelming. I let people know in a totally uncomfortable Facebook post that we needed some good vibes and prayers headed our way. People responded immediately with incredible messages of love and support. That alone was incredible and felt very healing.

It also helped me realize I’m not alone in this experience of life. Of course, I knew that. But sometimes you need a reminder! Their words of encouragement helped me to be able to just let some things go and change my perspective.

Now the good news is that our injuries are not permanent and we are receiving excellent care. We get to talk to interesting people who are our care providers and take time out for self care. We still hurt but we are learning to rest when we need to rest…which is really a positive.

We miss our Stella terribly. But here is an unexpected benefit. Our doxies are really well behaved – well, mostly. There have been no accidents in the house (all Stella, who knew!) The barking is significantly decreased in the house – unless the squirrel decides to tease them. The reality is that the rabble rouser in the house was Stella. We had no idea!! We would never have wished her gone. But this isn’t all bad.

Now that we know about my daughter’s scoliosis we can monitor it and do some strengthening. It’s all good!

And… you might accidentally make a mistake. You might eat your feelings. Pita chips, anyone? Or try to purchase away your feelings. Yes, I did buy a paddle board at the grocery store while out on a pizza run, but forgot the pizza. I also returned it the next day. Tyler, if you ever read this, thank you for not making me feel like an idiot after you sold me the paddle board and then I returned it 12 hours later admitting I had tried to buy away my feelings.

The point is – give your self time and space to deal with whatever it is you have to deal with. Be gentle with yourself. Moniter your internal dialogue to be sure you are as nice to yourself as you are to your friends and family.

If you have ridiculous stories like mine (who buys a paddle board on an impulse from the grocery store and then forgets dinner?!?) I’d love to hear them. 🙂

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All my love,