Yesterday the stress monster was closing in fast and I was in danger of cracking like an egg. Instead, I did one simple thing. I left work two hours early. That one small gift to myself changed the course of my evening, and considering the amount of calm I’ve experienced today, it has set the course for the rest of my week as well.

Too often we push ourselves harden than we should with the “I can take it” mentality. In reality, should we take it? Should we push ourselves to the brink? Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that we are here to enjoy life, make the most of it, do good unto others and all that jazz. I’m pretty sure dashing through life beating ourselves up along the way is not the best approach to achieving an enjoyable life.

To that end, I sifted through some of the abundant writing on stress management, and compiled my favorites into a short list of methods to defy stress and regain the calm.

1. Recognize the problem, not the symptoms. What is the root of your stress? Decide how best to alleviate it.

2. Take care of yourself first so you can take care of your life. (This includes eating right, exercise, drinking lots of fluids, and taking your vitamins and medicines as prescribed.)

3. Allow yourself extra time. Don’t overbook or underestimate how long a task will take.

4. Schedule “me time” to do the hobbies or activities that you enjoy and that refresh you.

5. Ask for help. (This is one I’m terribly bad at doing, but when I do, I’m so glad I did!)

6. Practice good time management. (Plan ahead, don’t procrastinate on nagging tasks, use technology – smart phones, etc – to your advantage.)

7. Develop and maintain personal relationships. (Whether its your spouse, family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, or spiritual – these are the relationships that can help you through any crisis and visa versa.)

8. Laugh. A lot. (Which makes you feel better – a rolling on the floor, tears in your eyes, belly laugh or a lot of frowning, being irritable and snapping at those around you? Enough said.)

9. Use the words “yes” and “no” to your advantage. Say “Yes!” to things that make your life better, and “NO!” to things that add to your stress. (It’s easier than you think! Give it a try.)

10. Get perspective – sometimes its just a matter of seeing our lives from the right angle. (Instead of comparing your life to someone who seems to have it so much better, try comparing it to someone who has it a million times worse. Try volunteering, helping a friend or neighbor in need, expressing gratitude, or watch the world news.)

It’s not by accident that many of my favorite methods all relate back to time. We have a limited amount of it here on earth and need to make the most of it. I don’t know of anyone who wants to get to the last days of their life, look back and say, “Wow, that really sucked.”

Inspiration comes from a variety of different sources – a book, a song, a beautiful vista. This week my inspiration came from my sweet baby girl who reminded me with her effervescent personality, that life should be fun.

Nuggets of wisdom from Little M:

– Just say “Hi!” and people will say it back

– Smile with your whole face

– Anytime is a good time to read a good book

– It’s okay to sing, even if you don’t know all the words

– Water is a toy all by itself

– Sometimes, squealling, being noisy and silly is REALLY fun

– Laughing makes you feel better about everything

– Shoes are not required

– Always say “please” and “thank you”

– Start everyday with hugs and kisses

– End everyday with more hugs and kisses

– Every meal does not have to be fruits, veggies, and protein

– Barney is not such a bad guy after all

Thank you Little M. You are my Sunshine.

Love, Mommy

Today my husband and I took a Mental Health Day. Of course, being the list-making, organizing, always planning, anal retentive that I am, I began planning our day off three weeks in advance. I picked a day that worked well for my work schedule and my husband’s, was in close proximity to my husband’s birthday, and that my BFF was available to look after our daughter. And, since we had summer passes to Busch Gardens that were still valid, you can guess where we were planning to go. All we had to do was get up and out the door early.

At 6:30am it was raining.  Torrentually. But we had the day off so we were determined to make the best of it and stick with the plan- albeit at a slower pace. My husband checked the weather radar while I packed up the baby’s stuff. There was some of discussion of “rain-free windows” and a few declarations of “it’ll be fine.” And when it was all said and done, it was.

We left the house two hours later than planned, but we had a nice drive down, dropped off the baby, and made it to the ferry just in time to be loaded on and cross the river. The rain moved off and the sun came out. The park wasn’t overly crowded and the wait lines for the rides weren’t too long. We rode rollercoasters and ate over priced food. We shared pudding and strawberries, and stood in line with an endless stream of sweaty boyscouts. We talked about important stuff like the smooth ride of the Griffon versus the herky jerky one of the Alpengeist. We held hands.

After the park, we had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant with our friends and listened to live music while we ate. On the way home again our daughter announced that she had a “poopie diaper” just in time to save us from running out of gas on the Interstate. Finally, hours later than expected, we made it back home safely, somehow missing the severe weather going on all around us.

It wasn’t a perfect day, but it was a really good one. We took time out from the rollercoaster that is our lives and we rode real rollercoasters. We spent time together and with friends, we appreciated the good things in our lives and didn’t think or talk about the bad. It was a welcome break from our routine, and a reminder that sometimes you really do need to stop and smell the roses. Or as this day proved, the sweaty boyscouts.