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Jim Roberts Gallery, Flickr, CC-BY-ND

Over the past two years, life has amped up the stress levels. Surely nothing like the pain of those worldwide who are starving, living in a war zone, or on an American street, true, but nonetheless present despite their superficial invisibility.

As winter holidays approach bringing their sleigh load of other small invisible pressures, here you'll find helpful reminders for coping and protecting your health.

Stress and anxiety are inevitable. Some authorities would say that stress and anxiety are bad as in “unhealthy to experience”, but my vantage point at 74 years young helps me to see this differently. I believe that how we respond to stress and anxiety is a good indicator of our emotional makeup as humans and provides us with an internal checkup on ourselves. To assess our response style to stress and anxiety, we must pay attention to our body. How many of us truly are in-tune with our body?

We must listen to what our body is telling us. Are you experiencing a depressed immune system because of a prolonged viral illness? Is your respiratory system depressed because you had pneumonia many years ago? Are you having unexplained back and neck pain because you were in a car accident and thrown from the car as a child? Were you as a child placed in foster care and now experience abandonment issues in adult relationships? Do you faint seeing a needle because your mom pierced your ears as a 3-year-old? All of these questions are based on the lives of real people I know who are now in better health once the emotional hurts connected to past traumas were identified and addressed.

Our body holds all that has happened to us throughout our lives and imprints these memories, both positive and negative, onto our physical health and emotional well-being. This may be a new way to gain insight into our lives and our present circumstances. One way to think about this is that everything we experience, including health concerns, is an “inside job”. Even though stress and anxiety are inevitable, we have choices about how we respond to each new day.

During the upcoming holidays, life may throw us a few stressful curve balls. Between managing busy schedules, juggling lots of tasks and navigating difficult social situations, stress seems to play an even bigger roles in our lives. Anxiety tends to impair our ability to make good choices and over time can even threaten our physical health.

Committing today to pay attention to our bodies is a significant step to being the best version of ourselves. Other supports can also help alleviate the stress and anxiety in our lives. Some of these include:

  • Let go of those things in our life that do not positively serve us. Think of leaves falling in autumn: The falling of leaves reminds us how easy it is to let things go. We cling to old habits and sometimes relationships that do not add value to our sense of who we are as a person. What would your life look like if you made a conscious decision to let a personal relationship go that was caustic, negative or energy draining?

  • Give yourself time to reflect. There are many ways to ground oneself that result in mindfulness, focus and motivation. Simply walking slowly with nature is an easy but powerful grounding method. Walking barefoot is even better! Reflection often points to next steps on our path and the direction can be surprisingly meaningful and fun because we are learning something new about ourselves.

  • Reach out and do something/anything for someone else. Small acts of kindness allow both the person gifting and the recipient to get out of themselves and feel reciprocity in the gratitude. I work at a university and near my office someone placed a sign that reads, “YOU ARE LOVED”. All who walk past cannot help but feel a positive shift in attitude. The signage is impactful no matter who the person.

Living the best version of ourselves is a commitment to be intentional. We know the human body and mind are miracles, but traumas imprint in our bodies and stay with us much longer than we realize. We have opportunities to listen in new ways as we become tuned in to the communication our bodies constantly provide. We can consciously choose to change our response to stress and anxiety, and in so doing we may just realize the best version of ourselves.


Susan Bedwell, PhD is a member of our TLA Board. Following a doctorate in Special Education, Susan has served in college administration for the past 15 years and is the Program Director for the TrIO Program's Education Opportunity Center at Rogers State University in Oklahoma.  She and her husband completed TLA's online internship, developed a cul-de-sac home into a homestead and have fostered a neighborhood community there.



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