I am coming down from three weeks of mega activity that consisted of presenting “Laughter – Keeping You Young At Heart” at the Alabama Gerontological Society, then spending a few days with my daughter and grandson at a water park, then hosting my 93-year-old mother, my brother from California and 87-year-old mother in law from Florida for both holiday celebrations and our grandson’s third birthday.

Each of these individually were joyous opportunities that I cherish dearly. So why did I feel stressed?  Speaking to almost 200 people about the benefits of a daily laughter practice is my passion, and sharing it was such a receptive crowd of social workers and others that care for seniors and others in need is the icing on the cake of my work life.

After flying home from that great event, I got to spend three days splashing and going down water slides with my grandson, and enjoying quiet evening time with my daughter, watching my boy take his first pony ride and indulge in syrupy pancakes every day for breakfast.  Precious moments, indeed.

The fact that Mom and my mother in law could fly independently from Florida to Chicago is incredible and wonderful, and I count my blessings that four generations could be together to celebrate my grandson’s birthday (by the way, my grandson has FOUR great grandmothers – pretty awesome!).  This incredible scenario is not lost on me.

Having my brother travel from California to Chicago was also a great opportunity, as he doesn’t get this way often. 

All great stuff, right?  Agreed.  However, together in succession they provided both great happiness AND great stress.  What????  Yes, even happy situations can cause us stress and difficulty, and it’s up to us to find the balance in it all.  Not always an easy task.

Now that everyone is back in their respective homes, I can relish in the memories of these past weeks.  What I come to realize is that I CREATE THE STRESS – in that I worry about pleasing everyone; mother, mother in law, brother, grandchild, daughter, and of course, my own husband.  The mere fact that he was not mentioned in the above gives me stress, too, as we both worked so hard at making everything wonderful for our guests that we forgot about being wonderful for ourselves. 

It is only in retrospect that I realized we each need to nurture ourselves amidst the joy and chaos of a houseful of visiting family.  When we do that, we can create contentment within and watch it shine on to those around us.  We have the innate ability to balance the self-created stress, with self-created love.  And we don’t have to wait until everyone goes home.  We can do this every day.

The simplest activity is to BREATHE.  Yes, we do that unconsciously, but when we are bustling about making sure everyone else is happy, our breath may be shallow.  By taking deliberately deep breaths, that fill our lungs, enrich our blood that courses throughout our bodies, up to our brains, we stimulate the parasympathetic nerve system, which according to GoodTherapy.org “plays a vital role in maintaining both mental and physical health by helping the body to calm down from stress reactions that elevate blood pressure, dilate the pupils and divert energy from other processes to fighting or fleeing.”  

Aaaaahhhhh.  So simple.  No pills or gym equipment needed to destress; just our own bodies.  Just our ability to breathe in and breathe out.  How awesome each of us is; we don’t always appreciate our abilities that are right before us.  Makes me think of Shakespeare (and to those of us of a certain age, the music from “Hair”).  “What a piece of work is a man. How noble in reason.  How infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable…”

So next time you are feeling stressed, in whatever situation comes before you, good or bad, know you have the ability to reconnect with your essence.  Take five minutes; a bathroom break even, and just breathe deep.  Your heart and soul will experience happiness and joy. And those around you will benefit from your calm energy.  Namaste.