By Arezou Kohan
I am now an author, holistic mediator, and life-coach, but when I was practicing law, I had more than one case that drove me to the edge. My body is now recovering from the impact of the stress of my legal practice. The law is a profession that is hard on the adrenals. Even in my mediation practice, stress is inevitable. Notably, every feeling carries a message and stress is not always a bad thing. In fact, stress can be excitement lost in translation.
The question is: how do we cope with stress in a healthy manner? Here is what I am learning:
There is More To Us Than Our Head
First things first, I am learning to stay present in my body. This means checking in, periodically during the day, to ask it how it’s doing. What does it need right now? What would be nurturing for it right now? It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and over-stimulated and to continually push our body well-beyond its natural limits. Sooner or later, however, it catches up with us. We might be smart but our body is smarter! Eventually, it will rebel and get sick in order to force us to listen. (It also knows how to heal itself when we are ready, willing, and able to listen.) Our body also holds a lot of intuition (i.e. gut feelings, etc.), so listen to your body.
Our Body Is Our Infant/Child
Consider that taking care of your body is like taking care of an infant. How responsive of a caretaker are you? Would you force your child to work as hard as you do? Probably not. Let’s look at an infant’s basic needs: sleep, rest, food, water and play. I would also add safety and comfort. How well are you giving yourself these things? When an infant is distressed, a parent might soothe the child by holding the child, rocking the child, or giving the child a bottle of milk. When your body is distressed, what can you do to keep it safe and comfortable?
10 Quick Strategies for Managing Stress
- Get out of the situation. Take a break, go for a walk or a drive, go out to lunch, or go to the restroom. Sometimes a change in geography is enough to change a situation.
- Close your eyes. 80% of what we perceive is visual stimulation. So, close your eyes for a few minutes to shut out some of the stimulation.
- Breathe. Calm your thoughts by calming your breath. Try inhaling into your stomach and exhaling out like you are blowing out a candle.
- Think “Water.” Drink a glass of water, splash water on your face, drink herbal tea, take a shower or a bath, or go for a swim. Walk by, listen to, or look at water to cool off. You can even set your screen-saver to a picture of the ocean, lake, or a river.
- Take a walk. The rhythm of walking is like rocking a child; it’s soothing. I love to walk in nature. Plus, I tend to think better when I am walking.
- Listen to music. I find that classical music is really relaxing and it is really easy to listen to on the computer with various online radio stations.
- Shake it out. Shake the stress out of your body by doing some jumping jacks, dancing, or just jumping up and down a few times.
- Eat something warm. Warm foods, like soups, are comforting for the body.
- Stretch. A forward-fold can be very calming for the nervous system.
- Get a hug. If all else fails, get a hug. I am learning not to take my body for granted. Reaching for comfort-foods, caffeine, alcohol, or other substances might be somewhat instinctual, but that’s not nurturing; it’s numbing ourselves. This is the sort of stuff they don’t teach you at law firms and law schools – yet.