Some hints for coping with stress

I don’t want to bore you with my life story, but I had several years of stress that ended up manifesting themselves bodily in the form of nausea, rapid heart palpitations, erratic sleep and eating patterns, depression, permanent exhaustion, mood swings, memory loss, light hallucinations and very painful cramp-like symptoms in various body parts

It was so bad for some time that I couldn’t lie on my back anymore and had to sleep while sitting. How do I know that it was stress that caused this? I am only guessing, but I got rid of the stress, and now the symptoms are gone as well. Symptoms that I had for years and that no doctor could explain. So maybe here are some hints you could probably also get from anyone else with a similar backstory:

Identify your primary stressor and get rid of it. Without getting rid of this, you cannot really recover from stress-related illnesses even if you master all manner of coping mechanisms. But this is easier said than done. Maybe a professional can help you. For me it was all very non-obvious and I only recognized how much stress I had been facing when the situation changed and the primary stressor had disappeared.

Try taking up meditation. I know it sounds clichéd. But learning to not think for ten or twenty minutes in a row twice a day can make a huge difference in how you approach stressful situations — it can even change it so that a situation that would normally feel stressful to you no longer does. I got my intro to Zen meditation from Brad Warner’s books.

Go for walks in the forest. This is not some hippie bullshit. It is being researched and shows good promise.

While on the topic of walking, walk briskly for one hour in fresh air at least two  days a week. I shit you not. This can even help people with depression.

Give your brain time for boredom. Brains need downtime, but if you always carry a smartphone and start distracting yourself whenever you don’t feel stimulated, you are robbing your brain of an important mechanism. Aimlessly wandering thoughts can help you when it comes to creative problem-solving, and if you can solve your problems more easily, you’re perhaps creating less new stress.

Don’t read all the news, especially if it upsets you. If you absolutely must  follow some of the news, perhaps for your job, reserve some time when you do that. Every morning during your commute on the train, perhaps. Avoid news sources outside of this time window. I went completely without news for almost a year and I didn’t miss anything important.

If you’re on Facebook, Twitter or some other site where you can waste time with a lot of mindless scrolling, quit that. If you find that it’s very hard to quit, congratulations, you may have been developing an addiction, so it’s extra smart that you quit now.

You don’t have to completely get rid of all social networking, everything in moderation. But ask yourself what you’re feeling while you’re reading. Are you learning something useful? Is it extremely entertaining, more so than something else you could be doing? Or does it just annoy you or make you feel bad about yourself? Then stop when you notice that. There are better sources of news and opinions than Twitter or Facebook.

When you’re watching a movie, all secondary devices stay off. No distractions. If the movie is so boring that you have to play a game on another device, it’s not worth watching, you might as well turn it off and focus on your game instead.

Block your downtime, protect it from intrusions. If you have to work six days a week, reserve the seventh for doing absolutely nothing related to work. Send the kids to the grandparents, leave your home for the day and sit in a park with a book, do whatever it takes to get out of your rut. Working seven days a week destroys you. Unless you’re a workaholic perhaps, but I’m not so I wouldn’t know.

Most of these steps take time, but you get time by stopping with the time-wasters. An hour staring at a wall thinking about otters is not wasted time.  An hour flitting back and forth between a movie, a game and Facebook is.

Good luck and let me know if this works for you. Disclaimer: I’m not a professional, so this isn’t qualified medical advice. If you’re under stress and haven’t seen some stress expert yet, do that first.

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