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the RELATIONSHIP dance WITH VICKI MINERVA Managing Stress In A “Busy” World W e live in a culture where “busy” is the standard. We’ve lost the ability to protect the needed time for self-care of body, mind and spirit. The high cost of living pressures us to work long hours. We often sacrifice our own health and marriages in our commitment to give children every opportunity with sports and other enrichment activities. The activities are great, up to a point. Now is a good time to decide about some of the commitments that you make in order to manage your stress for the year. So. How do you do that? The first step is to resist the value system that says every minute must be filled with activity. Back in the day, my husband and I would pull out the calendars and mark several days for the next three months during which we would not accept invitations to anything. We weren’t good at just saying no, so this gave us needed help to say we were already committed, even if it was committed to doing nothing. It was our way of claiming time that would be harder to protect if it wasn’t already spoken for. Once you’ve created a little bit more space, it’s important to “get back in your body.” That’s psychobabble for “get in touch with yourself so you can use the information your body gives you to tell you what you need.” At the physical level, that may mean you make those medical appointments to get your blood pres- sure checked, or take the 20-minute power nap at lunch because you got up too early. It may mean you don’t forget to eat, or you respect your body by eating healthier foods and drinking more water. These are really basic things, but they are easily neglected in the ongoing crunch of too little time. There really is a tyranny of the urgent when important things are neglected due to the demands of urgent, but not always important, things. …finding places to have a purpose and connection with like-minded people is a way to make relation- ships happen. At the mental or emotional level, it may mean you notice what you say to yourself as you go through your day. Self-talk can be incredibly critical. “I’m so stupid.” “I can’t do anything right.” “No one cares about me.” “I’m weak.” Insert your negative message here “________.” These messages can be a major contributor to depression and anxiety. Most of us are aware that this isn’t something we’d say to our children or friends. It is no less harmful when we say it to ourselves. Replace some of those comments with things like, “It’s okay to ask for help. Who might I ask?” “I’m learning.” “I don’t have to be perfect.” “Hang on, I’ll figure this out.” We don’t want grandiose and inflated statements. We need honest and encouraging self-talk so we can really believe what we say. Relationally, creating a support system is also a priority in a self-care strategy. Who would be there if you found yourself in a tough spot? So many of the folks that I know really don’t have one. You may need to muster up some deliberate intention, walking over to introduce yourself to a neighbor, or to catch up with them to ask how they’re doing. It may not be in your comfort range, but relationships will not go to the next level without some- one taking a risk. It may be daunting to seek out a faith community or join a community organization, but finding places to have a purpose and connection with like-minded people is a way to make relationships happen. Again, the busyness factor needs to be balanced, but the better quality choices can support you rather than drain you. Finding safe people to be in your support network also helps to combat that negative self-talk because you get a reflection of your value from the people around you. When you doubt yourself, it’s important to see that reflection! There are certainly other areas we can focus on to improve self-care, but any change can start to have a ripple effect in improving your quality of life. Take time to be grateful. Go for a walk. Laugh from your belly and be delighted. Read a book for enjoyment. Say a prayer. Garden. Snuggle while you watch TV. Sit outside for a few minutes and watch the stars. Tell someone you appreciate them. Say thank you. Really taste your food. These aren’t big things, but they make you slow down and help fill you up. Take care of yourself!! Vicki Minerva has lived and worked in the South County area as a Marriage and Family Therapist for over 35 years. She and her husband George raised two beautiful daughters with the help of the village here. Her educa- tion includes a M.Div. degree from Fuller Seminary and a M.A. in Marriage, Family Counseling from Santa Clara University. You can contact her at 408.848.8793 or visit her website at vickiminerva.com My goal is to provide you with some information and help you access tools that will help you live your life and manage your relationships in healthier ways. This information is not a substitute for personal counseling and should not be taken out of context. There are many reputable therapists in the South County area should you need additional help. 86 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2016 gmhtoday.com