When I was a kid – all the way back in the 40’s and 50’s – the common saying was something like “Eat your food, because people in China are starving.” Even as an 8 year-old, I wasn’t sure that the over-cooked carrots growing cold on my plate in a suburb of Chicago could get half way around the world in time to do them any good.

It was true, though, people around the world were starving. Sadly, they still are, even in our own country.

These days we are all tightening our belts – at least our financial belts. With the rise in the cost of fuel, the cost of food and so many other commodities is rising. Commensurately, layoffs and cutbacks are happening in the job market, tens of thousands of mortgages are in foreclosure, and the economic forecast isn’t predicting sunshine any time soon. We Americans are stressed. Yet when we compare our plight – whatever the stressors in our lives – to the plight of so many others around the world, we have it pretty good. But, when it comes to staying off the Stress Express, much as we might sincerely care about the plight of others and intellectually understand that theirs might be a much worse condition than ours, rarely does that awareness relieve the emotional challenges going on in our body once stress has taken over.

Does that mean that most of us are emotional hypochondriacs?

Not necessarily. What actually happens once the stress hormones have flooded our physical systems is that the ability to put our situations in context of a greater picture has temporarily been put on hold. In other words, it becomes almost impossible to think and feel outside of our box. The chemical/hormonal soup caused by stress that is going on in our bodies actually blocks our ability to emotionally feel another point of view. Thinking the thought about others suffering more, while it may add to our guilt, is not going to relieve our personal resonation with overwhelming stress. It is for the most part only going to add to our feeling of selfishness and inadequacy. After all, if we really were the superwoman or superman we think we are supposed to be, we wouldn’t be feeling this way in the first place!

So, what can we do to get ourselves back on track, back to the place where we can actually create valid perspectives and feel genuine caring for others and genuine caring for ourselves? How do we stay off the Stress Express. Here are a few quick tips that have worked for me and my clients and they will work for you even if those stress hormones have already been triggered.

1.Slow down. I know you think you can’t; you’re way too busy. But if you want to go farther faster, slow down. It’s the equivalent of emotional money in the bank. Pressing into the situation solidifies your stress, increases the hormonal imbalance in your body, and blocks your ability to problem solve. Slow down. Quiet the noise in your head and discover just how creative you can become even in the midst of a very trying situation.

Some concrete suggestions:
•Take a warm bath or a cool shower – whichever relaxes you
•Turn on some soothing music
•Take a walk, get on the treadmill, lift some weights. Exercise often helps us slow down
•Tune in a funny movie – take 90 minutes to escape into laughter

2. Don’t buy into the fair and unfair game. That’s a war without a winner. If the situation was/is unfair acknowledge that, but don’t make it your excuse for staying in pain. Don’t make it your excuse for losing your voice, your self-esteem, and your success. I was horrifically abused as a child. That wasn’t fair and putting those experiences in a healthy context wasn’t easy. But we are all so very worth our own effort. Know that no one and no thing makes a statement about your value without your permission. We are not our experiences. It is important that we empower ourselves by embracing the recognition that whatever it is that has happened to us pales in comparison to the core of who we are today. Stay focused on your dream for you. Eyes forward. Keep the ball in play.

Some concrete suggestions:
• Make a list of everything you value in your character
• Make a list of everything you value in your abilities
• Take these lists seriously

3. Do problem solve, internally and externally. Feeling bad about yourself? Stop judging you and start treating you like you would treat a treasured friend. No excuses, no stories. Just do it. Takes practice, but the rewards are fabulous.

Have problems, take a proactive approach to them. For example, can’t afford the ridiculous price of gas today? Initiate a car pool at work. On weekends, don’t hesitate to check with neighbors and car pool to the big box stores for stocking up on quantity purchases. Could be fun, and you’ll get to know your neighbors better, too. As long as we’ve got all these SUVs on the road, let’s do a better job of making them work for us whenever we can. Money too tight to take a family of five or six to the theater? Rent a great movie, sit around the family room and enjoy. Nothing beats really good home made popcorn!

4. Invest in appreciation. Even on your most challenging day, try to find at least one thing that warms your heart. Maybe it’s a baby you see in what is otherwise a silly commercial. Maybe it’s a butterfly that unexpectedly dances for a few seconds in front of your window. Maybe it’s the memory of a warm touch or a caring heart.

Externalize that appreciation. Let the people you know, and the people you love, know you appreciate them. Indulge and invest in please and thank-yous. Make the time to notice and give compliments.

When we stretch ourselves to invest in at least one “ounce” of appreciation, we are not only leading ourselves off the Stress Express – which nobody really wants to be on anyway – we are also leading ourselves into a healthier,happier, more prosperous day. And we are positioning ourselves to pay it forward, for when we are kind with ourselves, we will find that we are also kind with each other. Kindness begets kindness. It is the best of habits, both for ourselves and for those around us.

Now that’s a ride worth taking.

(c) 2012

Author's Bio: 

Sandy Brewer,PhD, author, speaker, therapist, coach and humanitarian, has lived a life that is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit, which is brilliantly captured in her best-selling memoir, Pursuit of Light, an Extraordinary Journey. For over thirty-five years Sandy has helped and inspired thousands of people to move beyond their personal challenges in order to explore and embrace the possibilities in their own lives. She has spoken at venues from Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, New York, to Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. She is a regular contributor to Global Woman Magazine and has been featured on numerous television shows including a special segment on her life and work on NBC’s Nightly News with Tom Brokaw and a nationally televised documentary.

Sandy, with her compelling compassion, wit, and wisdom, offers a pathway out of darkness into light with warmth and richness. She is a dynamic, inspirational woman who suffered such severe and near-fatal abuse as a child that she was drawn so deeply into the dark that she found the light. With her empowering insights and natural good-humor, Sandy offers the profound lessons of her personal journey and how they apply equally to people from all walks of life and in all circumstances. Along the road to her own healing, she developed seminal techniques that enabled her not only to overcome, but also literally gain strength from these experiences. She has devoted her life to helping adults and children recognize that they are loved, and that no matter what happened yesterday it is insignificant to what lies within the core of one’s being today. Sandy has memorialized her innovative work and techniques in Pursuit of Light, an Extraordinary Journey, an entertaining, soul-stirring, master trope in the art of healing that shares her true-life story of how she came to find the presence of Light within her, and the “how to’s” of choice – how you, too, can look at your life from a new perspective and create new choices.

Sandy, a recent cancer survivor, has always faced life head on. With heart-opening insight, she teaches how to bring out the best of every situation with compassion and wit that will make you laugh out loud. She inspires, delights and educates using effective tools that help meet the demands of today's world.

Sandy Brewer is available to speak to your group or organization and can be reached directly at 760-230-8123 ask for John.

For more information about Sandy, visit her website at SandyBrewer.com