Relax! Everything is Going to Be Okay
Alexa Relaxes On a Whole Other Level
Relaxation is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Problem is, it can be fleeting. It seems that just when we’re basking in its comforting warmth, life throws us a curve ball and relaxation is the furthest thing from our minds. In baseball, the curve ball is one that often catches the batter off guard and he/she usually can’t do a thing with it.
Stressful events are a lot like that – they catch us off guard and we usually don’t know quite what to do with it. Often, like an over-matched batter, we stand there kind of wondering, “What just happened?”
It’s while we’re “standing there” that we have a decision to make. We can adjust and adapt (before the next pitch) or we can be completely overcome and, in effect, take our slow and humbling walk back to the dugout.
If we make a habit of adjusting and adapting, we’ll find ourselves “handling stress” as opposed to being at its mercy.
Like poison ivy, if stress jumps on us, its nastiness just seems to spread.
If we don’t handle stress, it will handle us.
Adjust and Adapt
As I’ve mentioned on the self help blog before, a few years ago, my oldest daughter (Emily) and I had to stop eating gluten and wheat for health reasons. Do you have any idea how many foods contain gluten or wheat? I lost track of the times Emily and I said, “It’s everywhere!”
To have your life greatly changed by something like this is stressful. Over the years, I’ve read many accounts of people in our boat who cried for days and even became borderline depressed. We didn’t see the need or appeal for either of these reactions – they kind of struck us as extreme.
What we did see the need for was to adjust and adapt.
Back to baseball for a minute (I’m a baseball fanatic, so you can always just assume I’ll be going back at some point) – the best batters are the ones who step up to the plate and are able to adjust and adapt to the game and to the situation.
- The umpire behind the plate is consistently calling outside pitches strikes – a great batter stops letting them go by.
- The tying run is at first or second base, a great batter tries to hit behind the runner and move him along.
- The pitcher has a nasty fast ball and you can tell by the gleam in his eye that he’s about to unleash it – a great batter holds on tight and swings so hard he comes out of his or her shoes!
Adjust to the situation and adapt to the game as it is – not as you wish it was, not as you know it should be. A batter can KNOW the pitches being called strikes in the game are balls but knowing is not going to help him in the least. Arguing with the man behind the plate isn’t exactly going to win him to your side and I’ve yet to see one take the advice of an angry player or manager.
It’s the same with life. We can KNOW that it isn’t fair for a certain situation to crop up, but what are we going to do? Stand there and argue with life… or, worse yet, God? Whether people realize it or not, when they cry for days, have angry outbursts, or get borderline depressed, that’s exactly what they’re doing – they’re trying to argue with life and “win the calls.”
Having to entirely change the way I eat and cook turned my world upside down. For one thing, I am an avid cook, and have been since I was 19. It is a huge part of my identity.
I cook. I bake. I am.
I had always been especially known for my buttermilk biscuits, cakes and pies, homemade sourdough bread, spinach manicotti, and fried cornbread. Let’s be honest, sometimes life seems cruel with its irony.
Not only is cooking a HUGE part of my life, I have a food blog! Suddenly it became a much-altered food blog – just as I became a much-altered cook.
UGLY CURVE BALL.
As if that wasn’t enough, I also do restaurant reviews on Genuine Kentucky. These restaurant reviews are one of the funnest parts of my online web publishing. Going to new restaurants (or old favorites) and trying different food to photograph and write about always made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning! Suddenly I had to accept the fact that the number of restaurants I could now visit was greatly limited as was the food I could enjoy.
I’m still kind of surprised that I didn’t cry for days. Fortunately, I learned long ago that tears don’t help a single thing – they just make your cheeks wet and your eyes red. What does help is… you guessed it… adjusting and adapting.
Long story short – I still love doing restaurant reviews (even though they’ve been limited for obvious reasons) and I love cooking even more than I did before. I guess the part of me that loves a challenge stepped up to the plate and begged for the fast ball.
Sometimes I’m silly like that.
Stress isn’t just bad for our emotional health, it’s horrible for our physical health. What’s more, it’s a nightmare for our relationships. I could go on for three days about how stress ruins your life, but I think you are already well aware of this, so let’s just move on to what we can do about it.
Relaxation 101: Take a Personal Inventory
To find out if stress has the upper hand in your world, ask yourself the following question:
Do little things seem to set me off?
Things like unfortunate stop lights, people who pull out in front of you, a barking dog, a crying baby, a restaurant messing up your order, your son’s girlfriend’s piercings, your son’s piercings, and so on are simply NOT worth the energy most people spend on them.
I’m sure you’ve seen people in restaurants pitching embarrassing tantrums because their order isn’t right. Not worth it.
When an individual falls off the handle and comes completely unglued, his/her central nervous system assumes something horribly traumatic has happened in life and reacts accordingly. If they make a habit of this throughout the week, they’re grossly mistreating their bodies.
