Hello, Fathers and Sons!
Does this sound familiar?
You wake up in the morning to the shrilling of an alarm and mercilessly push yourself out of bed. You wince and suck in your breath as you hobble to the bathroom as your ankles creak and scream at you. Back is stiff, neck is stiff, your body is resisting you and all the while you are grumbling unhappy thoughts. Then you try to distract yourself from these aches by thinking about work. By thinking about what you have to do today. Maybe you read some newspaper or grab the computer for news before you are out the door. Maybe you’ve got your mobile by the bedside and start checking email and the market. “I’ve got to stay current” you might tell yourself. But an underlying thought might be, “I’ve got no time for any nonsense.”
I don’t think that anyone wakes in the morning and cheerily says, “Let the stress begin!” But I think that we have to recognize that if we are not actively trying to de-stress, we run the risk of accumulating the effects of chronic hypertensive stress. The truth is that we don’t have the capacity for chronic hypertensive stress and we as a gender tend to override subtle stress signals. These signals are things like: cursing to yourself; making heavy sighs; regular aches and pains that are not debilitating but persistent; feeling irritable towards your family members.
Do you have or feel any of these signals?
You might override these signals by pushing them out of your awareness, telling yourself, “I don’t have time for this.” How many times do you grab for coffee when you are tired?
Gentlemen, for your consideration: Over-riding stress signals is not stress-reduction. Out of sight is not out of mind.
So maybe it’s time for a stress reduction plan. Let’s call it the de-stress diet. Let us tell ourselves, “I’d like to start my day feeling good!” Plan to start out the day pleasantly, happily. Don’t just wake up and get moving. Take 10 or 15 minutes to do nothing. Yawn and stretch in bed. Rotate your ankles. Try a lengthening stretch by reaching above and behind you and pointing your toes down and away–like you are diving into water. Just let your mind wander. You can even write down thoughts or ideas that come to you. The next step is to focus on something happy, cheerful or funny. What song comes to you? When is the last time you sung that one? Or think of something funny you shared with your family recently. Remember something that your spouse, partner or friend said or did that made you feel better. Now notice how you feel. It is likely you’ll feel different, that the quality of your thinking will be different.
Just by starting your morning with this kind of deliberate practice, you will start your day off less stressful. Mornings will start to feel more enjoyable and you will have implemented a valuable stress reduction practice. And this will help your health, your family, and your work.
Next time on the dad’s de-stress diet: the morning commute!