Movin' On with Nellie: Stress, let it go with a thankful hug

“Be present in all things and thankful for all things.” —  Maya Angelou

One of my favorite authors is Maya Angelou.  Her words are drenched in wisdom, from my viewpoint.

Thankfulness, like a smile, is contagious. When I say, “Thank you,” to the cashier, for example, I usually get a smile and a “You’re welcome. That’s what I’m here for.” Consequently, choosing self-checkouts means I can interact with a live cashier.

Embracing thankfulness also has influence over stress. We might choose to be thankful for the car ahead of us driving five miles below the speed limit when we are on a mission to arrive at the city council meeting before roll call. But, I’m not sure that would always work.

A tell-tale sign of stress is raised blood pressure. Hypertension is called the “silent killer.” There are some simple steps to follow when you feel stressed. One is to simply concentrate on breathing, slow deep breaths. Another is to pet your dog or cat. Another is to close your eyes (don’t do this if you are operating machinery), and imagine your favorite place. I like to imagine I’m sitting in my back yard.

Walking is a proven stress reliever as is most exercise. Dr. Mugabe Walker and other doctors encourage their patients to walk and establish a regular physical activity. I’ve heard some psychiatrists offer “walking therapy” of sorts, too. The Mayo Clinic says that exercise releases endorphins, neurotransmitters that makes you “feel good.” Harvard Medical also recommends exercise to relax. My goals are to increase my exercise this year from walking back and forth in the house to enjoying the sidewalks in the neighborhood.

Practicing mindfulness, a meditation about being present in the moment, is also a way of reducing stress. Part of the practice is to describe the emotion, stress, anxiety, or depression and breathing deep while imagining your relationship with the environment around you. This meditation practice, according to the Mayo Clinic, helps to reduce stress, lowers blood pressure, improves attention, counteracts job burnout, improves sleep and can also work for better diabetes control.

Maya Angelou’s encouragement to “Be present in all things, and thankful for all things,” inspires me to be a grateful heart wherever I find myself. In my estimation, the best counter to the coming holiday stress isn’t the Black Friday deals but the thankfulness and hugs doled out before, during and after the holiday affairs. 

—Nelda Curtiss is a retired college professor who enjoys writing and fine arts. Contact her at [email protected]