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Stress Resilience in 2020

I don’t think anyone will disagree that 2020 has been an unusual year. With all the negativity that we’ve been bombarded with on a daily basis, it’s easy to lose sight of all that’s positive and start feeling stressed. I know I’ve struggled with it this year.

Check out an article on stress management from the Mayo Clinic that provides 3 ways to become more stress resilient. And if there was ever a year that needed this advice, 2020 has to be pretty darn close to the top of the list! Stress truly is unavoidable, but you can learn how to improve your stress response with the three tactics mentioned in their article:

1. Create awareness: Take time to figure out what you're feeling and why.

2. Focus your attention: Limit distractions and focus on the present moment.

3. Don’t pass judgment… for at least 3 minutes: Allow yourself to experience things before deciding whether or not you like it.

The one I need to work on the most is probably #2 – focusing your attention on the present moment. All too often we play the “what-if” game (and we all do it!). How many of us continue to stress over things that happened in the past? For instance, Thanksgiving is coming up (OMG, how did that happen?! Wasn’t it just Valentine’s Day?!), and how many of us have been thinking about what went wrong last year and are worried it’s going to happen again this year? “There weren’t enough pecan, pumpkin, chocolate, and key lime pies last year.” (don’t judge, pie is one of my many, many weaknesses). “What if we run out again this year?” And thus begins the Thanksgiving stress. However, I’m not currently making the pies, so worrying about it now isn’t productive. Once I’ve made the shopping list, factoring in that there may be fewer people coming due to travel quarantines, I can then move on to what’s happening right now… well, besides the tropical storm…

We can also adapt how we respond to stress by focusing on the positive rather than the negative. So, in the example of my pie shortage from last year, instead of thinking of it as a failure of epic proportions, I could look at it as, “Wow, I don’t have to worry about trying to find room for leftover pie in my refrigerator.” Not that I’ve ever had to worry about that before, but hopefully you can see where I’m going with this.

The beach is my happy place and it’s the perfect location for me to work on focusing on the present. I pretty much concentrate on the feel of the sand/surf on my toes, the warmth of the sun on my face, and the salty breeze off the gulf. All of my senses seem to come alive when I’m at the beach - I am definitely "in the present". Now all I have to do is figure out how to replicate the serenity of the beach whenever I’m not there. Think positive. Repeat after me, "I can do this!"

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