Stressed? 5 ideas on how to transform your stress into something better

"Ohhh NO. I lost my stone!" I looked down on my hand that was resting on the steering wheel. My beautiful aquamarine stone had vanished from my wedding ring. There was a big gapping hole left in its place. My breath caught in my throat. My heart started to pound. I could feel the adrenaline surging from my shock. Where was it?! I immediately felt like a part of me was missing.

I wore my wedding ring hard. I loved it. It wasn't super expensive and flashy, but it was me. I remember going to the store with my husband Randy and picking it out. When I saw it I knew it was perfect for me and our minimalist lifestyle. Once I had it on my finger I never took it off. We went everywhere together—mountain biking, hiking, swimming. Every night we slept together. I kept it on in the shower aware that if I took it off even for just a moment I might misplace it. 

Frozen in my seat, I started to do the math. I wanted to know my daily rate for the "use" of the ring. Divide the amount we paid for it by the 8.5 years I had the pleasure of calling it mine. I must have made some unpleasant sounds because my son Cole, who was already buckled in the back seat and ready for the morning drive to school asked me, "You lost the stone on your ring? But mom....(and he paused)....but at least you didn't lose us."

Time stopped.

"At least you didn't lose us." 

Hu? Right. Wow. At least I didn’t lose my two boys—my Cole and Will Riley, my 7 year old ‘Crash’ and my 5 year old ‘Smash,’ my everythings.

Thank you, child. Thank you for snapping me back to the present and reminding me what is truly important. And thank you for transforming the stress I was feeling in the moment. What a different morning it would have been if I were morning the loss of my children rather than a stone.

"When you change your mind about stress (from something negative to positive), you can change your body's response to stress...Stress makes your body energized, preparing you to meet the upcoming challenge..." Kelly McGonigal

Kelly McGonigal wrote a book called The Upside of Stress where she shares how to make us "better at" stress. Here’s how it worked for Cole. Last Spring he was nervous about giving a presentation to his classmates. On the drive to school he told me his tummy felt funny.

I told him that those funny feelings were getting his body ready to give the best of presentation of his life. That if he didn't feel funny, that would mean that he didn't really care and might be sloppy and not give a good presentation.

He liked my rationalization so much that he asked me to repeat it two more times on the drive in. And then he told me that he was excited to give the presentation and that his tummy was no longer feeling funny.

Stress is a fact of life, so here are five simple ideas on how to transform it into something better.

1. Connect to your breath

In the middle of a stressful event there will become a point in which you gain a heightened sense of awareness. Almost as if you are having an out-of-body experience. You may discover that you have been holding your breath, or barely breathing. Take this opportunity to get out of your chest and do a few deep belly breaths. Breathe in through your nose until both your chest and belly are inflated, hold for count of 7 and release through your mouth for a count of 8. I share more about belly breathing here. I just started using Pranayama—which reminds me to breathe deeper and helps me slow down when I feel like a scattered mess. And I love the calming music on Insight Timer—a free meditation app I am listening to as I write this post.

2. Connect to your mind

Perception is reality. Whether true or not, your beliefs shape your life. Connect to your inner mentor and create personalized self enhancing beliefs. One of my clients came up with the mantra "I am enough, I know, and I am freaking amazing" to help her work through stressful work situations. She beams when she talks about her mantra and how much it has alleviated her anxiety. She created something that works for her. What will work for you?

3. Connect to your body

Our bodies are built to move. They are not designed to be stagnant. Feeling angry? Try a Zumba class. Feeling anxiety? Go for yoga. About to deliver a big presentation? Pinch your thigh under the table. Remember you are more than the conversation that is about to unfold. My kids learned at our church to use their pointer finger on one hand to trace the outline of their other hand when they feel nervous. They love this least they loved showing it to me! 

4. Connect to your flow

How to you feel when you are around people with a positive attitude? Uplifted, right? I do, too! Find those folks and spend time with them. Unhappiness is contagious. Stop tuning into all of the complainers and Debby downers of the world. Find harmony and spread it to your family. Laugher boosts your immune system. So tune into things that make you smile, laugh and snort. Tune into things that help you grow. Watch comedies. Watch inspirational documentaries. Stretch yourself.

5. Connect to your courage

Learn to say no. If you are constantly serving everyone else, you will suffer. There is a reason airplane attendants tell you to put on your oxygen mask before you help your children. And learn to say good-bye. Give your house a cleanse. Get rid of clutter that is just weighing you down. And face your fears. Hate doing taxes? Or is it that you hate thinking about doing taxes? Most of us spend more time thinking about having to do them, than actually doing them. So don't wait until the last minute. The thing that you don't want to do is probably the thing that you should do. Now. Today. Go do it!

I no longer feel like a part of me is missing when I look at my ring finger. And thanks to Cole, my negative emotions, although very raw and real, lasted for under 2 minutes. Today I’m wearing a simple band that my mom had given me years ago. It no longer sits in a jewelry box unused and I look at it and think about my parents and smile. To top it off, Randy, my boys and I are going to choose another band to pair with it. Something that reflects all of us. I’ll inscribe their names on the inside. I bet I’ll love this new pairing as much or more than I loved my first ring. And in another 8.5 years maybe I’ll decide on another new look to match my head and heart space at that time. My relationship with Randy is not static. We are both changing, evolving, growing and discovering what is important to us and what is not—both individually and collectively. The thought that what goes on my finger gets to evolve along with me, is exhilarating. 

Losing my ring has given me the freedom to evolve, express a new level of creativity and find new meaning in my life.