It is just so not worth it!
A Few Relaxation Tips and Suggestions:
- It may sound ridiculous, but just realizing that you need to relax will help you more than anything. If you keep pinning blame on everyone else and, like an argumentative baseball player, are only interested in “being right,” you have a long road ahead of you. But if you can honestly say, “I need to relax more.” – You’re on your way. The thing is, you need to remind yourself to relax every single day. Some days, it may take a couple dozen reminders. Your health and your happiness depend upon you finding a way to adapt to the situation and adjust your reactions. Angry because the line at the grocery store is taking too long, ask yourself, “What’s my hurry? Where do I have to be?” You’ll probably discover you aren’t under any time restraints. Adjust to the situation, grab your iPhone and check your messages, Twitter, e-mail, or Pinterest. Or grab a magazine and read a little – if you grab the right one you might see what a Bigfoot Alien baby looks like. That’s always entertaining.
- Put something that makes you smile in a prominent place – a sticker, stuffed animal, picture of a loved one, etc. Each time you look at it, let it serve as a reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment. I have a little stuffed bison on my desk that makes me smile whenever I look at him. A while back we had a problem with hackers on several of our sites and I got to the point I seldom took my eyes off of him. I’m just thankful he didn’t get a restraining order.
- Stop DEMANDING so much from life and just ENJOY it. It doesn’t take everything in the world to be happy – it just takes being happy and content with your own little world and what and who is in it. A lot of people get so caught up in trying to be life’s director that they forget that they, like the rest of us, are simply part of the cast. Why anyone would want to take on the responsibility of telling restaurants, stores, electric companies, Twitter followers, and everyone in between how to live their life (to better suit THEM) is beyond me. Live your life like the beautiful gift that it is. Don’t find yourself one day at 99 years old wondering why you spend so much time complaining about the little things. Be the 99 year old that’s still smiling because life is and always has been such a hoot!
- Take about a dozen really deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed. I’m not sure why this helps to signal relaxation to our bodies, but it does. Unfortunately, most of us take rapid, shallow breaths. This type of breathing makes the rest of the body think we’re in some sort of battle. Slowing our breathing down signals to it that all’s well. A funny thing about breathing, sometimes we’re actually holding our breath and don’t realize it. Become more aware of your breathing, and take it to new depths.
- If you’re going through a stressful time, or if you feel overwhelmed at work, drink more water. This is something else we don’t do enough of. Our bodies actually require more water than we usually drink, and when we shortchange it, we suffer: Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Nutritionists say that we need more water, especially when stressed. It actually helps, so it’s a very easy and painful proactive thing we can do.
- Make sure you’re getting enough rest. Not just sleep (although it’s glorious and healing) – but also good old-fashioned “down time.” Whether your idea of unwinding is watching tv, reading, or cruising the internet, have at it. Be sure to allow yourself plenty of time to unwind and simply enjoy living in the moment each day.
- Keep things in perspective. We blow so many things up that should be allowed to stay the tiny, insignificant little things they are. Sometimes it helps if you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. When the server doesn’t refill your drink as often as you want her/him to – imagine working on your feet 8 hours every day, earning very little pay, and (most frightening of all) having to deal with the public all day. YIKES! Maybe it’ll make you smile and politely ask for another drink rather than stew and mentally deduct from the tip. Don’t be that person.
- Play soothing music. If you have relaxation cds, play them to relax and wind down. If you don’t have any relaxing music in your collection, don’t fret – YouTube has plenty in their’s. Simply go to YouTube and search for Relaxing Music (or relaxing piano music, classical music, relaxation…). You’ll literally feel the stress leave your body. One of my favorites is “Japanese Garden Music” – I even listen to it when I’m already as relaxed as a chubby cat (see pic above).
- Hang out with your pets. Our precious cats are more than just family, they’re built in relaxation magic. Simply petting a purring cat or a tail-wagging dog brings your whole body and mind to a calmer, happier, and more relaxed state. If you don’t have a pet, consider heading to your local Humane Society today and adopting one or two! They aren’t just excellent company… they’re family.
- Read a good book. Read the Bible, Emily Dickinson poetry, a historical novel, a biography, a National Geographic magazine, or even the comics in your newspaper – whatever floats your boat. When you slow down long enough to engage your mind in reading, your breathing slows down, your pulse slows down… in essence, your whole world slows down.
For your own health and happiness, as well as those around you – start practicing relaxation tactics immediately. Become an expert at catching yourself as soon as tension begins to build. Tell yourself, out loud, “This isn’t a big deal.” When we focus on situations, we make them so big that they become like huge ogres in the car or room with us. But if we simply say, “Not worth it,” they suddenly shrink.
Adapt. Adjust. Then enjoy life for the beautiful gift it is.
~ Joi (“Joy”)