On Dealing with Stress
This post comes by request from MikaCake, who asks for advice on how to deal with stress.
Stress is a problem in most of our lives. It can show up in various forms: financial stress, stress from relationships, stress from work, stress from lack of sleep, stress from a cluttered home, stress from a cluttered mind…
How we deal with stress is incredibly important. The whole principle behind this blog is how to live well. It is what I have devoted my life to researching and it is something I am passionate about. I honestly do not believe you can live well if you suffer from stress.
The following are ways that I combat stress, and my advice on how you can too:
Classical music works wonders for the psyche. I listen to it everyday- while I have breakfast, when I’m feeding the baby, when I drive, when I write. It is not the only kind of music I listen to but it is the only kind that affects me on a deeper level, keeps me calm and manages my stress levels. I find the more I listen to classical music and the more I explore it, the more I enjoy it. I like all of the usual favorites such as Debussy’s Claire de Lune (a wonderful song if you’re in the need of being pacified) but I am becoming a connoisseur of some of the lesser known songs as well (As I write this I’m listening to Sonata in A Major for violin and piano by Cesar Franck). And as I’ve mentioned before, my favorite composer is Chopin. If classical music isn’t your cup of tea, listen to whatever it is that soothes your soul and moves you. Hopefully whatever stressful things in your life will (at least temporarily) melt away…
Here are a few of my favorite classical music albums:
The Most Essential Classical Music for your Baby. Don't laugh. This album is beyond spectacular and not just for babies. In fact, I don't even know why they say this is for babies. This has a wide selection of beautiful songs in excellent arrangements. It is a tremendous value as it has 49 songs for only $9.99 What a collection! Suffice to say my baby loves it and so do I.
Tails of the City by The San Fransisco Saxophone Quartet I know what you're thinking... a saxophone quartet? This album is so refreshing and melodious. Who knew that four saxophones could create such stirring renditions of the classics. Have this playing at a dinner party and your guests will be perplexed- in a good way.
The Match Point Soundtrack Woody Allen's Match Point is one of my favorite films of the last decade and the soundtrack is stellar. If you are not already an opera lover you will be after listening to this incredible compilation of music.
Yo-Yo Ma's La Voix du Violoncelle This is an unusual album- very beautiful and haunting. Yo-Yo Ma is a revelation.
Now back to stress combating tactics...
Playing an Instrument
Mine is the piano. Yours could be the violin or the guitar. I even have a friend that plays the harp. Playing a musical instrument is incredibly beneficial for stress. If you don’t already know one, learn one. Many of us played instruments as children, why not pick it up again as an adult? I often find myself sitting down at the piano for Sherlock Holmesian sessions where I go through my (small) repertoire of music. It de-stresses me every time and places my mind in a tranquil state. I try to play a little every day. When you sit down at an instrument the sheer task of focusing and creating music is enough to keep the most stubborn of stresses at bay.
The Tea and Coffee Break
The mere chink of cups and saucers tunes the mind to happy repose.
I adore this quote- and it’s so true! Make your tea or coffee break tranquil and special to manage stress levels. Seek out specialty teas and coffees to appease your palate when you are feeling overwhelmed. Create a daily ritual where you sit quietly, use your best china or a special mug (I’m loving my commemorative Royal Wedding bone china tanker at the moment- yes I have it and I’m not embarrassed to admit it!). Put away your blackberry- turn off the TV or move away from your computer. Sit with a book or the weekend newspaper you didn’t get to read yet or if your mind really feels on overdrive don’t read at all- Sit in your favorite chair or by the window with the best view, just focus on your steaming cup and tune your mind to happy repose.
Go Slowly and Mindfully
I used to rush around- it didn’t matter where I was going- I was in a rush! One day I found myself in the grocery store, quickly dropping items in my cart, then stressed out that the line to pay wasn’t moving fast enough. Luckily I caught myself. What was I so stressed out for? Where was I rushing off to? It was almost as if the mere act of picking out groceries wasn’t worth my time so I was in a hurry to move on to some future project- some better thing. I had to remind myself in that moment that the only time is now. Now I try , no matter what I’m doing, to do it mindfully- to move slowly and with purpose. Eliminating the false pretense that whatever the future holds is better than what you are currently doing is a powerful way to eliminate stress.
My meditation practice is very personal to me, but since Mikacake specifically asked about it here it is… I like to sit still with my eyes closed for a minimum of five minutes every night. During this time I just breathe and think thoughts of gratitude. It can be a very positive and moving experience. I also find it helps me put whatever is stressing me out into perspective…
These are the techniques I most frequently employ to deal with day to day stress. I would love to know… what are yours?
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The Winged Feline pictured above is in Bronze and dates back to 700 - 575 B.C., Spain. She can be found at the Getty Villa in Malibu.