The “Stress Excuse” Can Be Fun!
By Ruth Anne Plourde

Stress, stressed, stressed out and overwhelming stress. Do these words put fear into your heart? Do they make you anxious? Do they make you feel stressed? For most of us the word stress (or any form of the word stress) is a “six letter word” that has negative connotations. It stimulates images of being frazzled, of pulling one’s hair out and of being tired and crabby. On the other hand, it has also become a good word to use as an excuse to get out of things we don’t like to do or don’t want to do. It is, however, serious business when we read the research results of how chronic unrelieved stress can be detrimental to our health.

I would like to suggest that we not get bogged down with the doom and gloom of stress. Let’s look at the “stress excuse” as a way to have fun, a way to put joy and happiness in our life and a way to create balance and harmony in our lives -- the end result being health, happiness and less stress.

If you have not thought about the idea that stress can actually be an excuse for fun, I’d like to introduce you to some fun stress relievers, so when the phrase, “I’m too stressed out to think straight.” (or similar phrases) start to pop into your head and out of your mouth you will have a fun effective antidote. In past articles I have talked about relaxation being the body’s natural antidote to stress, which is true. However, there are many different ways to “relax” the body and mind, which will counteract the effects of stress and boost your energy.

As you read the following ideas I would like you to do three things.
1. Put a star by the ideas that sound like a winner for you.
2. Think about the things you already use or do (different from these) to help you create fun and happiness, and less stress in your life. Jot them down and add them to this list so you have a longer, “stress less with fun” list ready to choose from when your needing a energy boost.
3. If you are willing to share your ideas, email them to me and I will share them in a future column so others can benefit from your ideas too.

Six tips for putting fun into your life and letting go of stress:

• Use the Magic of Music
Music can relax us or energize us. It can make us laugh or cry. It can motivate us or put us on the edge of our seat with anticipation. I just saw the movie “The Italian Job” this weekend. Right from the onset of the first chase scene (a boat chase) the music helped to rev up the suspense of the chase just as the motors revved up to increase their speed. Think of music from different movies. The inspirational and motivational music of “Rocky” and “Superman” as opposed to the emotional music of “Titanic.” Music can “take you away” when you can’t get away. Organize your music collection into “feeling” categories or sections. Music that relaxes you, inspires you, energizes you, etc. That way when you want music to energize you, all the energizing music will be all together and you can choose easily without taking time to search through your entire collection.

• Discover the Power of Play
Children need to play and so do adults. “All work and no play” leads to chronic stress with no relief. Find something that feels like “play” for you. Play golf, play tennis, play a sport, but only if in fact, it is play for you and not competition with yourself or someone else. Go out and enjoy whatever it is you like to do. In the summer bike, rollerblade or swim. In the winter ski, slide, or build a snowman. Play games with your children, other peoples children or grandchildren. Go play at a park. Play on the playground equipment, swing, play catch, run, jump, roll in the grass. Just go out and have just plain health fun. Do something that makes you laugh and smile.

• Nurture Yourself with Nature
Being out in nature is one of the most enjoyable and energizing things I can do for myself. Being by water is one of my favorite places. A lake can calm me and the ocean energizes me. A stream or a brook sooths my soul. I love hiking in the mountains or a Northshore trail. Even just a walk to the park near my house on a beautiful, blue sky day is rejuvenating for me. Connect with nature as often as you can and connect in a way that is fun and enjoyable to you. A spur of the moment “romp with nature” can be energizing and centering.

• Lighten Your Load with Laughter
Studies show that laughter stimulates the immune system and offsets stress. Laughter release endorphins – the “feel good” chemical. The “runner’s high” is created by the release of endorphins. Well you don’t have to run a half marathon to get that feeling of bliss -- all you have to do is laugh. Laughter increases feelings of control, encourages an optimistic outlook and relieves stress. Look for ways to add humor into your life. Read joke books, watch funny films and comedians. Browse through the humor section of book stores and libraries. Look for the funny side. A stressful situation can sometimes be turned into a bit of fun if you can see the funny side to it. (Especially, if you know you will be able to laugh about it a week or two later, why wait? Laugh about it now. It will help relieve the tension on the spot.) Hang out with funny/happy people. J

• Help Yourself by Helping Others
There is a simple law of the universe that says, “what you give, you will receive” and “if you do good things for others, good things will happen to you.” Helping others does not require a huge time commitment. It can range from planned volunteer work for an organization to spontaneous acts of kindness. A few hands-on ideas: tutor kids, read to the blind, visit the elderly, be a big brother or big sister. Be on the look out for ways to do spontaneous acts of kindness as often as you can.

• Make Conscious Connections with Others
Often we feel our world gets so hectic that we stop doing the very things that help us relieve that feeling. One of the things I am guilty of is that I don’t take time to connect with my network of friends. And yet I know when I do, I feel better mentally and emotionally. I have to remind myself that no matter how much work is left on my desk or items on my to-do lists I will feel better if I reach out and connect with new people and old friends. When we connect we energize ourselves and others. So call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, invite a few neighbors over for a get-together or ask a co-worker to join you for lunch. Think of ways you can create your own connections.

I know if I do any of the above I feel better mentally, emotionally and physically. Hopefully they will be helpful for you as well. They have the ability to brighten your mood and improve your sense of well-being. They can reduce anxiety, tension and stress. But most of all using the “stress excuse” as a way to have fun, can put joy and happiness into your life and can create balance and harmony in your life -- the end result being health, happiness and less stress.


Article as seen in Stressfree Living Magazine, October 2003
Copyright © 2002 INNERGIZE/ Ruth Anne Plourde. Reprint only with the express permission from copyright holder(s).
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