If you’re anything like me, today is one of the most stressful days of the year. It’s tax day. I know, it’s not April 15, but as I mentioned, if you’re anything like me you’re on extension, so today is the day. October 15, it’s the day I dread every year. I feel this blanket of stress waft over me like fairy dust. I don’t have my statements organized, I don’t have my receipts categorized. There is no way I’m going to get it all together in time prior to today, in which case I’m going to have to pay the idiot tax. That’s right, the unnecessary penalty. Anything you pay for unnecessarily is an idiot tax. Parking tickets, late fees and yes of course, IRS penalties. I’ve had them for years and just figured, oh, I’ll make more money. I just kept kicking the can down the street.
It starts happening in March, then temporarily goes away when I file for my extension, then the blanket of loveliness, a.k.a. doom, comes back in mid September. Thankfully, I do make more money and I’m finally hiring help, an assistant and a bookkeeper. I vow to you now, that I will no longer allow the stress of tax day to affect the rest of my life and my relationships (my wife is about to kill me). I vow to finish my books on a monthly or at the very least quarterly basis and send in those nasty estimated payments.
Now that I’ve made my confession, I want to let you know how I’ve actually been dealing with this so-called blanket of stress that covers me for a good portion of the year. It’s very common for us in the civilized world to have a layer of stress. We feel like we have to perform, or succeed, or impress people. We put unnecessary pressure on ourselves to keep up with the Jones’. We run around most days from morning until night trying to do or get something that we’re not or don’t have. It’s mind boggling.
My birthday was last week, and I received a wonderful gift from my brothers. Some vintage editions of National Geographic, I’m a huge fan. Back in the early 1900’s people were talking about how the telephone was going to change the world. That you no longer needed to send a telegram, that you could talk to someone as if they were sitting across your desk. Oh, the simple yet vulnerable years. Thanks to technology our world has changed, a lot. But we haven’t changed very much. We can still only do one thing at a time and we still only have 24 hours in a day. This is the crux of the stress epidemic, we think we should be as fast and as able as a computer or smartphone, but it’s impossible!
We become these stressed out, crazy beings because we have kids and jobs (more than one) and families (sometimes more than one), and blogs and social media and investments and events and on and on. We allow ourselves to take on more responsibility because it seems so easy with technology, but unless you can deal with the responsibility and the to do list, my recommendation is that you slow down before you’re going to have to seek help or even worse wind up in the emergency room.
So, the next time you feel some of that doomsday fairy dust, take a moment, practice one of the following actions, regroup and enjoy this amazing thing called life. It is so precious, so don’t take it for granted. Everyday we are alive is a welcomed gift. Don’t ruin it with your stress, instead enjoy the moments, good and bad. There could be a great lesson in the strife.
- Step away from the vehicle! That’s right, sometimes we get so caught up in our own brain that we can’t figure out the problem. It’s best to stop everything, walk away for a few minutes or even a few hours and regroup. Come back to the problem with a fresh mind and new attitude.
- Take deep breaths. There is nothing like slowing down and taking a few deep breaths to calm your mind and your nervous system. The fact that a few deep breaths are the innate response when you almost get into an accident is no coincidence.
- Exercise. I know, time is short and you’re working on everything you possibly can, but scientific proof shows that exercise will increase your serotonin levels, thus making you a bit more optimistic.
- Do yoga. It’s trite to say that yoga helps with stress, but if you’re one of the few still out there and unconvinced I’ll be the first to tell you that you’ll be able to get out of your busy head for an hour to 90 minutes in a day. You’ll have a much better perspective on your situation.
- Meditate. Another one of those new-age things. Soon enough I’ll be telling you to hang crystals above your bed or wave peacock feathers around your brain (hopefully not). Actually, meditation doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be of any denomination. Some simple, focused time sitting still and allowing your mind to process at it’s own pace can have incredible results.
- Get into action. Many times, if not all the time, stress comes from inside our mind. The outside circumstance may be the instigator, but everyone deals with stress differently. What may make me go bonkers, you may handle with ease and grace. Taking care of business will help with overwhelm, so the next time your mind kicks in about those responsibilities, wake up a few minutes early and start being responsible.
- See the future. Interestingly enough, our stress comes from thinking about the future or the past and it can be aggravated by not getting what we want or losing what we have. If you take a moment, calm down, understand that you’re going to be okay, then see how you will feel once this stressful moment or time in your life is over. You can then begin to hold on to that finish line, keeping your eye on the prize and avoid getting caught up in the minutiae.
- Surrender. I saved the best for last because it is one of the most powerful ways to deal with stress and worry. Some of us walk around with a little angst everyday. Whether we put the pressure on ourselves or we allow it from someone else, we walk around with higher blood pressure, higher cortisol levels and ultimately we wind up living shorter lives. Let go and let God is the famous 12 step slogan, but the cliche works. Surrender to what is, then if you want to change it, you simply guide yourself in another direction. You will find this method much more pleasurable than fighting the course of your life.
Photo Credit: Ted McDonald