You love your family dearly, but right now, they are driving you positively buggy. You’re waging the battle of the belly-button/nose/tongue piercings with your teenage daughter, your husband is jammed with deadlines at work and can’t help out with chores; your five-year-old has a persistent case of the unanswerable “why Mommy?” As if that weren’t enough, your supervisor has smilingly dumped your vacationing co-worker’s tasks in your lap. But mercifully, it’s Saturday, the kids are at their respective Saturday activities, your husband is at work, you’ve done your chores (enough, anyway) and are off to spend a quiet couple of blissful hours communing with nature.

And then it starts. The sneezing. The tickle in the throat. The more sneezing. You’re thinking, “What is this? I feel fine!” You ignore it. More sneezing, tickling, sneezing, until finally, in complete disgust you throw down your garden tools and yell, “Great! I finally get a little time to myself to putter and now I have ALLERGIES?!” You’ve never had allergies before. You’re frustrated and aggravated. What is going on here?

Stress. Often allergies, headaches and stomach upsets and other symptoms are directly related to your stress level.* As your stress level increases, your body frequently responds by developing various physical symptoms. How you think and feel directly impacts your physical state. Dr. Candace Pert notes: “Your brain is extremely well integrated with the rest of your body at a molecular level …

We can no longer think of the emotions as having less validity than physical, material substance, but instead must see them as cellular signals that are involved in the process of translating information into physical reality, literally transforming mind into matter.” (Pert, Candace B., Molecules of Emotion, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1997, p. 135) When you’re stressed your body feels it, and your physical well-being suffers.

But since you know your teenage daughter won’t turn overnight into the poster-child for “Mom knows best,” your husband’s deadlines won’t disappear any time soon, and whenever your co-worker returns something else will come up at work, reducing your stress levels isn’t about having no problems. Reducing your stress levels is about changing how you think and feel about what is going on.

Appreciation is one of the best stress reducers around. Appreciation lowers blood pressure, evens out heart rates and dramatically improves your immune system functioning. Appreciation opens up the blood flow to your brain, so you think better, which makes you a better problem-solver, which in turn lowers stress. Appreciating isn’t hard to do, as long as you remember you’re not trying to appreciate the troubles in your life, you’re simply choosing to spend some time focusing on what IS working in your life.

Your teenage daughter may be annoying, but she’s a healthy, energetic kid, raring to explore the world around her. This you can appreciate. Your husband isn’t available to help out right now, but he is dedicated, working hard to contribute to the family’s welfare. Your five year old will outgrow the “Why, Mommy” stage eventually, and in the meantime you can appreciate his wonderful desire to learn. You may resent the extra workload your supervisor assigned you, but you can appreciate her confidence in your ability to do so, and the chance to stretch your own envelope.

The more you appreciate, the more you’ll see just how much appreciation can reduce stress and contribute to your physical, emotional and mental well-being.

*Any physical symptom may be the sign of something only an M.D. is qualified to diagnose.

Author's Bio: 

Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D., known as "Dr. Noelle" to her clients, is a respected psychologist, consultant and author. Her most recent books is "The Power of Appreciation: The Key to a Vibrant Life" (with co-author, Jeannine LeMare Calaba, Psy.D.; Beyond Words, 2003). For more than a decade, she has helped people live happier, healthier lives with her "compassionate psychotherapy." Dr. Noelle welcomes your comments via email (nnelson@dr.noellenelson.com). You can visit Dr. Noelle anytime at www.dr.noellenelson.com.