Stress relief

Stress relief can come with even small adjustments to your lifestyle.

It seems like every conversation I’ve had for months has eventually devolved into how much we’re all struggling with the unforeseen stress that 2020 has brought upon us. There are seemingly endless stressors contributing to a generally down, depressed and overwhelmed  feeling these days among nearly everyone. 

Now and then I’ll be served an article that purports that life will never go back to normal, that the state we’re living in may be permanent, as if we can tell the future now too and it’s a grim one.

Worse yet, it seems like even people who were once on the same page about things are divided, in opposition and fully agitated. No doubt the level of stress we’re all burdening has widened the gap between us when we need each other most.

I maxed out on stress this June, when it all just felt like a bit too much. I found myself leaning into unhealthy vices and generally felt terrible. I was struggling to sleep at night, felt angry and sad on too many days to count, and I was beginning to experience pain in new places as my body manifested the stress I was feeling.

So, at the beginning of July, I began a three week detox to give myself a reset by leaning into discipline and detoxing my liver and GI tract. I am not someone for whom discipline comes naturally or easily, so stopping things cold turkey is often the best way for me to address an unhealthy pattern rather than phasing out of the bad rhythm.

As I’m beginning to feel the impact of this reset, I am also seeing that there are other small changes that I am making that have nothing to do with my nutrition that are also bringing me sparks of joy amidst the chaos of our world.

Practicing spiritual disciplines is a perfect and simple small way to make a change that will bring transformation to any season, especially a difficult one. Spending time in meditation and prayer as well as journaling over the past few months has made me feel more peaceful in times of unrest and also has given me a broader perspective on the situations that are causing me stress. 

Because this summer has been filled with cancellations and restrictions that threw us out of our normal rhythm, our family has tried a number of new things that we hadn’t done in the past. We’ve been hiking, to the beach and soon we’ll be going camping with our children. We’ve visited a number of new parks, some near and some far, and it’s been absolutely awesome to enjoy these new-to-us treasures that we wouldn’t have discovered otherwise.

Another small change that’s paying off in dividends is intentional rest. I’m prone toward workaholism, and it is hard for me to shut down notifications and work on the weekends and in the evenings.I love my work, but I’m learning how much I need blank space and rest so that I have something to give.

One day of each weekend, I’m shutting it all down and seeking out things that fill my soul: reading, snuggling with my kids, going for a walk with our family, cooking a delicious meal.

I really don’t believe that things will never go back to normal, but I do think we’ll slowly ease into a new version of normal. There has never been a better time than now to discover what we need to rest, renew, refresh and reconnect than this season when we need it most. 


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Colleen Cook works full-time as the Director of Operations at Vinyl Marketing in Ashland, where she resides with her husband Mike and three young daughters. She's an insatiable extrovert who enjoys finding reasons to gather people.