The RV is packed, the open road is stretched out before you and you are about to embark on a much-anticipated journey where you will be surrounded by natural beauty as you meander your way across the state – or across the country – at a leisurely pace. What could possibly be causing you stress at this glorious moment? How about your daughter’s impending wedding, your latest blood pressure reading, worrying about remembering to pay your utility bills while you are gone, the traffic you just know you will hit right outside of St. Louis, or that bombshell your son just dropped about quitting medical school and becoming a musician?
It simply is not possible to avoid stress entirely, but there are many aspects of stress and how we manage it that are well within our control. While we cannot control the actions and choices of our friends, family members and coworkers, we can control how much we allow the stress those actions and choices cause to affect us. And while we cannot control the traffic at confusing interchanges on major interstates, we can control how we choose to handle the situation while we are in it.
Establishing a Lower-Stress Lifestyle
The first step towards effective stress reduction is establishing a lower-stress lifestyle. This means simple things like setting up auto-pay for your bills, organizing your home and RV to create clutter-free spaces where everything is easy to find, making to-do lists so that you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything and spending part of each day doing something you really enjoy.
This also means being willing to make tougher decisions that could include cutting your expenses to reduce money worries, seriously contemplating if the career you have had for 20 years is really worth the amount of stress it causes, determining whether it is time to cut ties with certain friends and family members who really are not good for you, or selling the home your children grew up in to better fund your retirement, cut down on housekeeping tasks and reduce monthly bills.
Learning to Relax
While most of us dream of having more time to relax and always look forward to opportunities to do so, many of us are not that good at actually relaxing. As soon as we have a free moment, our minds begin to go over lists of things we need to do later that day, suddenly remember that we still have to wash the dishes or now have time to finally get around to worrying about millions of other little and big things that might be going on. Learning to relax might mean learning how to actually sit on the couch for an entire movie without also paying bills, balancing the checkbook or dusting the living room or it might mean recognizing that you will move the same distance in traffic whether you spend the time playing road trip games with your family or yelling and cursing at other drivers.
Training your mind and body to relax is possible, and many people use effective relaxation tools and exercises to assist them, including meditation, progressive relaxation techniques, yoga, Qigong, Tai Chi, soothing music, candlelit bubble baths, relaxing hobbies, burning incense or reading. The key is finding the relaxation techniques that work best for you and that you find most enjoyable.
Stress reduction is essential to improving your overall health and well-being. While there will always be stressors in your life, taking steps to limit stress and effectively manage stress that cannot be eliminated can lower your blood pressure, boost your immune system and make each day more enjoyable.