Life is stressful. How we handle what comes at us matters - both for us and our children.
I believe that there are four main keys to dealing well with stress:
- Processing emotions well
- Practicing good self-care
- Managing relationships in healthy ways
- Taking stress breaks
Most people have heard of the first three. When I mention, "Stress breaks," however, I tend to get furrowed brows and tilted heads.
Face it. You’re stressed. You need breaks from the usual and often continual stress of your daily routine. And the stress that comes with being a parent can be never ending.
The best stress breaks I've found come in the form of invisible people.
Invisible people are all around us. They fly under the radar. They're everywhere, but they usually escape our notice.
Cashiers, food service workers, and janitorial staff. Landscapers, construction workers, and sanitation truck drivers. Supermarket shoppers, grocery stockers, and deli workers. Bus drivers, mass transit employees, and customer service personnel. Most of us blow past these people and hardly even know they're there.
These often-invisible people have names. They have friends and families they love and care about. They have hearts – and heartaches. They tussle with worry, fear, emotional pain, and guilt.
And yes, they’re stressed too.
You can make a real difference in the lives of often-invisible people while providing some stress relief for yourself.
Here's my 3-Step Stress Buster Prescription:
1. See the invisible people around you.
Make the choice to take a break. Breathe deeply. Set your mind to deliberately notice the people you encounter.
Observe them. Faces. Eyes. Body postures. Notice what they're wearing and what they're doing (without judging either). This forces you out of your own head and eases you into the present moment. At that instant, you are living life in the here and now.
2. Engage with the invisible people around you.
Now, take the next step. Engage. Let them know you've seen them. Greet them. Many have name tags. Notice their name and use it.
Names have power. By using their name, we're sending a powerful message: "You matter."
Each person is one of a kind in human history. There has never been another individual exactly like them, and there never will be again. Unique. Valuable. Significant. Priceless.
See them. Take an interest. Engage. Find out their name - and use it.
3. Affirm the invisible people around you.
After engaging them with their name, find a way to affirm and encourage them.
Our world tends to be negative. Most people feel judged, evaluated, and picked apart on a daily basis. Life is hard. Challenges are everywhere. Obstacles abound.
A kind word can cut through the heaviness of life like a hot knife through butter. A thoughtful affirmation can have stunning, life-altering impact.
In my work with hospice, I frequently visit assisted living and skilled nursing facilities. After seeing my patients, I always look for the cleaning staff.
"Thank you for all you do. You're more important than you know."
"You're the reason this place smells so good."
"Keep up the great work. We can't do this without you."
Their responses are priceless. Stunned looks. Open-mouthed stares. Embarrassed but delighted grins. I've even gotten tears and emotional hugs.
What did I do? Not much. I simply decided to see them. I used their name. I found a way to affirm them.
You can make someone's day, week, or month in less than 10 seconds. Set your mind to enter their world. Find a way to say, "I see you. You matter."
The results can be extraordinary, not only for them, but for you.
A new resolve.
As we begin to see the often-invisible people around us, something happens inside. Our hearts expand. A new resolve develops. We don’t have to live as victims of what happens to us. We can choose to live as people who see, engage, and affirm. We can be people who care and love, no matter what.
We can turn pain into purpose. We can use stress for good. Most of our stress is relational. Perhaps you feel judged, rejected, and abandoned. You might even feel invisible.
What's the antidote?
Give away what you need. Make the choice to see, engage, and affirm the often-invisible people out there. As you do, you'll often be seen in return. The world needs you. Take a stress break today.
Multiple award-winning author, speaker, and grief specialist Gary Roe is a compassionate and trusted voice in grief-recovery who has been bringing comfort, hope, encouragement, and healing to hurting, wounded hearts for more than 30 years. Click here to get his free eBook, Grief: 9Things I Wish I Had Known.