My stress meter

stress-level-meter-27882160I have a built-in stress meter. I can tell how stressed I am by how loud my tinnitus sounds. When I feel relatively balanced, I hear very low wave-like sounds that seem to come from one ear. When I’m stressed the tinnitus sounds like crashing swells blowing through my head from both sides.

So I was interested to read a recent New York Times article titled How Exercise May Protect Against Depression, given that even mild, repeated stress can contribute to the development of depression and other mood disorders in animals and people. Mood disorders, mania, and depression run in my family, so I need to actively make sure I lower my stress level.

I’ve been exercising almost all my life, and I do it every day first thing in the morning. Exercise was especially useful after my son Paul’s death fifteen years ago. That outlet kept me sane then, and it still does. That is, at least for a while.

For example, I exercised this morning sixty minutes of cardio followed by a little iron pumping and some Yoga stretches, causing my tinnitus sounds to almost disappear. Now after several hours at my computer, working at revising my novel, the sound has raised considerably.

So I think. Should I stop and go out for a walk? Sometimes I do. Instead I stayed in today and practiced walking meditation, walking up and back the long hall outside of my home office, breathing deeply and counting as I go. Meditation is a great stress reliever too.

My daily journaling practice helps reduce my stress as well. I turned to journaling regularly in 1993 after Paul was diagnosed bipolar, and I continued on after his suicide death in 1999. Journaling became my therapy. Keeping my fingers moving across the page was both an obsession and a healing balm. It gave me a way to organize my fears, pain, and thoughts. As a result I have become a huge proponent of journaling as a way to heal and ease stress. Right now I’m participating in a 30-day digital journaling challenge. That’s easy for me since I’ve been journaling on my computer rather than in a notebook for about fourteen years.

Even the physical act of writing is helpful. When I used a pen I wrote until my hand cramped. Now I type, sometimes pounding my fingers on my computer’s keyboard. It really helps. Also when I wrote by hand I found that I couldn’t keep up with my thoughts. Just today I typed over 500 words in a matter of minutes writing on the computer. I just tap away with no stopping for editing. It’s total stream of consciousness. My fingers seem to fly in time with what I have on my mind. The page is there anytime for our tears, rants, sorrow, complaints, thoughts and ideas. The main thing is the page is always ready without judgment about anything we have to say.

meditation image

Everyone we know has good and bad stuff going on in their lives. Everyone has stressors. And everyone needs to keep the stress in check. I’ve learned that exercise, journaling, and meditation are good ways to come to grips with my stress. And I’m glad my stress meter helps.

What do you do to relieve stress?



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